It is finally coming down. The former headquarters of Rockaway Metal Products, at 175 Roger Ave. in Inwood, will be demolished starting on Oct. 1, 23 years after its acquisition by Nassau County.
The decrepit one-story, 155,000-foot building was cited as a state Department of Environmental Conservation Superfund site after hazardous chemicals were found there during an inspection in 1992. Three years later, when property taxes went unpaid, the county took ownership of the 4.85-acre parcel. In 2011, fire damaged the structure, causing the northern section to collapse, and what was left standing had become a makeshift shelter for homeless people.
In April of last year, the County Legislature voted to borrow $2.1 million to demolish the building. The cost is now estimated at $1.7 million, county Department of Public Works officials said. Watral Brothers Inc., a demolition contractor based in Bay Shore, was hired to do the work earlier this year.
Mary Studdert, spokeswoman for the DPW, said, “The environmental issues stem from soil contamination, and we are not touching anything below the slab surface. The demolition entails removal of all above-grade improvements –– the slab will remain.”
DPW officials said that the demolition should take roughly three months. Studdert added that when the project is finished, the flat vacant lot will be surrounded by a 6-foot-high chain link fence.
As of now, there are no plans to build on the property. County Legislator Carrié Solages, a Democrat from Elmont who represents Inwood, said that whoever purchases the property will be responsible for remediating the land. Carcinogens such as arsenic, lead and cadmium, which, according to the site record, were found in the soil, will have to cleaned up.
In 1992, the federal Environmental Protection Agency discovered 240 55-gallon drums leaking waste material, a 5,000-gallon tanker trailer in disrepair and dry wells that appeared to contain potentially flammable sludge. From 1993 to 1995, the EPA removed the materials, but the contamination lingered.
This would increase the cost for a buyer, although in the spring of 2017, Solages said that because the county would pay for the demolition of the building, he believed it was still an attractive opportunity, even without money from the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. He also said he would like to see residents have a voice in deciding what is eventually built on the site. “I strongly recommend that that community has an opportunity to express their input on what they’d like to see there,” Solages said. “I’m very glad to at least be able to help remove this blight from the area.”
Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said that the parcel is a Class 2 Superfund site, the state classification that most sites on Long Island receive because of the island’s sole-source aquifer. A Class 2 site poses a significant threat to public health, “When successful remediation work has taken place, a Class 2 classification generally becomes a Class 4 classification,” he said. At a Class 4 site, contamination has been cleaned up but requires continued management.
The Roger Avenue property, a Class 2 site, is ineligible for the Brownfield Cleanup Program, according to the DEC, as are all Class 1 and 2 sites. The program’s goal is to encourage private companies to clean up contaminated sites and promote their redevelopment through financial incentives. Though Class 2 sites are excluded, the new owners could reapply, and the DEC would review their claim.
Some Inwood residents said they were relieved to know that the building would be demolished. “I believe it is fair to say the community of Inwood will be happy to see this eyesore gone,” said Patty Vacchio. “It has caused much pollution, foulness and uncleanliness, resulting in many homes in the vicinity [being] unable to keep windows open as well as enjoy their backyards.”
Maura Herbert, a resident and the corresponding secretary of the Inwood Civic Association, said she was relieved that the organization’s efforts in getting the building demolished have paid off. “I know that my fellow Inwood Civics members have worked hard to get this done,” Herbert said. “Kudos to everyone who helped see it through to the end. I’m hopeful that, depending on how it will be zoned, if it’s residential, some affordable housing [will be built] so that Inwood’s next generation can stay and be productive community leaders. If commercial, something that will provide jobs as well as a needed asset for our community.”