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Contaminated Fields Still Years Away From Ready

Briarcliff school board to vote later this month on cleanup plans for two sites out of action since 2010.

A contaminated softball diamond on Briarcliff Manor’s main school campus, off-limits since 2010, should be back in service by spring 2014, school officials were told Tuesday. A second field, also closed over environmental concerns, is expected to reopen a year after the diamond returns.

Speaking in a virtually empty auditorium, consultants laid out the timelines for administration officials and . Meanwhile, a district official warned that estimates of the cleanup’s cost were increasing substantially.

Michael P. Musso, a senior project engineer with the consulting fIrm Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture & Engineering (Pearl River, NY), and John M. Guzewich, an HDR project manager, briefed the officials, providing an “overview of where we’re at and where we’re going.” 

The softball field, behind the middle school, and a site near the known as the “practice field” have been shut down for more than two years over concerns of contamination from the debris and construction materials on which they had been constructed.

The chosen cleanup remedy— and calling for a foot-thick layer of clean, approved dirt to separate the suspect fill below from a layer of topsoil and grass above—must still be approved by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

By August, Guzewich said, HDR will have completed a “remediation action work plan” that reviews the history of the fields’ contamination as well as possible alternative cleanup solutions, such as artificial turf or asphalt.

In addition to the remediation document, the consultants will present a site-management plan.

“That plan will have information...that shows what we’re going to do once the remediation is implemented,” Guzewich said.

Among other things, it will record inspections, he said, and document the conditions of the fill.

In addition to the two fields, the district must address a slope along the western edge of the practice field. Because the slope as well as a piece of the practice field lie of property that belongs to the state Department of Transportation, that agency must also sign off on any cleanup plan.

Both the remediation and site-management plans are expected to be ready for school board approval at an August 21 meeting.

Once the action plan goes to DEC officials, Guzewich said, “they will review it and most likely have some comments that we need to address.”

After the DEC and state Education Department approve the cleanup, the district can begin bidding the work.

Last November, in considering a range of cleanup options, the board chose the least-expensive, natural-turf alternative, estimated to have a price tag of about $1.44 million.

But Stuart Mattey, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and technology, said, “Our estimates are coming in higher than what we anticipated back in November.”

He put the increase at $500,000, “a substantial amount.”

In a related move, the board voted to retain the Manhattan environmental law firm Sive, Paget & Riesel as counsel for the fields’ remediation.

The cleanup’s roots trace back to 1998, when the district permitted a Yonkers trucking company to dump fill on the school grounds in exchange for building the two athletic fields on top of it. 

Rather than unloading promised clean fill, however, the trucker dumped potentially toxic construction debris, leading to the current environmental cleanup efforts. The district subsequently won a judgment against the trucker but never collected a dime.

Most of the school board members who weighed remediation options last fall are no longer serving. With two not standing for re-election and a third resigning, only Sal Maglietta and Jennifer Rosen remain from last year’s board. Dina Brantman and Michael Haberman, elected in April, began their terms last month.

Still seeking a fifth member, the board considered a number of other issues on a busy midsummer’s calendar:

Teacher evaluation

The district has hammered out an accord with its teachers on a that relies heavily on student test scores to evaluate teacher performance, Superintendent Neal Miller announced.

“The biggest difference now [from past reviews] is that 40 percent of the teachers’ evaluation will be based on their students’ test scores,” he said.

The change was mandated by the state Education Department, following federal Race to the Top guidelines.

The district is still negotiating with its building principals over the revamped form of their evaluations. The new standards drew a statewide protest from principals late last year when almost 700 of them signed an open letter decrying the reliance on test scores.

Miller said he expected Briarcliff’s principals to reach an APPR agreement in time for the board to vote Aug. 21 on both plans, which must be submitted together to the state for approval.

Playground vote

Residents will vote held on Aug. 7 on whether to spend is $160,000 from the district’s unassigned fund balance to build a new K-2 playground at . The polls will be open in the Todd gymnasium from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Guidance counselor

In a late announcement, board president Maglietta said the district had hired Meredith Negrin Safer as a guidance counselor. Safer, who will earn $98,142 during her year’s probationary period, comes to Briarcliff with “very strong credentials,” Maglietta said. Safer was a guidance counselor at New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, nationally recognized for its academic rigor and student achievement, including rates of admission to highly competitive colleges.


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Arthur Vecchiotti August 02, 2012 at 12:26 PM
How much is the trucking firm going to pay, or are they declaring chapter 11? How about civil suits, or even criminal suite?
Mike Valenti August 02, 2012 at 01:24 PM
While none of us wants to see the district incur any more cost than necessary to remediate this unfortunate situation, we must put the health and safety of students, faculty and staff first. With that in mind, we are all aware that several families have had to bury children, several other families are watching their children endure chemotherapy and radiation treatments and/or are dealing with tumors or other very serious illnesses. We therefore must take the absolute most conservative remediation approach and modify the plan to include an impermeable cover between the toxic fill and the new, clean fill and natural turf.
Mike Valenti August 02, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The district's attorneys at the time who sued Whitney Trucking won their case for $250,000 but negligently never followed through to collect the judgement. While Whitney was bankrupt and in jail by that time (we weren't his only victims) we had a right to collect the judgement from his insurance carrier. Negligently, our attorneys at the time didn't do so. Can we still collect on the judgement? Can we sue the attorneys for malpractice? Those are questions our BOE should be asking.
Arthur Vecchiotti August 02, 2012 at 01:54 PM
thank you mike
Arthur Vecchiotti August 02, 2012 at 01:55 PM
thank you mike
Enviro Equipment Inc. August 03, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Sad to hear that the speech was given to an almost totally empty auditorium. You would think people would be more interested in the safety of their community to its children.

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