A formerly contaminated steel manufacturing plant in Mineola is ready for development after 16 years and $8.3 million of cleanup work, the Environmental Protection Agency said last week.
“The contamination at this site that once threatened the community is now taken care of and the site can be redeveloped,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said in an Aug. 11 statement.
The federal agency wants to remove the 1.5-acre Jackson Steel property at 435 First St. from its “Superfund” list of the most dangerous contaminated sites in the U.S., saying it “no longer poses a threat to public health and the environment.” The public can comment on the move until Sept. 11.
The EPA has monitored contamination levels at the site since it finished removing harmful chemicals from the soil and groundwater there last May and will continue to do so if it’s removed from the Superfund list, an agency spokesman, John Martin, said.
Removing the property’s Superfund designation would clear the way for it to be occupied again after 25 years and put it back on the tax rolls for the first time since at least 2000.
“Let’s get something there,” Village of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said. “Let’s get that property back to paying taxes, putting some money back into the community and making the property workable again.”
The 43,000-square-foot building and adjacent 10,000-square-foot parking lot have sat vacant since the 1991 closure of the plant, which manufactured steel pieces from 1970 until that year. The property has $4.4 million in unpaid county and village tax liens, Village Clerk Joseph Scalero said.
The EPA placed Jackson Steel on the Superfund list in 2000 after the Nassau County Department of Health in the early 1990s found evidence of toxic degreasers that leaked into the ground from barrels and wells.
The chemicals also seeped into the air and were detected in the daycare center on the property’s western border. The EPA will keep running a treatment system placed underneath the daycare center to remove harmful chemicals from the soil, Martin said.
The EPA could not find anyone to hold responsible for the Jackson Steel site’s contamination, as it usually does under federal law, so taxpayers footed the $8.3 million bill for the cleanup, the agency said in a statement.
The property is zoned for business use and is bordered by a dry cleaner, restaurant and office building, but it is also across the street from a residential neighborhood and next to a two-story apartment complex.
An office building or retail store could open there without any special approval from the village, Scalero said, but it would have to be rezoned for any residential use.
The village will consider any residential or commercial proposal for the site but has so far received none, Strauss said. A large apartment complex like the four approved for Mineola’s downtown area is “very, very unlikely” because the site is outside the village’s special zoning area for such developments, he said.
Any developer would likely have to pay the property’s existing tax liens before moving forward, Scalero said. That might be an obstacle to development there, Strauss said — the property is currently valued at $921,800.
“If the value is less than what the taxes are, who’s going to buy it?” Strauss said. “There’s got to be some sort of compromise, I would think.”
Larry Werther, a former Mineola mayor and trustee who made rezoning of the Jackson Steel property a large part his 2013 Village Board campaign, said he would favor “low-impact” housing for seniors or veterans no higher than two stories. He would oppose any commercial project there, he said.
“I think there are too many people with political connections who are going to put things there that would be toxic to the neighborhood,” Werther said.
Reach reporter Noah Manskar by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204. Also follow us on Twitter @noahmanskar and Facebook at facebook.com/theislandnow.