The future of a triangular Long Island parcel of fine playing fields, a supermarket and a Superfund site, became the focus of the Town of Oyster Bay this week.
With rumors swirling in the community about its future, members of Farmingdale Aquatics cancelled their Tuesday practice to descend on the board en masse. What resulted was a lively discussion about the various options for the undeveloped portion of the town land, located adjacent to the popular community playground.
Bill Manton, head coach of the swim club, argued for the town to build an Olympic-size, indoor pool facility on the undeveloped portion of the town's land. The team has developed many top-notch swimmers over the years from the community, Manton said, by working 11 months a year, six days a week and attending 8-10 competitions a year.
Manton and others expressed concern about an unsubstantiated report that the town was considering a plan to help renovate the Farmingdale High School pool. Manton's team now practices there, and any long-term renovations at the high school would "probably put us out of business for good," Manton said.
Swim team members need nearly year-round conditioning to remain competitive, he said, and other Long Island facilities aren't an option. A parade of swim team members followed Manton to the podium to plead their case for a new, town-owned state-of-the-art pool.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto responded that there are no specific plans for the Allen Park property: "It’s purely speculative," he said. "Everything is on the table. When we acquired the land adjacent to Allen Park the land belongs to the residents. There has been a hue and cry to put a pool there and we're inclined to consider that."
Later, Manton estimated such a facility would cost $20 million.
The triangular site defined by Motor Avenue, Fulton Street and Heisser Lane, now home to a football field, softball fields and handball courts, has had a checkered history:
In 1940, Liberty Aircraft Products Company occupied the site, producing aircraft parts and metal finishing work during World War II and the Korean War. During WWII, federal wartime agencies took ownership of some of the facilities there, according to a report on the site issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
After the war, the site was converted to an industrial park and, later, to light industrial and warehouse uses, according to the EPA report.
Liberty and other companies left behind a toxic legacy: a groundwater plume contaminated with organic and inorganic substances lies beneath the 30-acre industrial area and extends about a mile to the south, according to the EPA. Portions of the Massapequa Preserve, a nature preserve located about one-half mile to the south, are also contaminated from the old plant, according to the EPA.
The property was deemed a federal "Superfund" site, a designation that provides federal money to clean-up or contain the contaminated area and prevent it's further spread. Two decades ago the area was designated a national priority for the EPA, which assumed the role of lead agency in documenting the extent of the contamination and determining the best remediation plan.
Ultimately, the EPA was developing a remedial plan which would clean up the property only to commercial/industrial standards, limiting cleanup efforts to full removal of only some areas of contamination and capping others. This changed when the town announced its intention of acquiring portions of the property, the report says.
Today, the eastern-most parcel of the property is home to a and the remaining 22 acres are town property. An extensive cleanup is nearing completion at an estimated cost of $32 million. An additional phase of cleanup and monitoring will continue for some time, the report states.
Officials said the Town of Oyster Bay, which is protected from any future litigation by the EPA agreements, will host community meetings later this year about the park's future expansion.