Atlantic Richfield Co. has been given the go-ahead to tear down Building 52, a red-brick industrial building on Hastings-on-Hudson’s waterfront dubbed the “literal birthplace” of polychlorinated biphenyls.
The approval comes four months after the village signed a consent decree that would lead to the cleanup of 28 acres of waterfront property owned by Atlantic Richfield, a subsidiary of BP plc.
Mayor Peter Swiderski said the building’s future has weighed on the community for more than a decade. The vacant site, formerly the location of manufacturer Anaconda Wire and Cable Co., had been contaminated by toxins including PCBs and metals including copper, lead and zinc.Though initially Atlantic Richfield and the village planned to cap pollution beneath the structure’s surface, the company shifted its position and determined that in order to better remediate the site, the building would need to be brought down. Atlantic Richfield, which came to own the site after buying Anaconda in 1977, applied for a demolition permit earlier this year.
Swiderski said the board based its decision to grant the demolition permit on several factors, including the building’s safety, the future use of the property and its financial liability.
“To leave these poisons under and immediately adjacent to this building is to punt this problem down the road to a future generation, and possibly not even that far at that,” Swiderski said.
Swiderski added that the building poses a “significant — even likely — possibility of becoming a white elephant for the entire site.”
“It would require tens of millions of dollars to remediate and renovate with no likely use ever justifying that expense,” he said.
Other considerations included the possibility of effects from another superstorm like Hurricane Sandy, traffic patterns constrained by the structure and the building’s location on the property that could later be used to house a transit-oriented development.
The building will be taken down in stages, Swiderski said, and demolition work is expected to begin in the late first quarter of 2017.
With the demolition permit granted, focus will now shift to the remaining structure on the property: the water tower. The water tower is above a “substantial pocket of pollution,” according to Swiderski, and had always been slated for removal. Atlantic Richfield has pledged up to $1.35 million in matching funds to help either restore or create a new water tower on the property. A preliminary report from an engineering firm hired by the village found that the structure is in “surprisingly good shape given its roughly 90 years.” After determining the costs involved, the village plans to distribute a questionnaire to residents, asking whether the community would like to save the water tower, replace it or tear it down altogether.
The village also plans next year to begin the process of rezoning the waterfront parcel from marine industrial use. Swiderski said the property is unlikely to attract development until it is rezoned.
“This is likely to be a multi-year process,” Swiderski said of the rezoning.
Signed in July, the consent decree is an update to a 2003 version that settled a lawsuit between Atlantic Richfield, the village and environmental group Riverkeeper and forced Atlantic Richfield to clean the site. Since that time, factors including potential storm risks, rising sea levels and a new set of directives issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resulted in the need for changes to the agreement.
Atlantic Richfield signed an order in 2014 with the DEC, pledging to fund the more than $250 million estimated cost of removing the contaminated soil and sediment from the designated state superfund site.
Ideally, Swiderski said, he hopes to see a concrete ramp or boat launch along with lighter structures such as small cafes, food vendors or kayak storage facilities on the property. The village plans to work with Atlantic Richfield and consultants funded by a DEC grant to finalize the design of the shoreline over the course of the next year.
Atlantic Richfield expects the process to take about five years to complete.