A group of Ramapo College students who have been working on a not-yet-professional environmental assessment study of the site of the proposed Crossroads Town Center shopping complex will present their findings to Mahwah government officials next week.
The 18 senior environmental studies students will present their research to the Mahwah Environmental Commission next Wednesday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at town hall. The meeting is open to the public. The Environmental Impact Statement the students prepared is similar the professionally-prepared studies currently being heard by the township’s planning board.
The Crossroads development – which is designed as a 600,000 square foot retail and dining complex with a lifestyle, pedestrian-friendly shopping center, two big box stores, and a movie theater – is proposed for the land at the intersections of Routes 17 and 287 surrounding the Sheraton hotel. Part of the site used to house the largest Ford Motor Co. plant in the US.
According to the class’s professor, Dr. Mike Edelstein, “the parts of the presentation regarding Ford might be some of the most interesting. The students have put together a history of the contamination and clean-up efforts at the site.”
During a preliminary presentation of their findings last week, the class brought up several concerns surrounding Ford’s continued environmental impact on the site, including the possibility of contaminated soil and groundwater still existing there, the “persistence” of some of the chemicals that have been found at the site in the past, and the possibility of “vapor intrusion,” a process in which buried contamination could seep into the air.
“We have found an extremely convoluted history in this area,” Edelstein said. “I think the full presentation will be very helpful.” The students will present their findings to the township’s Environmental Commission, which acts as an advisory body to the Planning Board. Testimonies by environmental, engineering and traffic experts have been ongoing at Planning Board hearings since February.
Though the environmental component regarding Ford’s cleanup at the site has not yet been presented, the Crossroads developer has said the responsibility to mitigate any remaining issues lies with Ford. Any potential environmental action at the site will likely be decided by the EPA.
“The more we know about the environmental history and current condition of this place, the better,” Environmental Commission Vice Chair Dan Weixeldorfer, who also serves on the township’s planning board, said. “This [Ramapo] presentation will definitely help us make sure that we are asking the right questions, and ensure that if a cleanup needs to happen here, it happens.”
In addition to the Ford impacts, the students will also present other findings on the current state of the land at the site, and the potential ecological, physical, traffic and socio-economic impacts of the development.
Government officials and college staff say the eight-credit project is part of an effort to strengthen the relationship between the college and the township. Edelstein said the project is a “win-win,” because students get first-hand experience and the township gets an objective researcher looking at the application.
The students conducting the research include Hannah Bernstein of Colts Neck, NJ, Barbara Bodden of Hawthorne, NJ, Chris Brillante of Pompton Lakes, NJ, Matt Danko of Wantage, NJ, Karen Doughtery of Ramsey, NJ, John Grande of Blairstown, NJ, Michael Hitchoff of Montville, NJ, Daniela Hoffner of Lanoka Harbor, NJ, Robert W. Keller III of Wood-Ridge, NJ, Sonya Kougasium of Bergenfield, NJ, Scott McNally of Vernon, NJ, Keith Passaro of Ringwood, NJ, Danielle Peters of Bloomsbury, NJ, Willard Reasoner of Flemington, NJ, Bob Rieder of West Milford, NJ, Kelly Schaeffer of Central Valley, NY, and Elizabeth Thompson of Middletown, NJ.