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Former Ford Land Environmentally OK For Crossroads Development, Experts Say

Experts also say the shopping center will produce a smaller potential for flooding than the undeveloped site does currently

The environmental issues present at the former Ford plant site should not prohibit the Crossroads developer from building a 600,000 square-foot shopping center there, according to Robert Crespi, the developer’s environmental expert. During his testimony Monday night at the in front of Mahwah’s planning board, Crespi said, “The current status of the soil and ground water should not interfere at all with the development of the site.” 

Crespi gave an overview of his analysis of 20 documents relating to Ford’s clean up and decontamination of the Crossroads property. According to Crespi, Ford removed over 200 tons of contaminated soil from the site in the 1980s and is monitoring ground water contamination levels. As of its last reading in 2005, Ford reported what Crespi called an “extremely low” amount of contamination in some of the ground water at the site. Ford is scheduled to test the water again in coming months to see if the contamination has naturally dissipated, he said.

Since the 1980s, Ford has spent over $11 million on the clean up of the Crossroads, Crespi said. “They have done a substantial amount of work here.”

Crespi said he based his analysis on the documented amount of contamination left on the Crossroads land. "Of course, contamination could be found during the construction process, but that is a possibility at any site in the state." He said if contamination were to be found during construction, it would likely be by the contractor, and work would stop until the issue could be mediated or treated.

Crespi’s testimony came after that of civil engineer Michael Junghans, who commented on the drainage plan on the site. Junghans testified that although the development’s site plan calls for a significant paving and the addition of impervious services, the amount of storm water runoff from the land at the site to the Ramapo River would actually be less than what it is now.

Using drainage methods like bio-retention swales, detention basins, and ponds, Junghans said the developer plans to exceed the state requirements for reducing groundwater runoff. Junghans explained that because these methods "promote infiltration" of the stormwater, as opposed to it landing on top of a flat surface like it does now, "you are actually reducing your runoff into the Ramapo River and your potential flooding impact."

According to township engineer Mike Kelly, who reviewed Junghans’s analysis, the developer is proposing to “reduce the peak rate of runoff of what’s currently leaving the site,” by percentages higher than what’s required by the DEP. However, resident Rich Wolf pointed out that the calculation includes only land that is going to be developed. So, runoff from current structures and blacktop on the property, like at the , is not calculated in the state requirement.

Junghans also testified that the developer’s drainage plan will only work if the system is properly maintained, and the developer can be held liable for that. And, the engineer agreed to looking into ways that the collected water could be used as an irrigation tool, if possible.

Both board members and residents questioned the environmental and drainage analyses of the site. Crespi is set to continue his testimony at the next hearing, scheduled for July 9. Board Chair Todd Sherer said he expects the board to have “a lot of questions” on the environmental impact of the development.

Also at the meeting, Crossroads attorney Jim Jaworski said he should have meaningful data back from the Department of Transportation. “Hopefully, we should be able to give you their feedback on the outside the site,” he said.

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Have a question or a news tip? Email the editor Jessica Mazzola at jessica.mazzola@patch.com. Or, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your email inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

JP June 12, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I said that many many times in my posts Jon, that flooding was going to be controlled by the development, and yet people argue no. It's common sense. Don't know why the opposition never gets it.
Jonathan N. Marcus June 12, 2012 at 10:10 PM
JP: The students made it very clear in the presentation as to the exhaustive public records searches and research they did with regard to the contamination at the site. They did not conduct testing or the like since that is not what an EIS is about. Rather, they detailed the history of contamination at the site and the history of the cleanup. They then supplemented with items such as aerial photos of the site which showed that there were air strippers on the site as part of the remediation effort which were then subsequently removed from the site (due to the contamination having been reduced). The students did an excellent job gathering all the publicly available facts about the contamination issue. This was not an easy effort as required pulling information from many different agencies and actually going to the agencies to look through archives and physical records. It took many months of work for them.
JP June 12, 2012 at 10:34 PM
But that's the problem once again as I mentioned in another thread. Not to disparage what the students did, but they have NO physical data to backup any contentions that they may have made at their presentation. It's all assumption. They did not seek (nor would they have been granted) access to the site by the developers to do their own testing to make SURE the end results STILL reflect what they say are available in the historical records, archives, and studies. The student study is no more then a great exercise for their class, but has absolutely no weight (or I should say, should have no weight) in this project. This isn't amateur hour here. Some people posting here are taking their study as if it's gospel. Millions are being spent on this project, and we cannot allow novices (towns people also) to force a determination on a go/no go decision like this based on "feelings". I addition, mark my word here once more... even the traffic will be BETTER after this is all done. People won't believe it, but I'll state it right here on Patch that it will be. It may not seem logical now, but it will make sense in the end.
JP June 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM
For example, Barbara flat out states that the developers should use permeable asphalt to allow the ground to absorb surface water. What studies have they done on the site to make this general assumption? What makes this solution any better then directing the water away with the drainage system and basins already planned on the site? Just because they THINK it's a better solution?
Phyllis A. Stewart June 13, 2012 at 12:07 AM
JP, I'm very curious as to why you're hiding behind your initials instead of posting your name. True, that is your prerogative, but for all the public knows, you may be an employee of the developer and not even live in Mahwah!
Andy Schmidt June 13, 2012 at 01:40 AM
>> they have NO physical data to backup << >> It's all assumption << JP - a study can be based on EXISTING facts and test results - in fact that's done very often in all different fields of study. One can conduct research based on existing data that has been developed over many years without having to re-test something that's already been tested. It's not unusual for various people/agencies/companies to have done very narrow tests - and not until someone steps back and compiles/assembles those results does finally a bigger picture emerge that shows patterns or provides explanations that the "narrow" view had been hiding. The students didn't make "assumptions". As has been explained numerous times to you, they studied the EXISTING data -- let me emphasize it differently: existing DATA. If someone creates a study based on available data then the "backup" is the existing data they used - no matter how hard you, JP, try to mask that truth.
Gottardo DiGiacopo June 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Don't listen to those students researched data-based analysis... Here's a quote from a town's person with a "magic 8 Ball" : "Millions are being spent on this project, and we cannot allow novices (towns people also) to force a determination on a go/no go decision like this based on "feelings". I addition, mark my word here once more... even the traffic will be BETTER after this is all done. People won't believe it, but I'll state it right here on Patch that it will be. It may not seem logical now, but it will make sense in the end." If anyone knows who this generous clairvouyant is, please send him two turnicates for his shot-off feet.
Hank June 13, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Ramapo students interpret data=truth Binghamton Univ. b/a chemistry, Pace Univ cum laude Environmental Law=not qualified
Gottardo DiGiacopo June 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM
these students you mention are all exceptionally qualified in their respective fields of study (enviro. law, chemistry, etc.) What is unclear is your point Hank... perhaps sentences might help you communicate your thought(s) ;O)
Hank June 13, 2012 at 01:08 PM
You know their majors and GPA?
Andy Schmidt June 13, 2012 at 01:33 PM
As you very well know from prior reports that you personally commented on, Hank, the (presumingly former students, now...) professionals, were Environmental Studies majors at the time of the presentation: http://mahwah.patch.com/articles/students-suggest-environmental-study-on-site-police-at-crossroads
Gottardo DiGiacopo June 13, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Hank, i have no clue what or who you are talking about but i will take your word for it that they are educated and at least loosely involved in Crossroads. again, i think if anything can help you it's "sentences"! your earlier post of arithmetic innuendo (with equal signs and arrows) was cute but it was missing any and all vital information (as are your later posts). please humor us smaller minds with nouns, verbs, objects, prepositional and adverbial phrases, adjectives etc. etc.. c'mon shakespear, you can do it.
Gottardo DiGiacopo June 13, 2012 at 01:53 PM
is Binghamton chemistry and Pace cum laude enviro. law you Hank??? it never crossed my mind that you were giving yourself a plug! i thought you were talking about some other college students who gave a conflicting report in relation to the ramapo students study... my bad ;O)
Hank June 13, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I have no problem with the college students doing a report for the town.I liked the idea of switching the buildings around. But it has to be taken lightly. It was only one semester. The students must have had other courses. How much time was actually put into research.How much data could not be reviewed because of such a short time frame. I don't buy the "exceptionally qualified in their respective fields" have they ever did anything like this before? They did a good job but have given food for thought that's about it.
Hank June 13, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Andy that's fine Again it was hard work. But Phyllys and Gotardo and the rest are hanging thier hats on the Environmental Studies Students Have you ever read the requirements for an Environmental Studies Student at Ramapo? Also there are students with an agenda (which is ok with me ,they have passion) but how do you explain this? http://ramapolookout.blogspot.com/2012/05/college-students-assess-proposed-malls.html http://ramapolookout.blogspot.com/2012/05/college-students-assess-proposed-malls.html
Andy Schmidt June 13, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Yes, I read that article carefully - and in the context it was written (it was an assignment, part of a writing class - thus embellished for good writing grades). After some generic prosa (that attempted to "hook" the reader by creating a personal connection) was explicitly NOT specific to Mahwah. The first actual reference to Mahwah: "Community groups and activists are often the ones to protest a proposed mall or roadway project when THEY BELIEVE it could threaten their health or disturb some special habitat or endanger a species. Such is the case for the proposed Crossroads retail development in the Township of Mahwah..." is actually quite a fair summary of the reasons why the students were asked to take on that project. And the article ends with a very down-to-earth self assessment: "...consider listening to liberal, NON-EXPERT college students. And what came out of it was a beautiful collaboration of the different facets of this community plus a fresh, IDEALISTIC look at sustainable planning and development" Also - the central portion of that article, which reports on the student's work performed and the specific Mahwah scenario requally readsfine to me!?
knowitall June 13, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Hey Marcus, Why don't you move next door to the site, play with your kids there, and have them get some soil samples for all us to verify.
JP June 14, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Andy, how can you possibly say that the article was "a beautiful collaboration of the different facets of this community plus a fresh, IDEALISTIC look at sustainable planning and development" when the students did not include ANY alternate views from the developer or their architect or planners (who they did not interview for their take on the whole thing), nor did they seem to interview any pro-mall activists such as myself. I never received an email here about talking to them and I'm pretty sure none of the other proponents (48% of the voters) did either. So let's not say they this represents all facets of this community. It absolutely does not. It was mostly one-sided and (I'm sure) meant to bolster the Stop-Mall agenda either deliberately by some individual involved with the students or inadvertently by not commenting on what's GOOD with the current design.
JP June 14, 2012 at 02:19 AM
OK Andy, so, "a study can be based on EXISTING facts and test results - in fact that's done very often in all different fields of study." How come the two factions (the students and the developer's environmental expert) don't seem to come to the same conclusions about the site if they are both based on EXISTING facts and test results? Bias maybe? Lack of understanding the actual impact of the data maybe? Interpretation maybe? The need to WANT the data to back your side up maybe? You tell me.
Andy Schmidt June 14, 2012 at 03:23 AM
>> How come the two factions ... don't seem to come to the same conclusions about the site if they are both based on EXISTING facts and test results << That's the same way in all aspects of live. We look at the same facts, and draw different conclusions on their meaning and impact - based on our backgrounds, education, upbringing, social status. If it was NOT that way, then Democrats and Republicans would come up with the SAME plan to address specific issues that are undisputed.
Andy Schmidt June 14, 2012 at 03:28 AM
>> the students did not include ANY alternate views from the developer or their architect or planners (who they did not interview for their take on the whole thing), nor did they seem to interview any pro-mall activists such as myself << Because they were not doing an opinion poll. They were assembling the documented facts and reporting on them. Their job was NOT to recommend one development scenario over the other - but rather to itemize the impact each development scenario would have. No matter if you for or against the mall, there is no question that ANY development will have SOME impact. Their job was to enumerate those impacts and then make suggestions on how those impacts could be mitigated. The end result is not a recommendation AGAINST the mall, but simply a list of recommendations of mitigations that could be considered to limit the effect of any impact.
Gottardo DiGiacopo June 14, 2012 at 11:41 AM
careful Hank, i don't think Jessica or anyone else on or at the Patch appreciates your juvenile typos.
Hank June 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Gottardo you did not do your homework. I would have thought you would have looked up the "experts" credentials. Also the students are "Environmental Studies" majors which is pretty lightweight. Check the courses at Ramapo for proof. They are not "exceptionally qualified in their fields of study Chem,law enviro etc." Once again you are full of baloney Now if they were" Environmental Science" majors that's a different ball game. They are the real deal. Check their course level compared to" Environmental Studies".
Hank June 14, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Andy what if the last line of the first paragraph ended with "Fortunately,in this case elected officials do know best. A grass roots movement although well intentioned has held back progress of a beautiful mall......." Stop the mall wouldn't go ballistic?
Andy Schmidt June 14, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Hank - the first paragraph (the bold intro) to that mock-up article (a writing assignment) is NOT about Mahwah. It describes generic scenarios anywhere in the country, where officials that sometimes are not intimately familiar with a particular area do clash with locals who actually will have to live with whatever is being decided - and thus take quite a different perspective. From there, the SECOND paragraph starts describing a SPECIFIC scenario and relates THAT to Mahwah. And even THAT paragraph does NOT agree with EITHER the concerned residents OR the developer - in fact, it is very careful to use the word "BELIEVES" when describing the concerns raised by community groups/activists. In even note the word "IDEALISTIC" in the closing paragraph - which in my mind, is giving a nod to the fact that sometimes PRAGMATISM and REALISM will ultimately decide the development. I'm actually surprised that the mall-opponents haven't taken exception to their cause being labeled as "idealistic".
Gottardo DiGiacopo June 14, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Hank, i was there for the students presentation and appreciated it fully for what it was. their professor was also a fine and insightful person. they were all a pleasure to meet. as for going on-line to compare their course level against another so that i could call them 'lightweights' & say 'they're not the real deal', that's your life not mine. p.s. i hope you thanked the Patch for changing your diaper ;O)
Jonathan N. Marcus June 14, 2012 at 08:44 PM
knowitall: I do not understand your post and why you would bring my children up. If you are referring to my above post concerning what our students at Ramapo did in their contamination research, I simply sought to provide the facts about what was done. Our students did not conduct environmental testing (nor were they expected to). What they did do was go to great measures to conduct research with regard to all the publicly available data on the contamination at the site. They did a brilliant job of piecing together data from many sources in order to help paint a picture that, quite frankly, I suspect many folks were not aware of. For instance, were folks aware that until recent years there were ACTIVE air strippers on site at the Crossroads to deal with vapor contamination? I applaud the time and effort these students put into their senior project. It was an incredible experience for them and one I am sure will be with them for a lifetime.
Andy Schmidt June 14, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Jonathan, facts are inconvenient - because they are so hard to argue. So - when you start providing facts, the only response people have left is personal aggression. I always take any personal attack as a compliment - because it confirms that I'm right (otherwise, the response would have been a dispute specific to the subject matter - assuming certain intellectual ability).
Jonathan N. Marcus June 14, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Andy: I do find it such a shame that folks on Patch will, from time to time, resort to personal attacks. We are all neighbors. The reason I post under my real name is that I truly enjoy getting to know others in my town. It is so nice when I go someplace around town and end up meeting someone because they heard me say my name and they remembered engaging in a discussion with me on Patch or simply seeing a post I might have left. To me, that is the true beauty behind a "local" forum such as this. It is wonderful to be able to connect with my fellow townspeople and engage is discussions about issues common to all of us. While I certainly do not always agree with everyone on these forums, it is great to be able to engage in civil discussion and debate so that I can see other viewpoints. It is really disheartening when such discussions breakdown into personal attacks. What I find interesting is that such personal attacks usually come from folks who hide behind screen names. It is so easy to attack someone when you can do it anonymously. I guess that is the beauty of the internet..... In any event, I continue to enjoy reading all the comments and discussions on Patch. We are very lucky to have such a forum available to us in our town.
Andy Schmidt June 15, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Agreed. On occasion, I hear from someone with insight on a matter, even willing to share some documents that help clarify an issue, and I've always benefited from having a chance to refine, reaffirm or even revise my thinking. But I've never experienced any negativity. Some people who disguise their identify compensate for lacking integrity by at least publicly "acting" aggressive. Probably just a way of preserving some self-esteem.

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