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By Madina Toure

The site of a former dry cleaners’ service, which is part of a shopping center in Whitestone, is now being considered for the state Brownfield Cleanup Program.

On July 14, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, a supermarket chain based in Montvale, N.J., submitted an application on behalf of the former Johnny on the Spot Dry Cleaners on 152-45 10th Ave. to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

It is a voluntary program that helps repair and redevelop brownfields, or contaminated properties. The application was completed by Oct. 29, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The site is part of the Whitestone Shopping Center, a 62,000-square-foot property on 153-01 10th Ave., which includes the Waldbaum’s supermarket, Subway restaurant, Sunshine Spa & Hair Salon, Cascarino’s Pizza, Cascarino’s upcoming Café 154, J.D. Opticians and the Astoria Bank, which is adjacent to the site.

It was unclear what and if A&P planned to build on the site, but a brownfield application indicates the company may have a project in mind, said Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and a historic preservationist.

“If they want to redevelop the site in any way, they have to go through a brownfield cleanup,” Graziano said. “It’s in a manufacturing zone and my guess is if they want to do something besides what’s existing, then they are looking to go through this cleanup.”

The A&P has a 40-year lease on the property, according to an agreement between Feil Whitestone and Waldbaum’s Inc. dated Feb. 27, 2004.

A&P could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts.

The primary contaminants of concern at the site include tetrachloroethene, a manufactured chemical commonly used in the dry cleaning of fabric, and its degradation products trichloroethene, dichloroethene and vinyl chloride, according to the brownfield application. It is considered a probable human carcinogen.

People can be exposed to tetrachloroethene, also known as PERC, in air, water and food, according to the state Department of Health, as well as through skin contact. People can also be exposed to the chemical if it evaporates from contaminated drinking water into air indoors while people cook food and wash clothes.

The contaminants were identified in groundwater and soil vapor on the site, but a full remedial investigation is needed to determine the extent of contamination. The DOH is still assessing site data.

In January, the Feil Organization, a New York City-based real estate firm, bought the Waldbaum’s Shopping Center from Crow Holdings and Onyx Entities, a real estate investment and management firm for $23.9 million. On Aug. 28, the Feil Organization sold the property to A&P Real Property LLC.

The site had initially come to the DEC’s attention in late 2010, said Rodney Rivera, special assistant for DEC’s Region 2 office, which serves Queens, the Bronx, Kings, New York and Richmond counties.

Stantec Consulting Services, A&P’s environmental engineering consultant, prepared a site characterization work plan, which involved collecting a sufficient amount of data to determine whether the site has contaminants. Rivera said.

Last April, the DEC, in consultation with the DOH, approved the plan, according to a letter by Hasan Ahmed, environmental engineer for Region 2, written to A&P’s director of site planning at the time.

The site has been used for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. Johnny On The Spot Dry Cleaners used to occupy the southwestern unit of the shopping center building, but the site has been vacant since 2004.

The brownfield cleanup is replacing a volunteer cleanup program that operated on the site. James Cervino, CB7’s environmental chairman, praised that decision.

“You need a cop there — and when I say cop, I mean the DEC — watching over and making sure people are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Cervino said.

Graziano said the contaminants may be the result of a former railroad station that used to operate on the Waldbaum’s site between 1915 and 1935.

“The contaminants may be from when the area was being used a railroad station and there was all kinds of materials,” he said.

The 30-day public comment period concluded. The DEC will then assess whether the site is eligible for the program.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour‌e@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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