Despite a four hour special Planning Board meeting Tuesday, which held out the possibility of a resolution of the application for the Appleview condominium project after six years of proceedings, the board still wants further information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plus any Homeland Security recommendations and input from emergency first responders about how they would respond to a potential rupture of the high pressure natural gas pipeline that crosses the project’s property.
Attorney John Lamb, representing residents of the adjacent Galaxy Towers hi-rise, and Appleview attorney Carmine Alampi, summed up their arguments on Tuesday. The developers are applying for a variety of variances from the local building codes pertaining to lot size, and removal of a portion of the Palisade Cliffs behind the project. But safety has been the core issue because of the project’s proximity to the Transco gas pipeline, which supplies about 40 percent of New York City’s natural gas.
Lamb said the Appleview project was sent back to the Planning Board by a Superior Court judge because Transco, which owns and operates the gas pipeline, was not present during presentation of the case before the Superior Court.
“We want every conceivable risk identified.” – Attorney John Lamb
“Finally it took a court order for Transco to show up,” said Lamb, referring to Bertin’s presence at the meeting. “They want the rights but not the obligation. We want every conceivable risk identified.”
Lamb agreed that some good came from the remand back to the Planning Board, which led to additional safety stipulations.
Alampi responded that there was no such position of “gas pipeline safety expert.” He also said that Lamb did not produce a civil engineer at either the hearing or the remand.
Public speakers at the meeting urged the board to vote against the Appleview project. Each person was allowed to speak for three minutes, although that limit was extended for some.
Peggy Wong, a long time activist against the Appleview development, was unable to attend but sent Kathy Friedman to speak in her place.
“The risk of an explosion is real and the lives in the blast radius should not be used as chips in some gamble for a tax ratable,” read Friedman.
Safety was the prevalent issue for residents who live within close proximity to the site.
“I’m far from convinced that my life is safe,” said Heather Cariou. “We’re depending on you for our safety and security. If you are willing to gamble with our lives, then may God have mercy on you.”
The board permitted both attorneys to cross examine Jeremy Raben, a Galaxy resident, who presented photos that depicted the change in conditions throughout the years on the site. Alampi objected to the photos because Raben was not expert enough to determine the change of the land, making his position mere opinion. Raben made it clear that he would have liked to have heard testimony from a geologist in regards to his photos.
“I don’t think until this day that you [The Planning Board] have addressed safety,” said Raben.
Yet another long time activist was David Kronick who said that clearly there was not much room for error since the project is close to the gas pipeline. He also brought up the hospital and nursing home close to the development and would possibly be impacted in the event of a rupture to the pipeline.
“I urge the board to stand tall, do the right thing and not approve the development,” said Kronick.
Some residents said they were not even aware there was a gas pipeline until the Appleview dispute began.
William McClelland said that although Transco claimed to have contacted emergency responders in case something were to go wrong, they were not contacted, according to him. He also brought up Transco’s annual flyers that should be sent but he said that he only received one.
Once public comment was over, the board had to make a decision.
A suggestion was made for the proposed maintenance agreement for the project to include the owner, the township of Guttenberg, and the township of North Bergen and it’s Municipal Utilities Authority. Yet another suggestion was to have safety measures written out for the Appleview development.
The board concluded they wanted further information from FEMA, any Homeland Security recommendations, and would contact the emergency responders to get input before a final ruling.
The following meeting will be Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in the chambers of the municipal building.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org