The stability of the Palisade Cliffs behind the proposed Appleview condominiums is one issue under debate as the project’s application for approval goes forward, and another is the proximity of a high pressure pipeline supplying natural gas to New York City that some fear may be disrupted by the construction. According to the geotechnical expert for the proposed, the steep slope behind the site along the Hudson River is not part of the Palisade Cliffs, so soil and rock removal there won’t be significant.
The fourth two-hour North Bergen Planning Board meeting for the developer whose proposed five-story waterfront building would be built close to the pipeline and Guttenberg’s Galaxy Towers was held on Oct. 21 and featured the testimony of Lisa Mahle-Gerco, a geotechnical engineer for Johnson Soils of Glen Rock.
The 59-unit residential building would sit on a 2.3-acre site, located at 7009 and 7101 River Road. The developer is seeking variances because the township’s ordinance requires a minimum size of five acres for a project of this size. They also applied to consolidate four different tax lots into one.
“Let Transco come and testify.” – an audience member.
Lamb argued that there were two test boring locations that were only 15 feet away. He said that the test borings were not “really accurate” because they varied widely and were not necessarily done in the correct areas.
During the public portion, when only three individuals were permitted to speak, North Bergen resident Jack Casian asked whether or not using sonar would be a more accurate way to determine where the rock surface was.
Mahle-Gerco said that it was an expensive tool for a geologist and that she had no idea if it would be, while Attorney Carmine Alampi, representing Appleview, LLC, said that it would not be used.
‘Not a gas pipeline safety expert’
Mahle-Gerco said that on the site there was asphalt from a former road, and “miscellaneous debris” that ranged from baby carriages, plastic, pipes, plastic, and sand and silt, which was natural to the area. She explained that this would have to be removed and that in order to build on the site either wood or steel-incased concrete pilings would be driven down beneath the building.
She said that while the building was 25 feet away from the Transco Williams Gas Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York City and provides more than 40 percent of the city’s natural gas, she wasn’t sure if pilings would be dug any closer than that.
The Transco line crosses under River Road and enters into the northern section of the property, close to North Bergen’s Woodcliff Sewerage Treatment Plant and other housing structures.
Lamb asked if digging into different rocks and surfaces could cause different vibration in the area, and Mahle-Gerco agreed it would. She said that there was no way to ensure that blasting would not be used, and that she was not a gas line expert.
“You are not a gas line safety expert, with a gas line in the area that could be affected by the types of soils and rocks in construction,” said Lamb.
Galaxy resident Jeremy Raben said that in the gas pipeline industry, this 36-inch high pressured 800 psi pipe built in the 1950s was considered “exotic” on the industry’s own terms. He said that it seems to have been “forgotten” that it passes adjacent to the property before crossing through it to the Palisades Cliffs.
When asked by Alampi if the project had any unusual difficulties, Mahle-Gerco said “not originally,” but when asked for clarification by Guttenberg resident Steven Rosen, she gave no further detail. She said that the proximity of the pipeline was just like any other easement.
Alampi said there is an easement agreement between the developer and Transco that hinges on the project’s approval by the Planning Board, but the developers don’t feel it’s necessary to produce that document since it isn’t a part of their application.
He also said they had provided the board and the township engineer, Rick McGrath of Boswell Engineering, a document listing Transco’s safety guidelines.
“What’s happened here is that the elephant that’s not in the room, Transco, sends a document and I appreciate that, obviously, that the document has some of the safety features that we think is important, but Transco is not here and everyone can say that’s its fine, but there is no proof that the 200-foot blasting rule should be 250,” said Lamb. “These are their maintenance guidelines.”
Board attorney Steven Muhlstock said that it would be the board’s decision to require that any safety precautions requested by Transco would be obeyed by the applicant if the project is approved.
McGrath said that Transco was very safety conscious and was in his “hip pocket” in the past whenever they had to expose the pipe. He said that Transco would not allow anything to happen to their pipe.
Lamb said that three years ago, when a 140-unit version of the project was in front of the Zoning Board, then-Appleview attorney Dennis Oury said they were “close” to working out an agreement, yet that document has never been made public.
“Let Transco come and testify!” shouted one audience member.
Not just ‘garbage’
Mahle-Gerco said that the site was not a part of the Palisades Cliffs and that only a small portion of cliff existed on the site above the proposed building. She cited the Collins English Dictionary definition of a cliff, so laymen could understand, instead of a scientific definition.
Raben countered that most of the exposed cliff face in this area was man-made and said the Palisades in their “natural state” was a slope of trees with a small portion of cliff.
“It seems like you’re trying to make it sound that this area is just a dump of garbage that should be removed to expose the cliff face,” he said.
Mahle-Gerco said that no cliff face would be exposed.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.