WEST HAVERSTRAW PLANNING BOARD CONSIDERS INDUSTRIAL BUIILDING IN GRASSY POINT BEND

At the January monthly West Haverstraw Planning Board meeting, the board continued public hearings on Grassy Point Bend LLC considering putting an industrial building on property located on Railroad Avenue between Peck’s Pond and Haverstraw Bay Park located at 190 – 200 Railroad Avenue and 275 Beach Road.

There seem to be a lot of complications in completing this project. Not the least of which is the additional traffic that will be traversing Railroad Avenue to and from route 9W and going right through the village of West Haverstraw. Phillip Grealy for Mazer Consulting spoke to this issue.

“We completed a traffic report last June which we presented at several meetings with comments from the public as well as comments we received from the Rockland County Highway Department.” Grealy stated. “We responded to those memos in July of last year. Then in August we submitted responses to some of the comments relative to additional data that wasn’t in our report in terms of hourly traffic counts along Railroad Avenue.” He continued.

Their report also included information on train usage and stoppage for lengths of time for trains along the crossing there. They also included information on the type and amount of traffic generated by this type of use.

These studies for the building(s) are being done without having an end user for the property. This means that the studies have to be done in general terms of what traffic generation has been for similar warehousing types of facilities.

“We used data which was published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers which the DOT and county requires us to use and actually provided in our August memo copies of excerpts from documents just to show the board where the information was coming from.” Grealy explained.

As of the meeting on January 9, 2019, the county has reviewed the report and according to Grealy they were happy with the information provided as per an e mail sent in September. They submitted an updates site plan because early on the county had request moving the access over to Beach Road. Afterwards they moved into the next stage of the process within terms of getting the permits. Grealy acknowledged that there are updated environmental studies and added they are at the point where they are ready to go back to the town after this meeting.

After Grealy finished his presentation, questions from the board were taken. David Bertolino was the first to question Grealy. “You did a generic study of warehousing you’re considering. Let’s look at this from the extreme side. You get a person that wants to rent the whole complex and he or she is storing a lot of goods where you are going to have heavy trucking and so forth. What happens to that traffic study from that point?”

Grealy responded, “In terms of the total traffic projections by consuming multiple users, you actually have more traffic. We have done many of these warehouses in Orange County where you have some very large buildings in excess of half a million square feet. They generate about twenty percent of the traffic that we assume here. One single user has a lower traffic generation.”

There are exceptions to everything and Grealy said that an Amazon type of distribution would be one. He added that in terms of the type of generation that would be for this facility would be in line with what they project. This projection predicted in terms of truck traffic, they assumed forty truck trips (the total trips of trucks in an one hour period). He added that not all of them would be tractor trailers. “It will be a typical mix depending on the type of warehouse. This could mean that as much as one – third would be tractor trailers.” Grealy called this the worst case scenario that they modeled in their report. He reiterated that these numbers would be significantly less if there is a single user of the facility.

The biggest concern of the board and the people from the community is what this will do to the traffic on Railroad Avenue. Bertolino said that this was a unique problem that Railroad Avenue is an old road and not designed to hold these big trucks now. “What I’m trying to say is, these additional trucks, even if it’s three trucks extra, that puts a lot of stress on Railroad Avenue. It expands when the bridge is closed, and you have an industrial park right up the street where you have people coming out of that. It’s truck traffic. Not tractor trailers.”

Bertolino’s concern here was that when these drivers leave the industrial park the first thing they do is pull over after making the turn and pull over and go across the street into the deli. This part doesn’t bother him. What he is concerned with is that they are tying up traffic and if a tractor trailer is trying to get through, and that even the smallest stress on the road can make a significant difference. “we are looking at the numbers and the numbers are not sounding good to me.” He asked, “What can be done to improve it to be able to accept this type of traffic?”

Grealy said that there could be some modifications as part of the county permit. He pointed out that the area that the board and residents are most concerned about is the part where there are already existing businesses. “Where you have on street parking, you are not going to remove because they are vital to the businesses.” He stated that the areas with restricted parking due to sight distances would remain in effect. “The thing we did look at in terms of the width of the road and parking on both sides, that the travel lanes were adequate to accommodate the vehicles.” He did acknowledge that they would have to travel at a slower speed especially in that area, which he said was not unusual for a village street.

One point that Grealy kept emphasizing was that they would have the trucks going out earlier to try to avoid the peak travel times in this area. Including avoiding the times when the school busses are going through. “In the terms of outbound flow, that’s something that will be part of a traffic management plan that we would work out with the county. We’ve done that in other locations.”

Bertolino questioned Grealy on exactly how he was going to accomplish this. “When you say traffic management you’re going to mandate when these vehicles cannot be on the road or you leaving it up to their goodwill?”

Grealy responded, “What happens is it would be scheduled to avoid those time periods. In terms of other things that could be done to move the flow through there I don’t think there’s traffic control devices that are going to help. It’s really a question of number and the amount of flow leaving the facility exiting out towards 9W.”

“Has your study considered other routes other than railroad Avenue there are different access roads to the complex is there any other way that direct access or structure some kind of agreement So that It’s dispersed and not all on railroad Avenue?” Jacqueline Foy asked.

It seems from the reports and studies done, according to Grealy they’ve assumed the majority, almost all of the trucks trips are going to be on railroad Avenue not going to the North on beach or heading out that way. “Now in terms of employees coming to the site they can use the other routes and I don’t think that’s the concern but in terms of the traffic study we will assume the traffic trucks will be on railroad Avenue. And that’s how they would get to and from the site. if they were heading North they could go out the other way.”

One issue aside from the vehicle traffic on Railroad Avenue is the pedestrian “traffic” Jim Sepinski made a point of asking about this. “I walk my dog down to the parks, Bowline and Peck’s Pond. Right now, it’s a little slow but There’s a constant flow of pedestrian traffic. People with baby carriages, roller blades, and when I walk my dog, there is no curb anyway, I have to shorten his leash, and shorten his reach and walk around a car that’s parked on RR on the north side. South side there’s hardly anyplace for pedestrians to walk.”

Grealy told Sepinski, “In terms of pedestrian movement, when we do our surveys, we record vehicle types, pedestrians and bicycles so we have that info, I think like the board asked to look at that section to see if sidewalks are possible or doable. We have the info in our base condition as to what’s actually out there in terms of pedestrian walkways.”

Grealy’s reports were done during the school year with concern for the traffic and dealing with school busses. Their data counts were done in May of 2018. This did not take into consideration the summer with the additional traffic of people going to Peck’s Pond, Haverstraw Bay Park and not to mention the Marina. Summer time increases traffic by five or six fold on Railroad Avenue and the surrounding access roads to these places. Bertolino pointed out that it can be significantly different in the middle of July and August when people are really using Peck’s Pond you have people walking, jogging down there. You are not going to have that in the winter they’re going to drive.

They did not have summer counts, but Grealy said they will address that. He said that the time when the peak traffic occurs for us wouldn’t necessarily coincide with the peak activity of people getting to the park and those but we’ll provide information. There is some historical data going back to 2015 that the county had for summer months, so they’ll take a look at that and address it.

Safety of the people and property on Railroad Avenue is a major concern over the inconvenience of having tractor trailers going up the street. Helaine Nemeth pointed out that she has seen several times, the tractor trailers turning onto 9W will jackknife. So when you have vehicles behind your truck, everybody has to try to wiggle their way out to let the truck go or the pedestrian or a bicycle or someone going by. “I mean it’s just a bad spot. We have the vehicles on 9W, it’s very hard for a tractor trailer to turn on there too. It doesn’t only effect Railroad Ave it effects 9W also.”

Even though the economy is booming, money is still tight. The roads have not been improved in certain areas. What are the extra vibrations from these trucks and the weight of these trucks going to do to the roads for the upkeep of these roads? There is going to be additional stress to the roads especially for the areas that haven’t been improved in a long time. That’s going to mean more money for the county and village for upkeep of the roads for any sort of damage of the roads especially in the winter with the salt going out. You’re going to have bigger potholes, ore cracks and more repairs needing to be done with these trucks, especially tractor trailers going through. Grealy did not have an immediate answer for this.

Other concerns on the traffic matters came from Mike Nemeth and Bruce Leach on the time of the trucks coming through and the noise of the jake brakes waking people up at the “off peak” hours and the condition and fragility of the land in the proposed building. “Right at the end of the street it just drops down. Once they start to develop that another issue is going to be, are they going to put retaining walls? What are they going to do? It’s all clay. You know are people going to have problems. Is all the property on the end going to sink when they disturb it. It’s a clay pit. There’s a lot of things.” Leach commented.

Grealy answered, “We are trying to avoid having them on the road at peak time but if we have them off peak time there’s another issue. I just want to make sure I’m understanding.” In answer to Leach’s concern, they will look into putting a road from 9W directly to the industrial building area.

To address environmental concerns, David Leon explained the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) impact. “We headed up the environmental study for the work. We put together a work plan in June 2018. The work was commenced on site through June and July. We issued an interim status report in Aug 2018. Samples from eight of 18 boring holes (holes drilled into ground to get samples of what is under surface) taken down to the bedrock, which formed a grid over the area to give structural info on what can be built and what can be done structurally and the eight samples take were meant to inform us on what we have in the fill and to provide info to the state in that regard. They are waiting for a meeting with the state to continue their work.”

The proposed area for the building was once a land fill. Residents questioned the content and toxic and carcinogen nature of what is down there. Leon tried to assuage their concerns. “The nature of this investigation is that we have a covered fill. Which we don’t have all the evidence of what’s in it. What we understand is that it’s a C & D fill which means we have construction and demo debris. You should have anything that was in a structure when it was demolished or excess materials that were used should be found here and all of the tests we have taken so far is consistent with that type of debris. So, we found construction materials.”

From testimony the board has heard over the months there is concern that it is still sinking getting landslides on the side where the clay is and that would show the land is not compacted. What do the test bores show? Is it fully compacted? Board members asked.

According to Leon, depending on exactly what they found under there would tell the structural engineer what it is they could set on top of that area or what enhancements would need to be made underneath to support what is going to be built.

One board member brought up the topic of the gases coming from the decomposing construction materials. “Are they still evident? So, you checked randomly and checked environmentally?”

“So, we’re not done yet. Right now, the work plan we have with the state which we are still waiting to get comment on. We addressed the soil and gas coming out from the fill and the water because every time it rains you’ll see water from the fill when it comes out. Our document from August was interim so we still have to go back with the state’s concurrence and complete testing. We don’t have any final data on that but we have that in our plan.”

Questions were raised about the safety of the installation of the water and gas pipes as well as electrical wiring being run to the building with the question of the stability of the ground they would be putting these things into. “If the ground is shifting and there’s stuff going on there you’ve got a nice little cave in and something shifts underneath, you’re breaking water pipes, you’re taking water away from areas like the parks, you’ve got gas pipes that could burst and could be an explosive combination. You’re not only dealing with an environmental impact but you are putting the potentially the whole area in danger with a major explosion with a gas line running through there that ruptured because the ground shifted and busted a pipe. You can’t be 100% sure you’re going to be completely safe with that kind of shifting and decomposing going on down there. And then to add the weight of a building and the materials in the building and the trucks coming through and everything that we keep talking about that can happen due to the traffic pattern can create more problems there.” One resident commented.

“I can answer that in general terms, in specifics I would leave that to McLaren who is doing the structural engineering for this. In general terms the soils along the Hudson where they’re found to be high in clay are not suitable for a slap on grade type of construction and much of what we construct will have to be on piles or some other sort of constructed structural support. And soils that are found in this type of environment would be very similar structurally.” Leon stated.

I asked Leon about the ground underneath that he doesn’t have control over. The roads, the vibrations and the weight from the trucks going through, the ground under there shifts and bust a pipe and what not. What can they do to prevent something like this from causing a major problem from mother nature? We’re not talking man. We’re talking mother nature and she’s vicious.

“So from a building stand point heavy structures would be placed on piles or something of that nature. Roadways are a more distributed wide load and there are engineering techniques just for standard soil on how much you have to over excavate and then back fill. You’ve seen the road construction, they put down stone, they have tampers the rollers and they do that layer after layer. So when you have soil that is not suitable, typically what’s done is you need to do is over excavate and u need to create a deeper and wider area the you need to compact so that when the natural soil or this soil here is then going to shift underneath then you’ll have an engineered system under there to mitigate that. He added “The utilities that are being addressed on the site plan application when we get in to the details about what the pipe sizes are. We understand the conditions that are there.”

Leach gave a little history of the proposed building site. “There’s a lot of underground springs. Having grown up there, you walk down there and you can hear water running all over the place. At the end of the streets 50 feet out it used to be solid. Now you go to the end of these streets and it just drops, everything collapsed. It’s really, really, really unstable. When I was a kid I remember they were clearing that out back in the 70’s and they sunk a D9 bulldozer they had to get a crane to get it out. It’s not that simple. It’s a lot of clay. You did the bores a lot of feet of clay yet big time.”

Leon stated that they were only half way through the testing and they don’t have the data yet.

They have information on today’s conditions for topographical which means showing the fill that is there now. Underneath you have the original before it was started to be filled in the 70’s that’s underneath here. The information he is using goes form the early 70’s to last year. There was another area that was questionable. There was a lot of work done before there was a submission before the work started to be done.

Along with all of the work that still needs to be done to get this project moving, there are going to be more public hearings over the upcoming months.

Other issues were discussed dealing with expansion of businesses, fencing issues at private homes and asking for variances for projects.