Willets Point is a neighborhood in northern Queens that has long been considered for redevelopment to better serve the growing community’s needs. A redevelopment plan is now in place for Willets Point, with the City fulfilling a commitment to start work. The first step is environmental remediation. The Q&A below explains more about what this process is and how it will work on Willets Point.
What is remediation?
Remediation is the cleanup of substances that can be harmful to the environment. In the case of Willets Point, both the fill originally used to create usable land in the area and the waste material from the area’s high density of former auto repair shops have led to substances in the ground that need to be addressed.
In some cases, remediation is mandated by law; in others, it is voluntary. In Willets Point, the developer has chosen to voluntarily clean up the site through the NYS Brownfield Cleanup Program, overseen by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the NYS Department of Health (DOH).
Why is remediation important?
Remediation cleans up historical contamination, protects the environment, and creates a safe site for future development. Without remediation, the site would remain vacant and undeveloped.
What needs to be done before remediation can begin?
Before remediation can begin, a Qualified Environmental Professional must conduct a thorough investigation of the area on behalf of NYS DEC/DOH. At Willets Point, this investigation looked at samples of the soil, groundwater, and soil vapor to identify possible substances that require cleanup. Based on the findings, the environmental team and DEC/DOH will determine the full scope of the remediation needs.
How is remediation done?
There are typically three ways to clean up the site—removal, treatment, and containment.
- Removal involves the safe transport and off-site disposal of impacted soil or groundwater.
- Treatment can involve the injection of certain compounds into the soil or groundwater to clean up environmentally hazardous substances.
- Containment can involve “mixing” a concrete-like substance with soil on the site to solidify contaminated soil in place, or construction of physical barriers that cut off exposure to site contaminants.
At Willets Point, remediation is currently underway through a removal process. Additional remediation may be performed in the future through a combination of removal, treatment, and/or containment. At the end of remediation, the area will be available and safe for future residential development.
Is there a health concern for people living or working near a remediation site? How about after the site has been remediated?
Remediation at sites that are under the direction of NYS DEC/DOH, or other agencies such as the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) or the Office of Environmental Remediation (NYC OER), is designed to prevent exposure to people living or working near the sites.
First, during active remediation the air at the perimeter of the cleanup area is monitored for dust and other substances that can affect human health. Provisions are implemented to effectively and immediately address any substances that are monitored at unsafe levels.
The completed remediation must prevent exposure in several different ways. Some or all of the harmful substances may be removed altogether. Remaining substances must be isolated from impacting humans or the environment, so, for instance, contaminated soil may be covered with pavement or clean fill so that no one can touch it, eat it, or breathe in dust.
Long-term control measures are incorporated into a Site Management Plan associated with the property deed so that all future owners and occupants of the site are able to protect themselves and others from any health risk caused by the property.
Where is remediation happening at Willets Point?
On a 7.7-acre portion of the Willets Point Development Site, the investigation phase is now largely complete, and remediation is currently underway to facilitate affordable housing development.
What’s the plan for Willets Point?
The remediation at Willets Point will create a safe and protective development that will include:
- 1,100 homes, 100% affordable
- A school
- Open space
This is all part of a broader plan to make a new start for Willets Point transforming the site into an affordable, sustainable, and modern neighborhood, a community where residents can live, work, and enjoy. This has been a longstanding City commitment—and we’re now taking the first steps toward fulfilling that commitment.