Over the objections of residents and public officials, the state said it will issue a permit that will allow a developer to destroy 18 acres of wetlands forest near the north shore of Staten Island in order to build a BJ’s Wholesale Club and a gas station, as well as lay enough asphalt to park 835 cars.
Activists sent more than 1,000 letters to the DEC asking for a public hearing before any decision was made on issuing a permit to the owner of the land, Josif A. LLC (a holding company of real estate magnate Charles Alpert). They argued that the project would eliminate an invaluable natural storm barrier.
Rep. Max Rose, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, State Senator Diane Savino, Assemblymember Michael Cusick, and City Comptroller Scott Stringer, all echoed the calls for a public meeting to discuss the proposal.
In a letter earlier this month to an attorney who had been helping the activists, the regional director for the DEC wrote, “After reviewing all comments received, department staff determined a Hearing is not warranted.”
On Wednesday the DEC issued a copy of the wetlands permit it was giving to the developer, as well as a 42 page document proving that the agency had responded to all the comments.
Reached by Gothamist, a rep for the DEC reiterated that the agency had determined a hearing was “not necessary,” while pointing back to that document for any further explanation.
In the document, the DEC states that since residents had a chance to speak in public on the Environmental Impact Study done in 2017 when the project received city approval, there was no need for them to do so again now. The document also aggregates the 1,084 comments the agency received into 143 comment types. (For instance, one comment breakout reads, “Several commenters compared this project to Bolsinaro [sic] setting the Amazon on fire.”)
Mitchell Korbey, the lawyer who represents the land owners, would not comment further than to say, “We have the permit, and this is something we anticipated.”
“This is not the end,” Gabriella Velardi-Ward, cofounder of the island’s Coalition for Wetlands and Forests, told Gothamist. “We are preparing to go to court.”
The activists now have 120 days to file an Article 78 appeal of the agency’s decision.
The owners have not released a timeline for when they expect work to begin, or the status of those permits, at press time.
Comptroller Stringer, who had suggested in August that the city buy the land for flood protection purposes, rather than spend millions on storm surge prevention measures down the road, vowed yesterday to keep up the challenge.
“We will continue to work to make the case,” said Stringer. “We’re not going to throw in the towel. The fight will continue, because what’s at stake is the resiliency of the city.”
You can read the full DEC document below.