I am one of the PTA Co-Presidents at the school, and wanted to clear some things up.
We filed the suit for one reason, and one reason alone – because we believe the mitigation that NYSDOH is requiring of JHL is deficient, both legally and practically.
This deficiency is as a matter of law and will have real impacts on the health and safety of the children if the proposed project is allowed to go forward under the conditions set forth in the Findings Statement. If the mitigation measures that were required in the Findings Statement and EIS complied with the applicable legal standard, we would not have filed this suit. We would have no grounds if there weren’t actual failures to meet the legal standards. Our legal papers describe in detail the ways in which the mitigation measures are deficient.
It is also worth noting that Mr. Nathanson from JHL states that he and NYSDOH are well positioned to defend against the litigation since the state environmental vetting process was “exhaustive and the project was approved after intense, extensive review.” However, what NYSDOH and JHL have never done to date is explain in substance the “intense, extensive review.”
We have clearly explained directly to JHL that if they were to provide proper mitigation, we would gladly avoid a lawsuit. We even sat down with them multiple times hoping to find a solution, but they refused to offer mitigation that would help address the very significant and negative construction impacts.
Just as one example of the LEGAL deficiencies in the plan, in our lawsuit we very clearly state how the mitigation measures that JHL has offered — individual window air conditioners and undefined noise attenuating windows — will actually aggravate the significant environmental harms on P.S. 163. Not only would the school have no access to fresh air, P.S. 163 would be forced into SUBSTANTIAL noncompliance with the New York City Building Code requirements for minimum access to fresh air.
Far from being merely a matter of technical noncompliance, this would have tremendous potential health consequences, including the build-up of chemical vapors migrating from contaminated groundwater beneath the school and possibly increasing existing levels of PCB vapors in the school. Additionally, the teachers and staff of P.S. 163 would be given the impossible choice between minimal noise attenuation and no fresh air with closed windows, or fresh air with no noise attenuation with open windows.
What is truly sad is that for a relatively small amount of money for proper mitigation, JHL could have ensured the safety and health of the P.S. 163 school children while also building their much needed state of the art facility. And, to be sure, P.S. 163 is not anti-construction or anti-JHL, but rather we simply want construction to be done safely and consistent with applicable law.