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State DEC to County Parks: Clean Up Jay House Mess or We Pursue Legal Action

JayProperty,Rye,NY 

Don't tread on the Jay House.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has told the Westchester County Parks Department it has 30 days to remove the contaminated fill it dumped on the Jay House property earlier this spring. But questions remain about similar situations at Playland and Edith Read.

Jay House Poison Dirt 

(PHOTO: Wasting Away at the Jay House)

In a letter to the Westchester Parks Department (full copy here), Kenneth Brezner of the NYSDEC says "the Department has determined that the material imported from Rye Playland is a solid waste. As such, since a Beneficial Use determination was not granted for the same, the importation of this waste material is violation of 6 NYCRR Part 360." The letter then directs the material to be removed within 30 days and placed in a "permitted landfill" and closes by saying "Failure to comply with the above requirement will result in referral to the Department's Office of General Counsel for formal legal action."

While most of the solid waste being removed was placed illegally by the County parks Department this spring, at least one of the piles of waste the NYDEC is requiring be removed was placed – according to the DEC letter – "between 1983 and 1993". And the letter addresses the situation at the Jay House but does not say if there is an issue at Playland or Edith Read Sanctuary.

Joe Stout, Westchester County Parks and Conservation Commissioner, in an email to JHC President, Suzanne Clary and NYSOPRHP (New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation) on January 25, 2010 said "Regarding the fill itself, it is from soil whose origins are at Playland. The fill is also used for projects at Playland and Edith Read Sanctuary. We are confident that the fill is safe."

Yeah, right.

While the issues at the Jay House appear on the road to repair, there are remaining unanswered questions at these other locations.

Jay Heritage President Suzanne Clary released a statement saying:

"The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) is grateful to the New York  Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) for the speed with which it followed up on the problems of contaminated fill on the historically and environmentally important Jay Property.  The County has confirmed that it will abide by the DEC's report and letter of April 9 which has ordered a clean-up of the site within the next 30 days.  The County has assured JHC that this clean-up will be done with  full protection of  archaeologically sensitive artifacts on the Jay Property and in consultation with JHC.  
 
JHC was obviously distressed that  County Parks brought new waste to the Jay Property in January and that past County administrations had failed for nearly 2 decades to clean up the waste left on the site by the former developer and prior owners. But following constructive and positive talks with the new County administration this week,  JHC is optimistic that there will be no repetitions of  such violations in the future. Furthermore, we are hopeful that this incident has prompted County Parks to establish new protocols for the use and screening of fill used at all the parks and historic sites in its care.
 
We look forward to working with the new County administration and NY State to safeguard and  preserve John Jay's boyhood home in Rye with renewed dedication, and historic and archaeological sensitivity."

We want to know who is going to provide the same forcefully advocacy for Playland and Edith Read. Anyone? Oh yeah, both those properties are managed by Westchester County.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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