Housing

Demolition of Spofford juvenile detention center to begin

Gordon Bell

Hunts Point resident Cybeale Ross signs in for a community meeting to discuss The Peninsula project at The Point on April 10th.

Residents can apply for construction jobs as of next January

Demolition of the former Spofford juvenile detention center will start this summer, now that the City Council has given the green light to The Peninsula, the development that will replace it. And starting in January 2019, the developers announced that local residents can seek job opportunities for the first phase of construction.

At a meeting held at The Point on Tuesday, nearly 50 Hunts Point residents and community leaders gathered to learn what the neighborhood can expect to see and hear in the coming weeks, months and years, as well as voice their own concerns about health and safety risks and securing access to new jobs. The $300 million development project combines 740 affordable housing units with commercial offerings and public green space.

“I’m really glad you came out,” Ismene Speliotis, a mediator from MHANY management who moderated the event, told the crowd. “I’m hoping the people here tonight are going to make you feel comfortable and safe about what’s going to be happening across the street and around the corner. That is our job.”

Demolition will start in the western portion of the site, along Tiffany Street. Mike Richmond, the senior project manager, explained that the first phase includes cleanup and asbestos abatement within the preexisting structures. (Asbestos, once a common component of construction material, is known to be hazardous to human respiratory health and is now banned.) Richmond assured residents that its removal from the site would strictly adhere to government rules and safety regulations, and that air monitors will be in place to ensure air quality levels are clean for those living nearby. Still, several residents stood to emphasize their concern, pointing to the fact that Hunts Point has one of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the city.

“I have a daycare and 30 of my children have asthma,” said Eva Sanjuro, who runs Eva’s Kids on Coster Street. “We have to be very, very careful.”

Residents can expect to see a 12-foot acoustic barrier wall go up along Tiffany Street to reduce the sound of machinery early this summer. Developers also said there will be constant water spray-downs to keep dust emanating from the site to a minimum, and traffic flaggers will be placed at the main entrance on Spofford Avenue to ensure the safety of pedestrians as trucks enter and leave the area throughout the day. Work hours are scheduled for Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the entire demolition process is slated for completion by April of next year.

An artist’s rendering of The Peninsula.

Residents also learned about potential employment opportunities starting in January 2019, when the first phase of construction is set to break ground. The development team has a goal to hire 30 percent locally and is participating in the city’s HireNYC program that facilitates connections between job-seekers and businesses hiring for construction. Some positions require proper accreditation and specific work experience, and employee training may be necessary. Interested residents are encouraged to visit http://www.thepeninsulabx.com and submit an online form to connect with a local hiring coordinator and learn more, or call 718-246-8080, ext 249.

Denise Hunt, who lives on Manida Street, expressed concern over the upfront cost of some of the training courses highlighted at the meeting.

“$300 for OSHA training, $90 for flagging, $140 for the Urban Health Plan course. Look, I’m a mother of five kids. We’re talking five times $90, five times $140. What about the people who can’t afford it?” said Hunt.

Katherine Gray, a representative from Gilbane Development Company who also moderated the event, responded that there are free courses available, but they may not be convenient to Hunts Point. Furthermore, specific requirements for employment will not be known for certain until a general contractor for the construction phase is chosen.

“We are trying really hard to make sure we are listening — not just hearing, but listening — to you, who are living here every day,” said Speliotis at the meeting’s close. She urged residents to keep showing up and keep asking questions. For up-to-date information regarding the next community outreach meeting, visit the news and events section of The Peninsula website. To report hazardous conditions or complaints as the project progresses, call 516-943-0564.

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