Former Thruway Plaza Building

Groundwater Contamination Found At Redeveloped Thruway Plaza In Nanuet Prompts Brownfield Cleanup

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Former Dry Cleaning Operation Likely Source Of Contamination; Requires Three-Year Cleanup Plan

Thruway Plaza at 308-330 Route 59 in Nanuet has applied to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program to remediate chlorinated solvents and petroleum products in the groundwater at the site. The likely source of the groundwater pollution was a dry-cleaning facility that operated at the former shopping center from 1992 through 2013. The dry cleaner leased about 1,700 square feet of space in the shopping center and operated under the names Charles’ French Cleaners, Nanuet Cleaners, Outstanding Cleaners and/or Lake Cleaners respectively.

However, potential environmental issues left behind by the dry cleaning operation were not raised during Town of Clarkstown planning board and town meetings when Thruway Plaza sought permission to demolish the existing shopping center and redevelop the property.

The brownfield site, amounting to .039 acres, where the former dry cleaner stood, is a small part of the 6.5-acre parcel that has been partially redeveloped, after winning approvals from the Planning Board, as well as a Special Permit issued by the Town Board.  A Special Permit is needed under town code when an applicant builds a gas station. The Clarkstown Zoning Board of Appeals granted several variances to accommodate redevelopment.

According to its Brownfield application, the property owner has owned the property since 1988. Steve Yassky is CEO of Thruway Plaza of Rockland, Inc., the general partner of the owner. The owner is Thruway Plaza of Rockland Associates, a limited partnership.

The former strip center was demolished in 2022 to make way for redevelopment including a QuickChek gas station, a hotel that was never built, and now a proposed storage facility, which has been approved by the town planning board. A Taco Bell/KFC remained on site. The Taco Bell/KFC site is leased through 2029 with three 5-year options.

The QuickChek gas station and convenience store opened April 25, 2023. It leased the property from the developer for 20 years with four 5-year options.

The land where the contaminants has been discovered is part of site access and interior roadways, and sits to the west of Taco Bell/KFC and to the north of Route 59. It is not on the land slated for the proposed 114,000 square foot, four story, storage facility, which has been greenlighted by the town planning board.

Environmental Assessments for Quick-Chek And M&T Bank Raise Concern Over Groundwater

A Phase I Environmental Assessment, prepared by Melick-Tully & Associates, a NJ-based environmental consultant for Quick-Chek, in January of 2021, recommended further study of the soils and groundwater based on the former dry cleaning operations.

A Phase I Environmental Assessment, prepared by LCS, Inc., a Buffalo, NY-based lender consultant for M&T Bank, in February of 2022, recommended a  subsurface investigation because of the historical dry cleaning operations. LCS questioned whether the property, with potential environmental hazards, was suitable collateral for M&T to accept for financing. M&T did ultimately lend on the project.

A subsurface investigation conducted by SIG, DPC, a Buffalo, NY-based environmental consulting firm, revealed the presence of chlorinated solvents and petroleum-related hydrocarbons in groundwater at the site.

It is unclear why this issue was not flagged during the Thruway Plaza’s application process before Clarkstown planning and town boards.

A review of available records, including the minutes of Clarkstown Planning Board meetings on the redevelopment application in 2021 and 2022, shows no mention of the former dry cleaner or potential contamination. The Planning Board issued a negative declaration for SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act), meaning proposed redevelopment of the site would not have a significant adverse impact on the environment.

The only mitigation the Planning Board addressed were traffic issues related to site access.

A review of correspondence from the Rockland County Planning Department, as part of its review under the General Municipal Law (GML), made no mention of the dry cleaner.

Chlorinated solvents including trichloroethene (TCE), tetrachloroethene (PCE) and their associated degradation products and petroleum-related hydrocarbons, such as toluene, were found in groundwater samples. Concentrations identified exceed the NYSDEC Groundwater Quality Criteria, with maximum on-site concentrations of PCE identified at 154 ug/L, TCE at 9.73 ug/L and toluene at 8.24 ug/L.

There is an earlier environmental assessment that is cited in the more recent assessment, according to the Brownfield application. It refers to a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment prepared in April 2015, which said a dry-cleaning plant operated from 1992 through 2013. The environmental review said “staining was observed on the floor of the former dry cleaners, but the staining was not in the vicinity of the floor drains.”

The environmental cleanup and remediation is due to start in March, pending the applicant’s acceptance into the Brownfield Cleanup Program and the public comment period, which will run through March 23. A Certificate of Completion is anticipated within three years of the commencement of the remedial activities (estimated to be March 2027).

In its statement to the NYS DEC, the applicant said, “The presence of dry-cleaning chemicals in groundwater was first identified during site redevelopment activities in March 2022. The site formerly operated as a dry-cleaning facility under Charles’ French Cleaners, Nanuet Cleaners, Outstanding Cleaners and/or Lake Cleaners between 1992 and 2013. The applicant, Thruway Plaza of Rockland Inc., is not the property owner or operator and did not generate, utilize, transport or dispose of hazardous or potentially hazardous materials at the site. The owner/operators of the former dry-cleaning facility did not inform the property owner that a spill or other release of dry-cleaning chemicals occurred at the site during or following their tenure.”

A plan for Interim Remedial Measures was submitted to the DEC in September of 2022.

The applicant also said, “The property owner took specific care to confirm that redevelopment activities would not disturb areas of documented impacts so as to limit human, environmental and/or natural resource exposure.”

The DEC agreed to waive the normal $50,000 Brownfield Application fee in exchange for the applicant waiving access to available tax credits for the clean-up.

There are several ways to comment on BCP applications. Comments can be submitted to Emily Barry, Project Manager, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561; via email to; or call (845) 633-5457. All comments must be submitted by March 23, 2024.

For reference, the DEC Site ID number is C344091