Breon Peace, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced this week the federal government settled upon terms for the future of the Lawrence Aviation Industries Superfund site, ending years of litigation. This agreement will enable the sale of about two-thirds of the 126-acre Port Jefferson Station property by a subsidiary of Suffolk County Landbank.
A 2019 trial had found Lawrence Aviation, with its former CEO and owner Gerald Cohen, in violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 and liable to the Environmental Protection Agency, among other claimants, for over $48 million.
This week’s announcement resolved the last unsettled question on the priority of claims against the property by New York State, Suffolk County and other agencies.
‘This settlement will enable a previously contaminated property to be put to uses that will benefit Port Jefferson [Station] and the greater Suffolk County community.’
— Breon Peace
In a statement, Peace said the U.S. District Court approved a consent decree that allows for the sale and redevelopment of the Superfund site.
“This settlement will enable a previously contaminated property to be put to uses that will benefit Port Jefferson [Station] and the greater Suffolk County community,” the U.S. attorney said. “In the process, the EPA will recover at least some of the enormous costs expended in remediating the LAI Superfund site and protecting our environment from hazardous substances.”
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), whose 5th Legislative District includes Port Jefferson Station, has been involved in the deliberations over the site. Reached by phone, she confirmed plans are ahead for demolishing the remaining derelict buildings on the property, an initiative subsidized by the federal government. [See story, “Schumer announces $450K to help demolish buildings at Lawrence Aviation,” Jan. 9, TBR News Media.]
“The first real step we’re going to see is the demolition of the buildings,” she said. “That is long overdue.”
The county legislator regarded the recent developments as a victory for Suffolk County taxpayers who “have been shouldering the burden of the taxes for the property for decades,” she said.
Hahn indicated that, under the plans, the site would be partitioned into three sectors — a third designated for a railyard to facilitate operations for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, another third for an industrial solar farm and the final third for open space. The county legislator added that cleanup efforts, which include two pumping and filtration systems, will likely linger on for decades.
She tied plans for the Lawrence Aviation property to the decades-long proposal to electrify the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, referring to the combined efforts for the two projects as “transformational for the region.”
“This is a very early step in the process for electrification,” Hahn said, adding, “The full-scale electrification of the branch is at least a decade away, but it would never happen if we weren’t able to rehabilitate this Superfund site.”