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Queens Chronicle

Vleigh Place active despite being empty

Kew Gardens Hills lot just finished contamination cleanup through DEC

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:30 am | Updated: 11:33 am, Thu Jan 16, 2020.

A passerby might assume that the Vleigh Place lot has been sitting idly since the strip mall once there was ravaged by a fire in 2016, but it had been going through a lengthy process of contamination cleanup, which was completed last month, before its new building can be erected.

The 77-39/63 Vleigh Place site in Kew Gardens Hills was awarded a Certificate of Completion by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in December after achieving the required levels of decontamination as part of the Brownsfield Cleanup Program. The program encourages the voluntary cleanup of contaminated properties for reuse and redevelopment.

“The site has now progressed into site management where the site owner carries out specified inspection, sampling, monitoring, treatment as stated in the approved Site Management Plan for the site,” said a DEC spokesperson.

According to the spokesperson, the lot’s previous owner, Aldrich Management, filed to join the program in 2015 in efforts to refinance or redesign the property. Upon acceptance, an environmental investigation into the site’s groundwater, soil and soil vapor identified contamination by volatile organic compounds. Tenants of the pre-existing building are presumed to be the culprit of contamination.

The 1939 strip mall contained 14 businesses, including a law office, an appraisal company, a barber shop, restaurants and a dry cleaner, all of which were decimated in a five-alarm fire on Dec. 30, 2016, leaving only the foundation slab and walls. The Department of Buildings condemned the site, and the remains were demolished during site excavation.

An FDNY spokesperson said the destruction originated from an electrical fire in the ceiling of one of the businesses before spreading to the entire strip mall. Four firefighters were treated for minor injuries, but no civilians were hurt.

Aldrich Management sold the site to VP Capital Holdings, LLC, headed by Avi Matatov, for $6.5 million in July 2018. Matatov filed plans to build a four-story, mixed-use structure with 18 residential units shortly after, and continued the Brownsfield Program process. With the Certificate of Completion, the developers and property owners are granted the ability to begin construction on the Kew Gardens Hills lot.

“We are still in the design process and no timelines have been established,” said Austin Schneider, director of marketing and business development at Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers, the project designers.

“There were multiple complicating factors including the 2016 fire, obtaining the necessary permitting, scheduling work to accommodate site neighbors, among other circumstances,” the DEC spokesperson said on the extensive cleanup timeline. “Under DEC oversight, the cleanup at this site included the excavation and treatment of contaminated soils, treatment of contaminated groundwater, and protections put in place to prevent exposure to contamination.”

The DEC implemented a soil vapor extraction system, groundwater treatment system, cover system and off-site vapor mitigation system to ensure that the remedy remains protective.

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