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Greenacres Elementary School Task Force Calls for Full SEQRA Review of Proposed Elementary School Construction

craneA group of 400 concerned Scarsdale residents called the Greenacres Elementary Task Force has retained the law firm of Zarin and Steinmetz who notified the Scarsdale Board of Education about their safety concerns in regards to the proposed construction at Greenacres Elementary School.

In a letter dated October 4, 2017 they pose comments on the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in regards to the project. They ask that the district incorporate "all measures necessary to guarantee the health and safety of the School community. This includes evaluating all potential measures to keep students, teachers, staff and parents out of "harm's way" during construction, such as the use of temporary off-site modular classrooms."

The lawyers say the project plans contain minimal details about protective measures and that all experts retained concluded "that there is insufficient information to determine whether the community will be adequately protected from potential dangers associated with the large-scale renovation process."

The letter calls for testing for asbestos and lead prior to construction, as well as details on how the interior work can be completed in two 10-week summer vacation periods. It calls for the district to take measures to limit the infiltration of dust into classrooms by installing air conditioning. It cites concerns about parking, traffic and children's access to the playground across the street during and after the construction. It asks the district how they will address sustained increases in noise during construction.

The lawyers found that based on the information released by the district there is insufficient "Record before your Board to issue a SEQRA determination of significance." It asks the district to undertake the necessary studies, to identify potential impacts and develop a project design that addresses these impacts "through alternative or mitigation measures."

The letter goes on to document the risks of environmental toxins to children and cites cases to support their claims. Among these potential risks are lead, asbestos, mold and harmful dust. It also calls on the district to do a traffic study to analyze the impact of the construction on the neighborhood, to identify the safest and most efficient routes for the construction equipment and to analyze the placement of the staging area. It also calls for the implementation of safety procedures during drop off and pick up.

Construction noise could also have significant impacts on the neighborhood and students inside the school. The letter cites a study that found that increased noise results in delays in reading comprehension for children and provides guidelines for safe noise levels. It also calls for a detailed construction plan for SEQRA designation.

The 13-page letter ends by saying, "We hope that the District will recognize the serious risks identified herein and, as required under SEQRA, diligently study and pursue the proper safety and mitigation measures to address the deficiencies in your Record for the Project to date before moving ahead with the bond referendum on the project."

The Scarsdale Schools administration recently moved the proposed bond referendum vote back from December, 2017 to January, 2018 and announced that asbestos, air quality and mold testing were being done at Greenacres. No results are available as yet. But perhaps this letter was the reason for the delay – as time was needed for a full SEQRA review.

Read the letter and experts' reports here

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