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Astorino: Building Owner, Not Taxpayers, to Foot Bronx River Cleanup Bill

The owner of 235 S. Lexington, where the hundreds of gallons of Fuel Oil #6 emanated from, may face charges of criminal negligence for the catastrophe that spanned the Bronx River this morning.

The disastrous aftermath from hundreds of gallons of heating oil that flowed from a 180-unit, 12-story building early Wednesday morning will not go ignored by the law, or the city accounts, according to White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley and County Executive Rob Astorino.

The owner of the building, Bronstein Properties, is a Forest Hills, Queens-based firm, but principal Scott Silverman was on location and speaking to White Plains police inside the management offices at 235 S. Lexington Ave. at 4 p.m. Wednesday. He would not respond to press requests for an interview at that time.

Another owner, Barry Rudofsky, was listed as having applied in September for electrical permits. Rudofsky's wife, according to public records, is named Caryn Bronstein.

According to officials, the building was traced as the culprit by following sewer output and ultimately was found to have dumped #6 heating oil into the Bronx River sometime between last night and early this morning. It is unclear whether the dumping was done with malice or by accident.

When asked by a Patch reporter what the building's capacity for storing oil was, Bradley said it was inconsequential to the spill.

"We do know the capacity but that's not relevant to how much leaked out, because it wasn't based on the full capacity," he said. The county health department has estimated hundreds of gallons, and booms to absorb the spill have been placed along the river as far south as Mount Vernon.

Silverman was not able to be reached for comment, and nobody returned calls to the company's answering service, but residents from the building said the property had ongoing heat issues, and that the building's heaters had still been turned on up until three days ago.

Posted outside of the management office at 235 S. Lexington Ave. was a Buildings Department permit for electrical work, which residents say is a recent effort to submeter the units, which had previously included electricity in the rental costs.

At a 3:30 p.m. press conference, Astorino and Bradley said the entire case is still under investigation, and both promised that no taxpayer money would pay for the river's remediation, and that costs would be absorbed by the buildings' owners, regardless of intent.

"I can tell you, and I know the county executive and I both discussed this, that the law does provide that whoever the responsible party is and whoever is responsible for this problem, is to reimburse the governmental entities for their cleanup costs," Bradley said. "And I can tell you that the county and the city are going to make sure that that happens."

Astorino added: "The taxpayers aren't paying for this cleanup.Whoever was responsible, whether it was a mistake or on purpose, will be paying for the cleanup."

The investigation is being conducted by the White Plains Police Department, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Westchester District Attorney's office and its environmental crimes unit.

When asked whether the culprits would be put into police custody, Bradley said, "I can imagine that as part of the investigation they're speaking to all the people that they think are important, I don't (know) whether they're taking them in but I'm sure they're conducting an appropriate investigation."

Silverman did not leave the building with city detectives when the police officers departed from 235 S. Lexington Ave. at 4:45 p.m. nor did he emerge to respond to a Scarsdale Patch reporter waiting outside.

White Plains police had no new information on the investigation at the time of this publication, but Patch will keep you informed with any news as it comes in.

Izzybell December 05, 2010 at 03:06 AM
Any follow-up to this story? Indictments? Thanks.

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