With help from the state and federal governments, the polluted site of a former Newhallville milk-distribution operation may finally be cleaned up, paving the way for a church’s expansion.
The church, First Calvary Baptist at the corner of Dixwell Avenue and Hazel Street, has applied for an Environmental Protection Agency grant through the city’s “brownfields” revolving loan fund. The money would go toward cleaning up environmental contamination on a city property acquired by the church in 2002.
The grant, when combined with a similar grant from the state, would total between $200,000 and $300,000.
The church, headed by the influential Rev. Boise Kimber (pictured), began construction of a new sanctuary on the site several years ago, only to discover pollution left over from a previous owner.
The site is the former home of a milk-distribution operation belonging to Sealtest Dairy. The company abandoned the property, the city took it through foreclosure in 1993, and tore down a plant there in 1994.
“We’re trying to clean up Newhallville,” Kimber said. “Our church has been here 30 years.” He said the church has already invested $500,000 in the expansion project.
Asked about the clean-up, city economic development chief Matthew Nemerson said, “It’s a responsibility that I feel we have. We sold the land to the church and it turned out to be dirty.”
Nemerson said Kimber is kicking in $37,500. The city won’t pay a cent; the money comes from the EPA and is simply disbursed by the city.
“We want the church to be successful,” Nemerson said.
EPA revolving loan fund money is contingent upon a demonstration of community benefits, which Mayor Toni Harp requested after her administration took over the pending request, according to Nemerson. Nemerson and Kimber said the church will expand its soup kitchen, host an after-school program for the new Amistad high School being constructed across the street, and provide services for the homeless.
“We are in the process of finalizing documents,” said Michael Luzzi, Kimber’s attorney. He said he doesn’t know when the clean-up process will begin.
“Everyone has been more than willing to work with my client,” said Luzzi. Between the state and the city, the church will likely receive $200,000 to $300,000 for remediation, Luzzi said.
In 2011, Kimber filed a notice to sue the city, claiming that the city had not informed him of the environmental problems at the property before “quit-claiming” the land over to him. The city countered that it had handed the property over “as is,” without claiming it was pristine.
After negotiations between Kimber and New Haven’s former DeStefano administration, that lawsuit did not go forward, said attorney John Williams, who represented Kimber at the time. Williams said he decided not to proceed after talks with the city.
Since that time, construction at the site has been stalled. A visit to the property this week found an incomplete fenced-off structure, sheathed in faded DensGlass fiberglass panels. Exposed metal studs are visible through windows.
Kiimber has borne “a significant financial burden” dealing with the contamination, according to Luzzi.
The clean-up money would help the church to do away with two separate court cases in which it’s involved: a foreclosure, and a lawsuit stemming from $60,000 in unpaid environmental consulting bills.
In January 2012, the church went into foreclosure. Luzzi said that resulted from stretched finances due to the contamination and stalled construction. He said the lender and the church have come to an agreement and the foreclosure “is in the process of being terminated.”
“I fully anticipate this foreclosure being withdrawn” when grant money comes through from the state and city, Luzzi said.
Part of the grant-application process has been assuring the city that, in the event of a foreclosure, any grant money would be used only for environmental clean up, or returned to the city. Luzzi said that issue has been resolved.
“We have jumped through a number of hoops to make sure my client is in a position to get the grant,” Luzzi said.
Amid the foreclosure, in 2012 the church hired a company called Triton Environmental to do pollution assessment at the work site.
Triton President Christopher Marchesi this month filed suit against First Calvary, claiming the church never paid his company for the work it did. According to Marchesi’s complaint, First Calvary owes, with interest, $68,965.15.
Luzzi said the Triton lawsuit will also be cleared up, when grant money from the state comes through.
“I’ve been working with them for a while, trying to make them realize they are going to be paid,” Luzzi said of Triton. “We hope to continue a relationship with them, so that they can continue the work.”
Paul Bass contributed reporting.
posted by: webblog on June 12, 2014 12:08pm
This is the same Rev Kimber who in Nov. of 2012 led the opposition to the school being built in the first place. Then he said;
“Kimber said the school would not have sufficient parking. People would be driving “from all over” to come to the school every day, causing traffic jams, he said.
“I’m not against education, but come on. Come sit down and talk with us,” he said. “This here, I’m not ready for it.”
He asked BZA members to delay the plan. “Let’s hold up on this while we really talk about it.”
Read the complete story in the NHI here:
Today Kimber is muscling in with the support of Harp and Nemerson tiring to get a piece of the pie in exchange for the city’s assistance with this foreclosure and the contractor’s law suit in order for Kimber to qualifying for the state grant.
In a word: ungodly.
posted by: darnell on June 12, 2014 1:24pm
What is outrageous about this church in the heart of the black community getting remediation funds to clean up waste left by a previous company (that btw was NOT black owned)?
They sold the property to him, full well knowing that there was a chance that there was problems with that property.
But is the most outrageous is that the folks here on this news site screaming “outrageous” to a $300,000 grant to clean up waste in a Black community are the same people who cheer for an “economic development” project downtown that builds a highway into a parking lot at a cost of $50 million to the taxpayers of New Haven.
What is outrageous is the sheer hypocrisy of these folks who call multi million dollar government grants to rich white developers “economic development” while referring to brownfield remediation in the black community as “welfare”, or worse yet, “corruption”.
posted by: Xavier on June 12, 2014 2:11pm
The outrageous aspect of this is not the clean up.
The outrageous part of this is the Good Rev. using his political capital to get tax dollars to prop up his small congregation. Yes, it smells of corruption.
The outrageous part of this deal is the city selling that property to a non-profit un-taxable entity, rather than a home or a business that creates sustainable jobs.
The outrageous part of this is that my tax dollars are now being used to clean up a toxic dump for which we will get no return - a usable and taxable property either as a home or a business that creates sustainable jobs.
The outrageous part of this is that certain commentators will read a race thing into this.
Shame Shame (that’s a double shame)
posted by: darnell on June 12, 2014 4:22pm
What is really outrageous is that there is even a debate about whether or not funds should be expended to clean up a brownfield in this African American community. I supposed that some wouldn’t have a problem with young children being exposed to contaminated soil, as long as it isn’t in their communities.
What is super outrageous that these sort of debates did not occur when homes on the beached were washed away by hurricanes, we didn’t have folks accusing those very well off homeowners of using their “political capital” to “prop up” their homes.
Or when the folks in Westville found their foundations cracking and their homes sinking, we didn’t hear that it “smells of corruption” when they were able to convince the state to save their homes.
The really outrageous part of this deal is that folks in Newhallville had to wait for decades, and go to court, to get their properties cleaned up from the dumping of contaminants, while big developers sponsor parties and contribute to campaigns so that they can quietly receive tax dollars and tax breaks to build their projects that DO NOT provide jobs for folks that LIVE IN New Haven.
The really really outrageous part of this is that MY tax dollars are now being used to prop up developments that promise jobs and lower taxes, and NEVER delivers on those promises, for which MY community will get no return.
The really really really outrageous part of this is that certain commentators continue to avoid the conversation on race, even when billionaires like Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban actually publicly slip up and reveal that, YES, it often is about race.
Shame Shame Shame(that’s a triple).
posted by: Xavier on June 12, 2014 5:28pm
I get the point about being about race, and agree with it, as both an overarching story and the local reality.
Racism is well interwoven in all aspects of live.
The shame is that certain people like the God Rev, who supported the last administration and was supported by the same, chooses to play in that sandbox that has produced little for the African-American community. Our schools continue to graduate students that can not do college level work or fill any high tech jobs (the little there is out there).
What is outrageous is the selling out their neighborhoods for cents, for an assignment on a board or commission, few jobs in the Fire or police department (only to move out of the city), and more fear that respect when dealing with the Good Rev.
It is super outrageous to suggest that others did not have the same feeling with were shoveling against the tide (literally). Let them houses fall into the ocean and open up access to shoreline for everyone! But I digress.
It is super super outrageous that the Good Rev. is he is blocking the development of stronger leaders in the community because he acts like a little boss who likes to shout people down.
It is extremely outrageous that we are even having this extended debate given the Good Rev. behavior, shouting down the folks, the women folk in the neighborhood. This is about a political hack/boss who has become a dinosaur. The problem is the planet is warming up.
Quadruple Shame on this deal
Revolted by Racism
Darnell you maybe in competition with One City Henry as the most interesting man in New Haven.