Natasha Ishak

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An automobile junkyard on 151 Woodward Ave. might become the future site for a full-scale animal shelter in Ridgewood. The location is currently being reviewed by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to see whether the site qualifies for a public cleanup program to remove dangerous toxins from its location. The future shelter will be operated under Animal Care and Control of NYC (ACC), a non-profit city contractor, and will be the first full-service animal shelter in the area.

The Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) was launched in 2003, and meant as an incentive for community redevelopment. The program is designed to specifically target contaminated sites or “brownfields,” so that these sites can be revitalized and reused to boost a neighborhood’s economic development. According to the DEC website, more than 300 formerly contaminated sites have been revitalized under the initiative.

Automobile Junkyard at 151 Woodward Ave.

In January, the ACC submitted an application for the junkyard to be cleaned up under the BCP. An environmental assessment of the lot has found traces of toxic compounds, including petroleum-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs), poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and metals—unsurprising, given the site’s current use as a car maintenance and wrecking facility. Toxic compounds can have harmful effects, which is why it’s important to have the site properly assessed for cleanup. For instance, health effects associated with exposure to PCBs in humans include development of acne skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral changes in children. For animals, exposure to PCBs can even cause cancer.

The DEC approves or rejects a site for participation in the Brownfield Cleanup Program based on three things: information provided, regulatory criteria for acceptance, and public comments. The city department is still reviewing public comments for the Woodward Avenue lot, which means the site’s acceptance into the cleanup program remains to be seen. Even after its acceptance into the program, it would take at least another year before any construction of the shelter to begin.

Gyro, a rescue at Manhattan Animal Care Center.

The animal shelter in Ridgewood would be one of two new full-service shelters to open under the ACC; the other new shelter set to open in the Bronx. A bill that was passed by the city council last year now requires each borough to have a full-service animal shelter within its limits. The city has designated $98 million to develop full-service animal shelters in all five boroughs.

It’s important progress for pet owners and animal advocates. Currently, pet owners in the greater Ridgewood area would need to travel to the ACC shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Staten Island to adopt or receive low-cost veterinary services for their pets. On top of that, stray animals caught in the two shelterless boroughs would have to be transported all the way to the other facilities, adding stress to the animals and to already overcrowded animal shelters. The new Ridgewood facility is planning to house roughly 180 cats and dogs, in addition to smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs.

“Having animal shelters in every borough reflects our belief that all animals should be protected and given the opportunity to find a home,” City Council Member Paul Vallone, who proposed the shelter mandate bill, said as quoted by Curbed. The Ridgewood shelter site will also come with a bevy of programs and services, like behavioral training, grooming services, and vaccine clinics.

Ush, a rescue  at the Manhattan Animcal Care Center.

All images courtesy of ACC.

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