Shea Stadium Junkyards Indicted For Environmental Crimes
Attorney General Spitzer announced the indictment of 21 junkyards and 35 individuals, culminating a nearly year-long investigation into environmental crimes in the Willets Point area of Queens near Shea Stadium.
The businesses, most of their owners and a number of employees are charged with breaking state environmental laws by dumping motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid and other materials onto the ground, into storm drains, and into Flushing Bay as they cut radiator hoses, removed engines, transmissions, air conditioners and other parts while dismantling cars to be recycled. All told, the businesses collectively dumped thousands of gallons of waste fluids.
In addition to the criminal charges, as a result of civil lawsuits filed by Spitzer, a judge has ordered an immediate halt to the dumping of waste into the ground and water and frozen the businesses' assets. The suits also seek the proceeds and equipment used in the crimes. The Attorney General is also asking the court to order the firms to implement interim pollution controls and pay for the short-term and long-term clean-up of the sites.
Under the Environmental Conservation Law, antifreeze, motor oil and transmission fluid are hazardous substances that must be recycled and disposed of at an approved facility.
"The defendants in this case showed a blatant disregard, both for the law and the environment," said Spitzer. "They used their properties, the neighborhood, and Flushing Bay as a garbage disposal, simply because it was easier and cheaper for them, rather than doing what was right, following the law and protecting the environment.
"This concerted effort by the criminal and civil divisions of my office should ensure that this industry follows the law."
Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik stated, "Members of the auto salvage industry have been sent a strong message: the illegal disposal of dumping of toxic materials will not be tolerated. You will be held accountable for the damage you are inflicting on the environment and the health risks you are creating for the public." Based on the amount of fluids released, 40 of the defendants have been charged with the felony crime of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the 3rd degree, which carries a maximum sentence of one and one third to four years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
At five of the locations, AA Auto Salvage, Inc., Best Buy Auto Repair, F&F Auto Salvage, Inc., M&H Used Auto Parts & Cars, Inc., and Sunrise Auto Parts, Inc., investigators discovered that contaminated fluids were being discharged into Flushing Bay, resulting in an additional felony charge with potential fines of up to $50,000 per day of violation.
In addition, 55 defendants were also charged with multiple counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the 4th degree, a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Spitzer pointed out that this type of conduct causes long-term economic problems. "Because of the chemicals dumped at these sites, any potential developer will have to incur huge clean-up costs to reclaim the land. Unfortunately, the actions of these defendants impact the area, not only today, but for years to come."
The Attorney General's Office, along with the NYPD and State Department of Environmental Conservation, executed search warrants at the sites last September.
The defendants were arrested this morning and will be arraigned in Queens Supreme Court at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Joseph McKaye, Part K-11.
Spitzer commended the NYPD for its investigation of the case, and praised Inspector James Dean, Capt. Dennis Dier, Lt. Michael Byrne, and Detective Joseph Wedge of the Auto Crimes Task Force of the N.Y.P.D. and Lt. John Mattera and Investigator John Fitzpatrick of the DEC.
Assistant Attorneys General Julieta Lozano, and Hugh McLean of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, under the direction of Bureau Chief Janet Cohn and Criminal Division Chief Peter Pope are handling the criminal cases. AAGs Lem Srolovic, Andrew Gershon, and Lisa Feiner of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the direction of Public Advocacy Chief Dieter Snell, and Lynn Goodman of the Organized Crime Task Force are handling the civil cases.