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Hearing for Liberty ‘junkyard’; some want it to move elsewhere

By Fritz Mayer
July 18, 2012

Perhaps the most interesting comment of the evening at a public hearing on the Liberty junkyard was that the original junkyard, which has been inactive for several years, might be contaminated with toxic material buried at the site. It’s unclear if town officials will require that the site be examined and determined to be free of toxic materials before allowing a new vehicle-recycling operation, which the neighbors are calling a junkyard, to open.

The project has a somewhat complicated history. In 2001, the Town of Liberty passed a law saying there could be no new junkyard in the town and that the three that already existed must come into compliance with the new town rules regarding junkyards.

Gary Zalkin, owner of Liberty Scrap Metal on Frishman Road, was given two extensions that allowed him to delay coming into compliance with the law, in part because he said he was fazing out the business and that the facility was going to close.

In 2010, Ben Weitsman & Son bought the property, and the town passed a law allowing the junkyard license to be moved from the facility at Frishman Road to a new location in Liberty at Sheehan Road, adjacent to Exit 99 on Route 17. The town board later also changed the zoning of the lot from residential to commercial to allow the operation to go forward. Four neighbors, however, have brought an Article 78 lawsuit against the town, claiming the zoning change was done improperly.

At a public hearing on July 5 in front of the planning board, Jeffrey Cohen, one of the residents who brought the suit against the town, said that he had been told by “multiple sources” that lead acid batteries are buried at the site, which required remedial action.

Brad Burnett, who owns Ironic LLC, which is comprised of a junkyard on Willy Hill Road in Liberty and Brim Recycling in Cuddebackville, complained that the town put him through a laborious process, which cost thousands of dollars in lawyers and engineering fees, in order to keep his license. But, he said, the town never forced Zalkin to follow the rules.

Further, he said that, of the 10 jobs Weitsman promised to create, five would be filled by employees who work at Sims Recycling in Ferndale.

Several residents said that the project should be allowed to go forward because the town needs the jobs and the tax revenue that would be created. Cohen said he thought the project should go forward, too, but not in an area that is mostly residential, and instead, it should be opened in the industrial corridor in Ferndale.