A recent news story and editorial on a $1.63 million “Restore New York grant for a new, state-of-the-art kosher poultry slaughterhouse in New Square has grabbed plenty of attention. The plant has been panned by the Rockland County Planning Department, and neighors in the next-door Village of New Hempstead are very concerned; a public hearing has yet to be held on the planned plant. Many have focused on the list of state officials who contacted Empire State Development (which manages Restore NY grants) about the New Square grant application. A spokeswoman for Empire State Development, a state entity that disburses Restore New York grants, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Eliot Engel, state Sen. Thomas Morahan and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee sent letters of support for the New Square application.
I spoke last evening with Jaffee, who said she submitted many letters for projects in the communities she represents, as many localities lined up to make stimulus funding requests. The New Square project was among them. “I did that for everything,” she said of the various grant applications, “to support all this funding.”
Jaffee points out that the original plant had “very sever issues,” and under this proposal, it would be demolished and condemned. She said the new plant was to include technologies that would minimize smells and mess. She also said that the new plant would have two USDA inspectors present at all times (because of its size, that’s part of the regulations). Jaffee said the trucks would be cleaned carefully, minimizing smells, and would be routed through the Village of New Square, not busy Route 45. She also discussed how newer plants use water recycling systems (chicken processing is a heavy water user, and New Square has had problems with low water pressure.)
Rockland County Planning Department has issued a negative declaration about the plan. Aren’t the concerns of the Rockland Planning Department relevant to this grant?
“I do my homework,” Jaffee said. “My understanding is there is an attempt to respond to the planning department. … they are trying to do their due diligence,” she said of the village officials.
There are still issues between documentation supplied to Empire State Development and the county Planning Department. For example, the County Planning Department-submitted plans show a facility at 50,000 square feet on a .99-acre lot that has been subdivided. Empire State has the plant at around 26,000 feet on 7.8 acres, which is the size of the entire property. (The old plant was 5,000 square feet.) Jaffee said she did not have the information from the county planning department, but noted that the plant must be approved, and built, before the Restore NY grant can be paid out.
Jaffee also noted, as Empire State Development had, that the plant will supply 100 full-time equivalent jobs. But she did not know, nor did Empire State, how many jobs the old plant provided. My question is (and when I find it out I will post it here): What i the job growth, how many MORE jobs will there be?
Jaffee reiterated several times that the new proposed plant would be state-of-the-art and be much cleaner with high environmental standards.
She added: “I’m not here advocating for this … I want to support the plan for municipalities I represent.”
Last Friday, I spoke to Ron Levine in the office Sen. Thomas Morahan, D-New City. His statements, as reflected in Saturday’s news story, were that at first he checked and was told there wasn’t a letter, but he immediately checked further with more staff members and called back to say the senator’s office had sent a “generic” letter of support for a plan that would supply jobs in the community. Letters that seek consideration for projects in communities are commonly sent by the public officials who represent those communities, Levine has said. “We do this because we believe those who represent the localities know the needs of the area far better than we do,” Levine said. In other words, they rely on local officials to give them the whole picture on projects.
JOURNAL NEWS PHOTO: A worker hoses down empty chicken crates at a poultry processing plant in New Square Sept. 3,. New York state has provided New Square with $1.6 million toward the construction of a new that would replace the existing plant. ( Seth Harrison / The Journal News )