Long Island airport is being used to store 15,000 vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy. SLIGHTLY USED, SOME WATER DAMAGE: Hurricane-ravaged vehicles — neatly arranged by forklifts — fill the runways and taxiways at Calverton Executive Airpark. The cars will be auctioned off. Oh, the car-nage!
A little-used Long Island airport has been turned into a massive parking lot for thousands of Hurricane Sandy-damaged cars. Roughly 15,000 storm-ravaged vehicles are parked bumper-to-bumper on runways and taxiways at the Calverton Executive Airpark, which years ago was the site of a Grumman aircraft-manufacturing plant.
Insurance Auto Auctions Corp. has agreed to pay the town of Riverhead, which owns the airport, $3,200 per month for every acre taken up by the cars. The town estimates it’ll rake in $2.7 million from the deal, which will help keep its property taxes in line, said the town’s supervisor, Sean Walter.
More than 200,000 cars in the New York area are believed to have been damaged by Hurricane Sandy’s floods and rains. Riverhead officials figure that besides boosting the town treasury, they’re also helping the region’s recovery by taking thousands of cars off the streets.
“It’s a win-win,” Walter said. Some of the cars can’t be driven again and will end up being salvaged just for parts.
But the insurance companies that own the cars hope to sell most of them to new owners who could fix them up and put them back on the road. Most of the cars are fairly new, Walter said.
Local environmentalists worry that converting the airport to a massive parking lot threatens the aquifer from which Riverhead draws its drinking water.
Oil and other fluids could leak from the cars and contaminate the nearby land, they say.
“It’s right above our town’s drinking supply. We don’t want lubricants leaking into our water,” said Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society.
Walter said that the cars are parked only on paved taxiways and runways and that about 100 workers inspect them daily for leaks and spills. “It’s not controversial. The chances of a fuel spill are slim to none . . . I can’t see how this would pollute,” he said.
The outcry over the cars parked at the airport arose amid disputes over two other car graveyards nearby that are also leased by auto auction firms. The state Department of Environmental Conservation claimed in court papers that developer Jan Burman had illegally parked old cars on private land within 1,000 feet of a breeding pond for endangered salamanders. It ordered the cars removed.
But the town-owned airport property is not within that 1,000-foot limit, Amper said. The DEC also recently filed court papers against a Sandy car graveyard in Southampton Town, where destroyed cars are stored on sand instead of pavement.
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