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Former Merrick landfill serves as model for national park officials

Former Merrick landfill serves as model for national park officials
June 25, 2015 by JOHN ASBURY / john.asbury@newsday.com

National park officials are looking to the site of the former Merrick landfill, now littered with wildflowers and offering ocean views, as a model to convert a shuttered landfill into a park in Brooklyn.

Hempstead Town officials Thursday gave a tour of Norman J. Levy Park, the backdrop behind the town's garbage disposal center at 1600 Merrick Road, which was closed and converted into a park 25 years ago.

The National Park Service and officials and representatives with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection are seeking to transform the former Fountain and Pennsylvania avenues landfills just south of the Belt Parkway into a similar green space.

The Brooklyn region is part of the National Park's 26,000-acre Gateway Recreation Area, which includes Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook in New Jersey and portions of Staten Island. The city's DEP is responsible for maintaining and monitoring work with the same Syosset-based engineer firm, Lockwood, Kessler & Bartlett, that designed Levy Park.

"There are no landfills in the national park system, so we're really using this as a 21st-century landscape," National Parks Commissioner Joshua Laird said. "The park service is focusing on a presence in urban areas."

Levy Park has also been a model for delegations from China and Argentina on converting parks, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said.

The landfills are converted after the DEP caps them with material such as a plastic or vinyl tarp over garbage waste to prevent water or contaminates from reaching aquifers. The cap also prevents methane gas from leaking.

Levy Park opened in 2000 after it was capped and closed a decade earlier. Murray said converting the landfill into a 52-acre park for $15 million was $42 million cheaper than the state Department of Environmental Conservation's original cap and closure plan.

The park includes three miles of walking trails, a kayak launch and a 500-foot fishing pier facing Jones Beach. The top of the preserve is covered in a plateau of wildflowers and speckled with Eagle Scout projects that point to the Manhattan skyline.

Park officials have attempted to make the preserve environmentally sound by using Nigerian dwarf goats instead of gas mowers to control overgrowth. The town has adopted Guinea Fowl to control ticks and insects instead of using pesticides.

The park also added a kayak launch and reopened Meadow Brook, which was closed when the landfill closed. The addition of woodland and marsh areas has attracted several species to return, including red foxes, diamondback terrapins, egrets and cordgrass plants.

"One of the unique components of Levy Park is that we were able to reclaim five acres of wetlands," Murray said.

Pamela Edwards of Freeport said she lives across from the park and now walks the trails every day. "I grew up watching mountains of garbage grow. Now I come here every day," Edwards said. "Other places should be doing the same thing."

Former Merrick landfill serves as model for national park officials

Next up in our series of Employee Spotlights is Paul Lappano, PE, LEED AP.

How long have you been working at LKB?
My son was born the year I started working at LKB. He just celebrated his 32nd birthday - so that’s 32 years!

What is your role here at LKB and has that always been your position? I am the Vice President of Environmental Services. My role is to prepare project schedules and job assignments, and provide QA/QC technical and budget review for over 20 contracts for a wide variety of projects including: solid waste management, environmental monitoring, wastewater pumping stations, and environmental assessments for transportation projects. I also support marketing efforts by preparing proposals, technical papers and presentations, and meeting with clients.

I started at LKB as a Project Engineer, and received several promotions to Project Manager, Director of Environmental Engineering, and am now a Vice President.

What is your most significant project?
I have worked on a number of notable projects, but assisting the Town of Hempstead with converting the Merrick Landfill into the award-winning Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve under a pilot project with the NYSDEC, is the one that stands out in my mind because it was unique and the first landfill-park conversion in New York State. Our ideas and design saved the Town over $20 million in remedial construction costs, while converting this 45-acre closed waterfront landfill into a passive park and nature preserve for the public benefit. It has three miles of hiking/nature trails with exercise stations, a public kayak launch ramp, freshwater ponds with a windmill circulation system, several acres of restored tidal wetlands, a terrapin nesting area, a 500-foot-long fishing pier, a ranger station, an amphitheater, and public works complex infrastructure improvements. The project received three engineering awards from the NSPE, the ASCE and the Governor’s Office, respectively; has been visited by over 500,000 people and numerous school groups since its completion in 2001, and will be a source of public enjoyment and education for generations to come. I was also privileged to work with LKB’s diverse and professional team which included: hydrogeologists, an air quality scientist, wetland specialists, civil engineers, traffic engineers, landscape architects, surveyors, structural engineers, construction inspectors, electrical engineers and AutoCAD technicians. I was also afforded the opportunity to provide a presentation on the project to a contingent of over 15 officials and engineers from Argentina who were interested in performing the same type of project in their country. In addition, I gave three presentations on the project at ASCE and solid waste management conferences.

Fun facts about you (hobbies, life outside the office)
My wife and I are enjoying the benefits of being empty-nesters, including travel abroad (England two years ago and Italy next year!). I also enjoy fishing, skiing and gardening, and have a long bucket list!

Spotlight on Paul Lappano 9/18/14
Spotlight on Paul Lappano 9/18/14

Spotlight on Steve Hanuszek 5/30/14

Our 125th Anniversary Employee Spotlights continue with Steve Hanuszek, PE.

How long have you worked at LKB?
I have been working at LKB for 32 years. I started in February 1982 after spending nine years with another consulting firm.

What is your role at LKB and has that always been your position?
Currently, I hold two titles: Executive Vice President and Head of the Construction Administration Department. However, I started as a Resident Engineer for the reconstruction of two bridges in Queens for the NYCDOT. Six months into that assignment there was a union strike that shut down most projects in the City, including that one. I was then transferred into the Syosset office, where I provided assistance to the Head of the Construction Administration Department. After a few months, I was given the title of Chief Field Engineer and was effectively the Project Manager for construction inspection projects. A year or two later, I was promoted to Department Head and, a few years after that, Vice President for Construction Administration. In 1999, I was one of nine employees that purchased LKB from its holding company. At that point, I became the Executive Vice President.

What are your most significant projects?
There have been a number of noteworthy projects over the years that have significance for different reasons.

When NYSDOT discovered dangerous scouring at the Goose Creek Bridge, LKB was called in on an emergency, fast-track basis to oversee the installation of a temporary bridge. Work was performed 24/7 in order to have the temporary bridge opened for the Memorial Day weekend. There was a palpable sense of urgency felt by everyone on site during the operation, and a great feeling of pride when the bridge was opened on schedule.

LKB was involved with most of the contracts for the construction of the Long Island Expressway HOV lanes. Over 40 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes were constructed, along with the reconstruction of dozens of bridges to accommodate the new expressway configuration. It was gratifying to be part of a program that completed approximately $300 million dollars of work at a record pace.

The most challenging project I have worked on was the rehabilitation of Runway 16/34 at Westchester County Airport. The extensive reconstruction of the runway was complicated by the variety of work that had to be completed within stringent time constraints. As a result, the contractor actually installed a temporary asphalt plant on-site, and then performed operations around the clock during a scheduled airport closure.

One of my favorite projects was the Cradle of Aviation Museum, as it was so different from anything else, and because of the significance that the museum holds in our community. The museum contains an I-Max movie theatre and incorporates a glass enclosed atrium which houses aeronautical exhibits that are priceless. Given the value of the displays, wind and water penetration tests were performed on mock-up samples of the glass curtain wall system. Flaws were discovered, and several adjustments to the original design were then required. Meanwhile, the construction of the domed I-Max theater was technically a challenge, as it seemed everything was built on a curve in every dimension.

What do you enjoy doing in your off hours?
I like to be active and try to appreciate all that the seasons of the year have to offer. So, when it is cold, I’ll look to do some skiing. Then in warmer weather, I enjoy golfing, cycling and being on (or in) the water.

Spotlight on Steve Hanuszek 5/30/14