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General News

June 2, 2007

Farricielli Deal on Thin Ice

The road to Farricielli's illegal landfill. File photo

By Sharon Bass

An agreement to sell the contaminated Farricielli property at 2895 State St. to Gateway in New Haven fell through a few months ago, and a revised one seems to have also taken a nosedive since last Friday, local officials and those close to the 30-year saga reported yesterday. The three-decade cat-and-mouse game with Joe Farricielli culminated in millions of dollars in local and state environmental fines (which Farricielli has not paid) and a prison sentence. It seemed the ordeal might finally come to a happy conclusion with Gateway willing to take over.

But reportedly Gateway backed out for a couple of reasons. One, because it wanted protection from being sued for illnesses or other problems that might stem from the land Farricielli contaminated in Hamden and North Haven -- and the state wants hundreds of thousands of dollars for that protection, according to a source.

And after Gateway hauled in dirt from Boston’s Big Dig for over two years to fill the toxic and flammable tire pond, the state decided last Friday to put the remainder of the project out to bid, said former Mayor John Carusone, who has worked tirelessly with the East Side Civic Association to get rid of Farricielli and make his land honest.

“What this does is, Gateway will tell the town of Hamden and the state to go to hell and then the whole deal would fall apart. Without Gateway there is no deal,” he said. “I have no idea why they’re [Department of Environmental Protection] doing what they’re doing. I want to know what the hidden agendas are. The DEP is going to stop Gateway from covering the tire pond.”

A message left at Gateway was not returned.

According to Hamden Economic Development Director Dale Kroop, the pond needs one million cubic yards of material to finish it off and the landfill 200,000-300,000 cubic yards. Carusone said the state fire marshal determined a couple of years ago that if the tire pond catches on fire, the southeastern portion of Hamden would have to be evacuated for four to six weeks, and much of North Haven.

When Gateway reportedly decided not to purchase the land because of a lack of state cooperation, in April the Hamden Economic Development Corporation stepped in, said Kroop, who leads the 11-member corporation. He said it is willing to take the title of the three-piece parcel -- which includes the tire pond, a partly covered illegal landfill and an illegal industrial park -- and work with Gateway on finishing the tire pond and redeveloping the park to lease out to businesses.

“The corporation looks forward to continue to negotiate with all the parties to come up with a solution that will redevelop this property and ensure the public safety of the property,” said Dale Kroop. Parties include the towns of Hamden and North Haven, the DEP, the Attorney General’s Office, Farricielli and an assortment of lawyers.

“Now there’s a vehicle [the corporation] to remove a lot of the liability problems,” said Carusone. “You have to keep this deal moving. You want to go back to court with Farricielli and spend $200,000, $300,000? I have very little confidence that the DEP will get things done. The fact of the matter is if the DEP had done its job back in the 1980s, none of this would be where we are right now. I am convinced that Hartford has got to get its act together. The state is dragging its feet. Why?"

However, Attorney General Dick Blumenthal paints a different picture.

“As far as we’re concerned the negotiations are alive and well and I’m hopeful that we’ll reach a successful conclusion,” he said. “We have been discussing and negotiating this for some time. I have the utmost respect for John Carusone, who continues to fight this issue. We have always been on the same side.”

Blumenthal said no final agreement on the Farricielli property has been reached because “a number of moving parts were never resolved. Within the past few days, we’ve had a number of proposals that may be significant.” Asked what those proposals are and from whom, the attorney general said he couldn’t elaborate.

“All I can say is I remain hopeful that we will resolve the issues. At this point no one is walking away from the negotiations. At least as far as I know,” said Blumenthal.

“The issue is they had the best deal for everyone,” Carusone said of the proposed Gateway deal. “I’ll be speaking to Dick Blumenthal on Sunday [at Mayor Henrici’s re-election bid announcement]. In my opinion, he’s [Blumenthal] the one man who can put this deal back together.”

One of Farricielli's attorneys, Hugh Manke, said Friday he knew nothing about the agreement going sour. He’s with the Hartford-based law firm of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy.

But Councilman Curt Leng, whose 6th District includes 2895 State St., was well aware of it.

“I am extremely frustrated by what seems to be a lack of cooperation between state departments, and that lack of cooperation risks a solution to a 30-year problem, one the community has suffered for,” he said. “At this point, I don’t think the state is looking at [what’s best for the] community. They’re more interested in their bureaucratic rules than getting the job done.”


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