CityFox, the local branch of a Zurich-based electronic music label that planned an ill-fated Halloween rave inside of the NuHart Plastics Factory—a Superfund site in a residential Greenpoint neighborhood—has issued a public apology to ticket holders.
"We're obviously now aware of the building's history and that it is the source of deep community concern, concerns that we take very seriously, but which also caught us by surprise," said the company on Facebook. "We were not aware during the event production when we expended a tremendous amount of time and resources to transform the space."
"We are gutted... that we have let you down," they added. "The reason for this cancellation was not something we could have foreseen, but is ultimately our responsibility."
The CityFox Halloween Experience was shut down shortly before midnight on Saturday when the fire department discovered "flammable chemicals" stacked behind "flammable curtains" on the site, according to a spokesman for the Department of Buildings.
According to CityFox, the FDNY arrived that night to conduct a standard inspection, and pointed out several "permit-related issues." The organizers say that their curtains were non-flammable, and that the FDNY gave them no "official written reason" for the shutdown.
However, CityFox agreed to shut down at 11:45 given "concerns about the building that had come to light." The apology does not mention the Superfund status explicitly.
The DOB had issued a Temporary Place of Assembly permit to the party promoter on October 30th, for an assembly of 3,500. According to a listing on Resident Advisor, at least 4,569 guests RSVP'd. By Friday night, over 8,000 people had RSVP'd via Facebook.
Saturday's rave was permitted to take place at 49-55 DuPont Street, a section of the acre-long warehouse that was deemed partially contaminated in a September 2013 survey of the site conducted by Ecosystems Strategies.
Large swaths of of the building stand over two noxious plumes of Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL, specifically phthalates) and Tricloroethylene (TCE). The former, found in many everyday cleaning supplies, is associated with asthma. The latter, a dry-cleaning solvent, has been associated with face numbness and liver cancer.
Harte & Co., which occupied the 1930s-era building for over 20 years and vacated in 2004, manufactured vinyl siding and stored tanks of toxic chemicals underground which leaked into the soil and groundwater.
Lisa Bloodgood, Councilmember Steven Levin's environmental advisor, has served as a liaison between NuHart's new developers and the community for the past year. She meets regularly with Dupont Street Developers LLC and Michael Roux, their private environmental consultant.
Williamsburg-based Dupont Street Developers purchased the site for $23.25 million last May, and announced plans to clean it up and build 400 market-rate and affordable housing units. Many Greenpoint neighbors and environmental advocates are incredulous about the cleanup plan, which the Brooklyn Eagle reports will cost just under $10 million.
Bloodgood says that Roux told her on Friday that CityFox planned to throw the party within the non-toxic sections of the factory building. Additionally, Bloodgood was told second-hand that the promoters would erect solid partitions to prevent guests from straying towards the plumes.
But when Bloodgood biked over to NuHart around 10:30 on Saturday night, she says that the rolling gate at 280 Franklin Street—the iconic, curved facade of the building, squarely within the documented plumes—was raised. She says that staff were passing through the gate, and that a VIP entrance was cueing up to pass directly into the Superfund site. By 10:45, NYPD officers had broken up the line.
Just inside the entrance, Bloodgood says barrels of phthalates were stacked behind curtains, pumped from toxic barrels underneath the building and stored inside 280 Franklin for off-site removal.
Roux admitted on Tuesday to "a lot of confusion on the part of the [building] owners" surrounding the permitting process.
According to CityFox, the "landlord" led organizers on a "walk through" of the space last week, informing them which parts of the block-length building they would be allowed to use.
"We were not made aware of anything that might prevent the event from going forward," they wrote. CityFox also says that they asked their architect to check the addresses' DOB records for any violations, and found only "one minor heating related violation."
City records for 49-55 DuPont, where the permit was issued, only include violations related to the building's boiler and elevators.
"CityFox clearly did not do a minimum of research which would have quickly revealed a well documented history of environmental contamination at this toxic hot spot," said community activist Mike Schade, a member of the board of directors for Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG).
"It’s very clear that there’s been a huge lack of interagency communication and coordination between NYC and New York State agencies," he added. "We plan to reach out to DOB to explore how they can ensure that state Superfund and other hazardous sites get much greater attention in permitting processes such as this."
Roux said that he learned about CityFox's proposed party on Thursday, and that he and Yi Han, one of the site's co-developers, shared the news with Bloodgood and Schade later that night.
"It really was not painted as a 4,000 rave," Bloodgood told us, recalling the Thursday meeting. "Mike and I both had the impression that it was going to be 100 people. We advised against it." According to Schade, Roux made no mention of CityFox that night.
Roux insisted that he didn't know the "true scope" of the event until Friday afternoon, at which point he tried, and failed, to reach Bloodgood at her office.
We have reached out to the Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Buildings for comment on the permitting process, and will update with any additional information.