2001-07-18 / Front Page

The Tanks Came Tumbling Down


Photo Walter Karling The twin gas storage tanks on Maspeth Avenue that hovered over Greenpoint and neighboring Queens for more than 50 years collapsed in a cloud of dust early Sunday morning after KeySpan Energy imploded the long unused structures.Photo Walter Karling The twin gas storage tanks on Maspeth Avenue that hovered over Greenpoint and neighboring Queens for more than 50 years collapsed in a cloud of dust early Sunday morning after KeySpan Energy imploded the long unused structures.

Area residents expressed concern that the demolition would release lead dust into the atmosphere, although KeySpan officials said the process would be closely monitored and that before the demolition most of the paint on the 400-foot-high tanks had been taped over or scraped off. However, some residents and environmental activists felt that removing the remnants of the tanks would pose a danger at least as great as the implosion itself. "There's an enormous amount of steel that has to be cut up," the owner of a Flushing-based business, who filed an affidavit supporting a coalition of groups from Greenpoint and Williamsburg that sought unsuccessfully to block the tanks' demolition, noted. KeySpan uses mechanized scissor-like devices to cut up the steel skin of the tanks, rather than torches, to avoid vaporizing the lead paint. In addition, KeySpan also laid down a special fabric cover to shield nearby buildings and vacuumed streets after the implosion.

The first of the two tanks was built in 1927, followed in 1948 by its twin. The structures were known as the Maspeth Avenue Holders and were once used to provide constant pressure in residential gas lines. The holders were last used in 1992 and 1997, respectively. KeySpan, formerly Brooklyn Union Gas, received a permit to implode the tanks from the city Department of Buildings in April. Company officials announced the demolition plans at a community board meeting in June and met with neighborhood groups on Monday, July 11, to inform them as to what precautions were being taken to prevent lead dust from permeating the area. Many area residents felt that the precautions were inadequate and also expressed concern that KeySpan had waited until demolition of the tanks was imminent to inform them that the implosion was scheduled.

Cleanup of the remnants of the tanks and the debris following the implosion is expected to take approximately three months. KeySpan has said it has no immediate plans for the land.


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