Questions remain unanswered about Rodman’s Neck shooting range plan

A bomb being detonated by the NYPD at the Rodman's Neck shooting range off City Island.
Photo courtesy John Doyle

It appears that the decades-long saga of Rodman’s Neck is finally coming to an end as the NYPD announced that it plans to construct an indoor shooting range on the property.

In June, the Police Department announced that it will install temporary baffling, a sound proofing infrastructure, by April 2022 and construct a permanent indoor shooting range by 2026 at Rodman’s Neck, a 54- acre police shooting range on City Island that is used for handgun and rifle practice, and qualification by the NYPD, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

While the baffling pleased many on the 45th Precinct Community Council and the Community Board 10 Rodman’s Neck Monitoring Committee Meeting, some questions still remain unanswered.

John Doyle, a precinct council board member, told the Bronx Times he hopes the NYPD keeps its word. He pointed out that the police originally said the whole range would be enclosed, yet now under the new plan only 130 out of 150 shooting points will be indoors. While they would ultimately like the range off the island, Doyle said having 85% of it fully enclosed is acceptable.

Doyle, a lifelong resident of City Island, said things have gotten progressively worse over time. Since 9/11, police have been training with automatic weapons, which are much louder than arms used in the past, he added.

Further, in 2007, residents of the area were told the shooting range would move to an indoor facility in College Point, Queens, but those plans fell through. Due to shortages in funding, the move was canceled and it was deemed cheaper to renovate Rodman’s Neck for $275 million.

The battle over the range has persisted through four administrations. Mayor David Dinkins promised soundproofing in the ’90s, mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg tried and now, Doyle said, it’s on de Blasio. In July 2020 and July of 2021, the precinct council submitted questions to the NYPD which have remained unanswered, he said.

Finally, this week, the NYPD provided some clarity to the Bronx Times.

Bomb Detonation

The Precinct Council wanted to know if the Notify NYC app could add a notification for when live explosive devices are en route to Rodman’s Neck. Bombs throughout the city are often detonated there and residents would want to know about them and subsequent street closures, the council said. According to police, Notify NYC is used specifically to notify City Island residents that some action is going to take place that “may” result in a detonation. NYPD spokesman Brendan Riley said notifications will not be made solely involving the transportation or delivery of hazardous devices to the facility for operational security issues.

But Doyle was not satisfied with their answer.

“If they can notify everyone in the Bronx when they close the Bruckner when there is an accident, then they can notify residents when roadways are closed because they are bringing a bomb to the range,” Doyle said.

Barbara Burn Dolensek, a longtime City Island resident who lives close to the range, said the real issue is why the bomb squad has to be located where it is, in the middle of several communities that could be affected by a big explosion.

“As it is, bomb detonations (especially of fireworks) tend to pollute the atmosphere, which is not safe,” Burn Dolensek said. “They regularly explode bombs that are used for training personnel and canines. Why does that have to take place on Rodman’s Neck and not at some other facility not so close to residential communities?

The Public Announcement System

Another concern is that many City Island residents have complained that they can hear the public announcement system from the shooting range from their home. These announcements are often as early as 7 a.m. The hope is the NYPD can find a way to update officers without disturbing the community.

The NYPD said it is extremely important for the safety of the shooters and line instructors that they hear instructions from the PA system clearly during the operation of multiple firearms by multiple shooters going on simultaneously on different ranges while wearing ear protection. There have been issues in the past where instructors and shooters were not able to hear the commands from the PA system.

Doyle understands the police need to communicate, but believes there must be a quieter way that won’t disrupt the quality of life on the island.

“It doesn’t need to be a PA system,” he said. “They can use walkie talkies. If we’re building a 21st century range, then technology should change with it.”

Burn Dolesnek shares his anger about the announcement system.

“If the NYPD can’t figure out a way to instruct their officers without yelling out their commands to communities around them, I think they need to do some more research,” she said. “Hopefully, once there are indoor ranges, this will not be an issue for those of us who can hear the commands, which are not, after all, as disruptive and disturbing as the actual guns.”

A bomb being detonated on Rodman’s Neck. Photo courtesy Barbara Burn Dolensek

Environmental Compliance

 The precinct council asked the NYPD what agency they work with to ensure environmental compliance at the site and what their role is in this process.

According to police, the primary enforcement agency is New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. And, the range is inspected by various state offices to make sure the operations are in compliance.

Burn Dolensek slammed the DEC and claimed it is not doing its job.

“How does DEC tolerate the fact that the sanitation and electrical systems are antiquated and inadequate?” she said. “We are not just worried about lead pollution (although I gather that Turtle Cove is being affected) but about sewage and other contaminants. DEC is not doing its job here.”

Soil Samples

In 2018, three inspections found high lead levels. The range was closed temporarily, but since reopening, the NYPD has allegedly collected soil samples.

However, the NYPD has not revealed the results to the precinct council or the Bronx Times.

The NYPD said as part of its soil stabilization and lead management, it removes lead from the ranges by sifting soil and adding a bonding agent to immobilize lead migration into groundwater. During this process, air quality is monitored to make sure lead is not mobilized in the air.

This also requires testing of soil and groundwater wells for particulate and dissolved lead. These testing results are sometimes requested by DEC, according to police, but are not a compliance requirement, rather they are used to inform NYPD of any problem areas so they can schedule the area for additional treatment.

Burn Dolensek said the NYPD seems to be playing games and they must comply with the FOIL requests from the 45th Precinct Council for the soil sample results.  Additionally, the DEC must also force the range to abide by restrictions on wetland pollution.

But DEC spokesman Kevin Frazier said there is no project at the facility for which DEC would request sampling results, nor is DEC reviewing any permit application for proposed work there. However, Frazier said DEC oversees certain activities at Rodman’s Neck and any proposed construction activities would be subject to required environmental permits.

“It’s like they’re punting,” Doyle said referring to the agencies not taking responsibility. “They’re trying to put the blame on another agency. This is why people feel skeptical about 1 Police Plaza.”

 

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes. 

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