For about two weeks a city fire inspector has been stationed outside an industrial building on Shady Street for 24-hour fire watch after fire officials discovered the building was stuffed with scrap tires.
The building which runs for ten addresses – 22-32 6th Avenue (known as 5 Shady Street) – is estimated to have 350,000 tires stored inside, according to a confidential source who tipped off city officials to what was taking place at the location.
The 350,000 figure could not be confirmed. A tire recycling firm called Full Circle Tire Recycling which was headquartered at the building accumulated the tires. Owner of the company, a Dave Renta, could not be reached for comments.
Fire chief Michael Postorino said an investigation found no fire alarm or sprinkler systems at the location. He said the city designated the building an “imminent hazard” and violations were issued. The property owner, a North Bergen-based limited liability company Shady Street Realty, is required to have a fire inspector at the site around the clock, said the chief.
A Bunker Hill section businessman said the company has been operating for more than a year. He said the company was shipping tires to China, where tires are used for fuel. He said the dip in gasoline prices over the past few months adversely impacted Renta’s business forcing the firm to close down.
Chinese importers were less willing to purchase tires to convert to fuel when gasoline became more cost effective, said the business man. He said about two months ago the tire recycling company hurriedly left the area. Prior to that an automatic fence and guard dogs kept the facility intruder free, said the businessman, who did not share his name due to fear his company could be retaliated against.
He said it was common to see the business operators driving in with vehicles bearing New York license plates.
The businessman said he would often observe trucks dropping off tires at the location and others picking them up. A truck with a drop off load circled around the building before leaving the area on Monday morning. He pointed out five commercial trailers at the location that he says are also brimmed with junk tires.
Postorino said the 24-hour fire watch is being funded by the property owner. “It’s not like we’re doing it free,” said the council’s public safety committee chairman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.
The businessman said the property owner was left with a building filled with tire. He said the company’s owner abandoned the building almost two months ago.
The confidential source stated that the tire recycling company simply moved its operations to a new facility on Kentucky Avenue where it is packing large number of tires inside an industrial building there.
36 Kentucky Avenue is home to an eerily similar company named Full Circle Used Tire. “We’re buying accounts from them, but that was a completely different owner. I have nothing to do with Dave,” said Emily Schneider, owner of the Kentucky Avenue tire facility, referring to Renta.
Postorino said fire officials visited that site as well. “They had no fire violations at that building,” said the chief.
Schneider said her company does not recycle tires, but rather it stores a small number of them at the location – she estimate no more than 1,000. She further said, her company sends the bulk of the tires that’s dropped off by her clients to a recycling facility in Pennsylvania called Earth First Recycling.
Schneider said she receives about 4,500 tires per month at the location. She has been operating for little over a month, she said.
The number of tires a facility takes in is of particular importance since the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) requires permits for facilities taking in 5,000 or more tires per month.
Spokesperson for the department Bob Considine did not respond to an email seeking his comments for this story.
A site visit on Monday afternoon found a tractor trailer unloading what appeared to be more than 1,000 junk tires to the Kentucky Avenue building.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, said he intends to visit the location to investigate. He did not respond to a subsequent call seeking his comments for this story.
When asked about a certificate of occupancy (CO) Schneider said she is in the process of obtaining one from the city. Michael Deutsch, director of planning and zoning, did not return messages asking whether the company has a CO to operate out of the location.
Speaking of the Shady Street building, Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, said there was some construction done at the building without permits.
“I don’t know how many tires are in there, I just know it’s an extremely large quantity of tires, and obviously that’s a heavy fire load,” said Postorino. He said with so many tires inside the building, the potential for a large scale fire is heightened.
Tire fires are difficult to extinguish and expensive to clean up, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The chief said violators are usually given 30 days to correct the violations. He said the property owner is waiting on a water hook up to get the sprinkler system going. “They are doing what they are supposed to do, and in the interim they are paying for the fire watch until it is abated,” said Postorino.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres did not respond to a message seeking his comments for this story.