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Points Of Impact

By Tina Traster

April 12, 2007 -- MY daughter will be 5 next September and ready to start kindergarten. I was rather excited when her kindergarten packet landed in the mailbox recently. But when I opened the envelope, I had a meltdown.

The school district wants me to give it permission to administer potassium iodide to my daughter if there is a "radiological" emergency!

I never knew school districts located within 10 miles of the Indian Point power plant are considered to be within spewing range of a nuclear event, but now I was more than a little concerned. The Northern Westchester-based plant is indeed within 10 miles of our sleepy Rockland County hamlet and our school district.

Panicked, I called my pediatrician to ask him if I should sign the release.

"Believe me, if Indian Point blows, the last thing you'll worry about is a potassium iodide tablet," he said. I signed the form.

Our proximity to Indian Point hasn't been the only eye-opener since my family left Manhattan's Upper West Side and relocated to an 1850s farmhouse set on nearly an acre of woods.

After making a successful bid on the house in January 2005, I have discovered that we live a mile from a mining quarry and that telecommunication companies want to stick a cellphone tower on our mountain. I also learned a mosque will be built on our road and I wondered: Will there be noise? And traffic?

When the real-estate broker showed the house, she toured the area with us, too. Like an upbeat Universal Studios tour guide, she said, "This is Nyack's lovely village." And, "This is Rockland Lake State Park, a real gem for walking and biking." And, "This nature trail along the Hudson River at Nyack Beach State Park and next to Hook Mountain is great for hiking."

Driving along, we wended through scenic roads. She pointed out the nearby Palisades Mall, a colossal shrine to shopping that can, no doubt, be seen from outer space. But when it came time to mention the quarry mine (which is actually right next to the mall), it must have slipped her mind.

Now, we bought our house during the last gasp of the overheated home market. (Remember when you had to bring a checkbook just to view a listing?) Back then, every house visit opened the possibility to unrequited love.

If we were house hunting today, we'd have more time to do detective work. There's no more hysteria involving bidding wars or scant inventory. Houses are sticking around the market longer. Prices are more realistic. And buyers have the luxury to take their time to research the house and the town and learn about prickly issues brokers don't reveal.

I know the entire burden of disclosure does not rest with the broker. I am a reporter, for God's sake; I know the value of research. After we had an accepted offer, I knocked on the neighbor's door and said, "Hello, we're moving in next door." He said, "Welcome to the neighborhood. Our house is for sale." I lingered just long enough to learn that noisy wild turkeys roost in the trees at night, that our road is especially treacherous in the snow and that the giant mound of dirt on the hill is where a mosque would be built.

I imagined five daily prayers to Mecca being broadcast from a bullhorn atop the mosque. I tracked down the iman and told him my concerns. "This is America, not Syria," he said. "We don't call prayers publicly."

After we went to contract on the house, I scoured the local newspaper's archives, hunting for hot-button issues or controversies. Nothing cropped up, but I didn't have time to go to town hall meetings or scan town hall minutes. I was busy confirming that our house was close to a mom-and-pop fishmonger, a cheese shop, a patisserie, swimming pools, hiking trails and a yoga center. This was my idea of due diligence.

I thought we had made a strategic choice to buy a house in winter, while the trees were bare and every structure within eyeshot was visible. Imagine my surprise that spring when the snow melted and I discovered five massive stone cisterns on our property.

These eyesores probably hadn't been used in 75 years, but they were still in good shape, deep and cavernous with lids intact. Like our forebears, we could have used them to store rainwater. Instead, we hired a stonemason to crush and bury them.

But it's the mining operation that has been the biggest jolt. Welcome to the Town of Bedrock. At noon most weekdays, the house shudders when the workers blast rock - I imagine Barney Rubble operating the backhoe. At night, they crush and grind the stone. The crunching, earth-moving madness starts at 9:30 p.m. and goes on through the night.

We are, it turns out, not the only sleep-deprived people in the area. At a recent town hall hearing on the matter, scores of angry folk voiced their displeasure about the mine and its round-the-clock operations and environmental pollution. It wasn't fun to be in town hall until midnight, but it was the first time after living here for a year that I felt a sense of solidarity with neighbors.

The mine controversy was not just an item in my local newspaper. It was our problem, one inherited along with all the wonderful benefits we've had since moving to this otherwise peaceful hamlet. If only a dose of potassium iodide could block out noise.

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