The North Wayne Ave. Paint Smell Controversy


The Roldan boys play on a slide on the other side of a fence from Polanco Woodwork
Two of the Roldan boys play on a slide on the other side of a fence from Polanco Woodwork

John and Christina Roldan of N. Wayne Avenue, West Haverstraw, have been voicing concern over paint fumes coming from their backyard neighbor, Polanco-Mills Woodwork Inc., since the shop opened three years.

The Roldans, parents of four young boys, claim that the paint smell is irritating and gives them headaches, but village inspectors and environmental regulators have yet to find a legal reason to hinder Polanco’s activities. Village officials Mayor John Ramundo and Building Inspector George Behn told the Rockland County Times that the company’s owner Juan Polanco has often gone above and beyond what is required by law to reduce the impact of his light industrial-zoned business on his residential-zoned neighbors.

Polanco’s steps to reduce the odor, which include building a vent that directs paint fumes away from the residential neighborhood, have not been enough to eliminate the smell nor calm the parental instincts of the Roldans. In fact, in recent weeks the controversy has heated up and the couple has received some pushback from the village, including at least one exchange in which Mayor Ramundo admits to losing his temper and for which he told the newspaper he is sorry.

John and Christina are circulating a petition that has been signed by several of their neighbors, two of whom spoke with the Rockland County Times and said they agree the fumes are more than what is tolerable in a residential area.  Christina has launched a social media site “West Haverstraw family fights fumes” that has attracted over 200 followers.

Said John Roldan, “I have lived in this neighborhood most of my life. I don’t want to smell this anymore.”

Owner of Polanco-Mills Woodwork Juan Polanco told the Rockland County Times that to further reduce odors he has recently eliminated the use of lacquer paints and is now using only water-based paints. However, as of two weeks ago, the Roldans said the intolerable odors were invading their property again.

On a recent afternoon Polanco and the Roldans disputed whether men were painting at his worksite at all. Polanco told the Rockland County Times, “Well I think the neighbors are unreasonable — they are actually calling and couldn’t take the smell today.  We didn’t have any work today. They are making false allegations. It’s not true.  We are not working today.” The Roldans begged to differ, stating they saw Polanco’s men leaving and could smell the paint.

Last week an inspector from the Small Business Environmental Program, at the direction of the state DEC, visited the Polanco worksite to conduct tests. The results will not be known for a few weeks.  The Roldans have been in regular contact with the DEC and other agencies as they have sought relief.  The Office of State Senator William Larkin has promised to keep an eye on the case.

Ramundo and Behn told the Rockland County Times that many times village inspectors have dropped by Polanco’s shop unannounced to make sure he is conducting business consistent with his permit, and the village has been satisfied that he is operating within the law. Behn said, “They want me to go to Polanco’s with a padlock, but I can’t do that.”

The story may have an amicable ending yet. As of Saturday, October 18, Christina Roldan stated on her “Family fights fumes” site: “I’m happy to report that it has been over a week since I have smelled any paint fumes coming from the warehouse. As grateful as I am to finally have fresh air again, I’m still not sure if this relief is only temporary or if this indicates a permanent solution.”

Stay tuned to see if the Roldans finally realize the relief from fumes they have long sought.


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