A demolition crew from Randozzo Enterprises of Castroville, under the direction of Moffett Field-based DEI Construction, upended history as five of 10 buildings slated for destruction had been converted into rubble as of Tuesday, April 16.
The goal for NASA, which owns the portion of the former Crows Landing Naval Air Station where the buildings are being destroyed, is to deter vandals who have targeted the old structures, according to the owner of DEI Construction, Darren Israel.
“The goal out here is to make it less appealing — to make it less inviting,” Israel said Tuesday afternoon as Randozzo workers tore down a former recreation facility.
Workers began cleaning up asbestos March 25, and demolition began April 9. The entire project is expected to be complete by May 29, Israel said.
The airfield, which is west of Highway 33 between Fink and Marshall roads, just north of the town of Crows Landing, was decommissioned in 1994 and ended up in the hands of NASA Ames.
In 2004, the space agency turned over 1,352 acres of the 1,528-acre property to Stanislaus County, which plans to turn the airfield into an industrial center.
However, 176 acres remain in NASA’s possession until the U.S. Navy completes cleanup of underground toxins. That property includes the 81-acre Parcel C, where the 10 buildings are being knocked down this month.
Those buildings provided space for various purposes — storage, recreation, administration, safety services.
An old baseball diamond and dugout are also condemned to demolition.
An air traffic control tower and an adjacent lighting vault, a building containing controls for the airfield’s lighting, will remain standing, but with a few adaptations.
Workers will construct a plywood barrier around the tower to keep people out, Israel said. He noted that the chance of trespassers falling from the top of the tower poses potential legal problems for NASA.
The goal of the entire project is to “lessen NASA’s liability,” according to an email last month from a NASA Ames Research Center spokesman, James Schalkwyk.
Stanislaus County has requested that the tower and lighting vault be left intact for “historical value mostly,” said Keith Boggs, the county’s deputy executive officer.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department has used the airstrip for vehicle training exercises, but the airfield also has attracted visitors who have left bullet holes in the window of the lighting vault and graffiti over portions of the control tower.
NASA had to tear out the control tower windows several years ago after someone shot at them, Israel said.
A neighbor of the airfield, Bell Road resident Jessica Petty, 18, expressed last week that she felt conflicted about the demolition, though she said she understood the necessity for it.
“I’ve lived here (on the West Side) my entire life, and it’s a part of Crows Landing’s history,” Petty said, “…but there are a lot of problems with kids going out there.”
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