One by one, roughly 45 residents spoke Tuesday night at the American Legion Post in Santa Clara about their personal ties to the Hangar, criticizing the Navy for making a decision that they said would save money but destroy an important part of local history.
"Please finish the job," local resident Beth Bunnenberg told Navy representatives.
NASA inherited Moffett Field from the Navy in 1994, but environmental cleanup of the site, including the hangar, is still the Navy's responsibility. Navy officials held the public meeting as an opportunity for locals to voice their concerns about its latest proposal, which would remove and dispose of the toxic siding from the 200-foot structure.
Toxic polychlorinated biphenyles, or PCBs, were discovered in drain water around the site in 1997, and the same toxins were found to be in Hangar One's siding in 2003. In response to the discovery, the Navy had originally proposed demolishing the structure. But on July 30 officials released a revised plan, which included a number of alternatives.
"Prior to selecting an alternative, we will seek comments," said Darren Newton, environmental coordinator of the Base Realignment and Closure program, or BRAC, during a short introduction and history of the hangar.
Many speakers called themselves life-long residents of the Bay Area, and said the Navy would be taking away a part of Mountain View history if it let Hangar One be destroyed. Sandra Mason said her mother worked in Hangar One during World War I.
"This wartime job was a lifetime source of pride for my mother," she said. "For our family, Hangar One stands as a piece of our mother's history, a piece of her youth."
"I would like to see the Navy to step us and see this is part of their history too," added Larry Ellis.
In its first public comment on the Hangar, released on Tuesday, NASA agreed: "Hangar One is a Bay Area icon and significant historical landmark that needs to be saved."
"We will continue to work closely with the Navy through the next steps of the remediation process and to seek partnerships, both public and private, that would allow the hangar's reuse," the release said.
Navy representatives did not comment during the more than three-hour session. Officials say they will be taking comments until Sept. 13, then release a public response.
Some local residents favor a proposal to restore the structure by covering it with an acrylic coating. If stripped and left uncovered, they said, the skeleton would quickly deteriorate.
"Leaving behind a skeleton is not acceptable," said Janice Moore, who identified herself as a second generation Silicon Valley resident. "The Navy needs to do more. [The hangar] is one of Mountain View's landmarks and a wonderful example of 20th century technology."
Bob Moss, a member of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board, accused the Navy of not exploring all options. He said a similar hangar in Akron, Ohio was saved by using a rubberized coating over the toxic siding of the Hangar.
"If you can do it in Ohio, it is baffling you cannot do it in the heart of Silicon Valley," said local resident Jane Whistle.
The full 485-page Navy report can be downloaded from www.nuqu.org. Written comments must be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or postmarked by Sept. 13 and sent to:
Darren Newton, BRAC Environmental Coordinator
Navy BRAC Program Management Office
W. 1455 Frazee Road, Suite 900
San Diego, CA 92108