City to tackle Brownfield areas, projects

GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Vicent DeSantis hosted an online informational meeting for the public to discuss the future of the Brownfield Assessments Projects.

The Facebook Live forum held on Thursday took a deeper look at where the city is hoping to redevelop areas that have long been considered hindrances. DeSantis met with Thomas Seguljic and Jessica Kruczek of HRP Associates in Clifton Park, and Lisa Nagle of Elan Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture, PLLC, in Saratoga.

The group discussed the process that brought them to four specific areas they are looking to tackle first, in addition to the Splash Pad park project which they plan to have completed this year.

Under the Brownfield grant process, assessment grants provide funding for a grant recipient to inventory, characterize, assess, conduct a range of planning activities, develop site-specific cleanup plans, and conduct community involvement related to Brownfield sites. The performance period for these grants is three years. Brownfield sites are considered areas where redevelopment may be undesirable due to contamination.

DeSantis said the city has been working with Segulkic and Nagle throughout the entire process, calling them instrumental. He explained that the city is in a position it has never been in before in terms of revitalization and development, all a result of a three part process including the 2018 Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the 2019 EPA Assessment Grant, and the 2020 Brownfield Opportunity Area which is a master planning key.

“It was back in 2016 when the city applied for an EPA assessment grant, and was rejected, it’s a very competitive grant , offered nationwide. After that rejection the EPA actually reached out to us and said they were impressed with our application and encouraged us to apply again in 2018. We were then awarded that grant in june of 2019. We were one of only two cities in the state of New York that year, so kudos to Tom and HRP,” said DeSantis.

Also in 2018, New York designated the Cayadutta Creek as a significant inland waterway that allowed the city to submit a plan to the state for the revitalization of neighborhoods that had any relation to the Cayadutta or its tributary the Meco Creek.

“We realized that our Brownfields are along the central corridor of the city, as is the Cayadutta, and so the grants really go hand in hand,” said DeSantis.

The Brownfield Assessment Grant was officially awarded to the city this past december, putting the city in a position to apply for money and plan for projects to redevelop various sites that DeSantis knows have been hindrances for many homeowners.

“We have always known the biggest barrier is these eyes soars, these hulks, that the industry left us from the late 19th and early 20th century and while Gloversville would not be here without them and we owe them that, by the same token we are left with these scars. We want to transform our city into a growing flourishing community, it was always too big a mountain to climb, but now we have a real opportunity,” said DeSantis.

A slideshow, presented by Nagle, explained the areas the committee has narrowed down as having the most potential to see the redevelopment happen, they include Traditions Leather, Levor Daniel/Hays, Independent Leather and Wood and Hyde. The status of the Spray Park project was also discussed.

Seguljic said that the city was awarded the $200,000 grant, to identify, access, investigate and develop a mediation plan. He warns that this process is just a first step and some of these projects may take longer than others.

“This is the first step in a long road. It can get complicated and expensive so developers will often pass and go to greenfield. What we have to do is really clean up the site and make it attractive to developers,” said Seguljic.

Seguljic said they started with a list of between 50 to 70 potential sites across the city.

“We were working with the committee to identify and pare down to 25 sites, when we looked, we looked at sites where we can have success,” said Seguljic.

The city scaled down the list eventually to four initial sites where they feel the contamination will be manageable. Segulkic explained the EPA, DEC and the city will all work together, gathering samples for contamination and then making the decisions based on those findings.

“What we know is that tanneries were everywhere, they used a lot of chromium and naphtha, so the question now is where is the waste. The good and bad news is that they were generally located on streams and rivers, but there were no regulations until the late 70s and early 80s, so most were disposed of. We are hoping that means the sites will be lightly contaminated,” said Seguljik.

According to the committee, Tradition Leather could be the most difficult site as far as time and funding are concerned. There are concerns over soil and groundwater contamination, but they believe it still may be manageable. Levor/Daniel Hays and Independent Leather may have similar concerns, but they are also hopeful the sites that can be used. The sites will serve as a variety of uses from dog parks to educational gardens to play areas that would make the most of the access to the rail trail and creek. The Trail Station Park with Splash Pad is in the design phase and the city plans to have it completed this year complete with a changing area for the splash pad, as well as a play area for children.

The fourth mentioned property is Wood and Hyde, which is undergoing sampling at this time. DeSantis said the city is under contract with the owners after ceasing operations last July. He said it would be far less expensive for the city to repurpose the property as the new Department of Public Works as opposed to building new.

“The vision is to purchase the six-acre building and that contract is all contingent on the results of EPA investigation,” said DeSantis.

In regards to the four discussed Brownfield areas, Seguljic reminded the committee that this is a process that takes time. DeSantis said he acknowledges that but feels it is the first time he can remember the city being so close to making real progress.

“The journey of a thousand miles takes a single step,” said DeSantis.

By Patricia Older