Gloversville looks to advance brownfield cleanup

PHOTOGRAPHER:

This June 2019 file photo shows a brownfield site in Gloversville on West Eleventh Avenue.

GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Vince DeSantis and City Attorney Amanda Rose are set to meet with Fulton County Attorney Jason Brott on Thursday to advance the city’s plan to acquire four brownfield properties through tax foreclosure and then apply for federal funding to clean up and redevelop the long-abandoned parcels.

The four targeted brownfield properties are:

• The former Tradition Leather property at 41 W. 11th Ave., across the street from Kingsborough Elementary School.

• The former Comrie Inc. property on the corner of Route 30A and Harrison Street.

• The former John Johns Buckskin Co. property, located at 1 Rose St.

• The former Glencoe Leather Corp. property, located at 51 E. 8th Ave.

All four parcels are in tax default, but the county has always declined to foreclose on them due to the potential environmental clean-up costs that could come with owning the properties.

Gloversville delegated to Fulton County the city’s power to foreclose on tax-delinquent properties decades ago as part of the “Hornell Plan,” which saved the city from being financially liable for unpaid school taxes on city properties but also took away the city’s power to control the fate of city properties in tax foreclosure. The towns of Fulton County are also part of the Hornell Plan, although the city of Johnstown has continued to retain its foreclosure power.

But, DeSantis said Gloversville can regain its foreclosure power in specific instances, such as with the four brownfields.

“The city, originally, has the original authority to foreclose in tax foreclosure,” DeSantis said. “The Hornell Plan is a contract between the city and the county. It’s an inter-municipal agreement, where we’ve actually delegated our authority to the county, so the county and the city can then modify that agreement, by mutual consent, to allow us to go ahead and foreclose on specific pieces of property.”

During his state of the city address on Jan.1, DeSantis said the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in November, includes significant amounts of federal funding for the environmental clean-up of contaminated brownfields. DeSantis said the city could apply for as much as $5 million for its targeted brownfield sites, but the catch is the city has to own the properties in order to apply for the money.

Gloversville already owns some brownfields it wants to clean up including the former Risedorf Tannery, at 130-146 West 8th Ave, a 13-acre property that has 32,000 tons of contaminated soil in a 100,000 square foot area, as well as contaminated sediments and groundwater.

The city has also identified the former Wood and Hyde tannery at 47 10th Ave., the former Van Tent Pole tannery property at 1 Rose St., the “Crescent” properties associated with the FJ&G Railyard, the site of the former city Department of Public Works facility on Washburn Street, and the site of the former Independent Leather building, at 315 S. Main St., as priority sites the city will be seeking funding to clean up.

The targeted sites are only a small portion of Gloversville’s total brownfields. During a Facebook live-streamed event titled “Brownfield Project Status Update” on Jan. 13, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officer Sadira Robles said the $300,000 EPA City-Wide Assessment Grant Gloversville received in 2019 was used to create an inventory of all of the potential brownfield sites in Gloversville and then begin the process of identifying what hazardous chemicals may be in the soil at the properties, a crucial step towards beginning any clean-up and redevelopment project.

Robles said the grant has identified 47 brownfields in Gloversville, encompassing about 127 acres of the city. She said the city has completed 25 Phase 1 Environmental Studies of those brownfields and two Phase 2 studies, as well as conducted six outreach meetings to obtain public input about what should happen with the properties if funding is ever obtained for clean-up and redevelopment.

DeSantis said the assessment grant also determined there were 168 abandoned, dilapidated and vacant industrial sites located on those 47 brownfield parcels.

DeSantis said his administration has chosen the brownfield properties it wants to clean up first based on impact. He said cleaning up the Tradition Leather property is an obvious priority because of its proximity to an elementary school, but every parcel that has been prioritized has the potential to improve life in the city.

“We feel that the redevelopment of these sites would have the most positive impact on the neighborhood that they’re in, and on the city as a whole,” he said. “For example, if you look at that Comrie Inc. site — way down to the southern tip of the city — right on 30A, that has some real commercial possibilities for commercial redevelopment, but it doesn’t have neighborhoods around it, so it was one of the later ones that became a priority because, you know, we just felt that the redevelopment of that site is not going to change the quality of life of the people who live in Gloversville, as much and so many others.”

By Jason Subik

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