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Officials Call For Brownfield Support From Federal Government For Cohoes

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

A local mayor and a Congressman joined forces to call for additional federal funding to remediate Brownfields today.

"Today our waterfront is precious real estate, but there is a new use of the waterway as a recreational trail, as one that creates a quality of life for the given community, a marketing tool for Cohoes."

Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat from the 20th district, and Mayor Shawn Morse spoke Tuesday at Cohoes City Hall, pushing for an increase in Brownfield remediation funding from the federal government. Tonko has introduced legislation in the House to increase funding for the Brownfields Program up to $600 million annually by 2022.

"Which is the Brownfields Reauthorization Enhancement Act. It takes the Brownfield Program that has been structured into law, and re-authorizes it in a way that offers some reforms that I think are very beneficial to our local community, and then ups the ante if you will, gives more resources to this very worthy program."

Tonko says the program, managed by the Environmental Protection Agency, funds environmental study and cleanup assessment projects that support economic redevelopment, planned and sustainable land reuse, and environmental justice.

"In Cohoes we have the Brownfield opportunity. What we need is Brownfield capital. We wanna have the opportunity to take some of these beautiful pieces of land that we have, that need to remediated. We don't have the funds to remediate some of these beautiful pieces of land that we have.”

Morse foresees the waterfront as an economic center. He has toyed with the idea of moving the Cohoes DPW site to free up land along the river for development. But the site is laden with chemicals. "When you have developers look at these properties, the first thing they say is 'how do we afford to clean up all of these problems that these lands have?' We wanna have the ability to clean these properties up, bring in the developer, let him spend his capital on investing in the city of Cohoes."

Morse says in the past developers have bypassed Cohoes for major projects and adds that freeing up land to develop can better position the city and lighten the burden on taxpayers. "In every small community, Cohoes is not immune to it, we have to live under a great pressure to be under a 2 percent property tax cap, we are dealing with how many times can you go back to the resident and raise their taxes, just to maintain the vital services that we need, fire, police, recreation, garbage pickup, the only way that we can survive is to broaden our tax base. And the one thing that you run out of is land. And you run out of land because a lot of it is polluted and nobody will invest in that land. If you're a developer and you have $15 million to invest in a project and it’s $2 million to clean up the land, you say 'Well, I guess I gotta keep looking.' This is going to allow the people who live around these sites to see an increase in the value of their property, they're going to see a community that is growing where they want to come and live, and you're going to see businesses who would once walk away, come and invest."

Tonko says multiple sites in the Capital Region currently benefit from the EPA’s Brownfield program.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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