The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced funding to study Brownfield sites in Gloversville, New York, in hopes of remediating the areas.
EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez was in the Fulton County city Wednesday to tour an abandoned tannery with agency staff and local officials.
“Gloversville was a leather-working community,” Lopez said in a phone interview with WAMC Wednesday. “They had some 200 glove manufacturers between Gloversville and nearby Johnstown. The leather-working industry was an important part of the history of the region. The challenge is that it left, irrespective of the wealth and the benefits it brought, it also brought contamination and abandoned facilities.”
The city of about 15,000 was one of 149 communities selected nationwide to receive funding in this round of grants. Lopez says degreasers, acids and asbestos could be among the contaminants at the abandoned sites. He says the city’s $300,000 award will help officials understand what is present and determine what might need to be mitigated in hopes of revitalizing the areas.
“The use of the property will depend on two things, one; what is the nature of the contamination and how can it be mitigated that’ll in part dictate the potential use or reuse of the property and then secondly, what is the community’s vision and what resources are made available to advance the adaptive reuse,” Lopez said. “In some cases it may be recreational, commercial, maybe there could be an additional manufacturing.”
Calling the EPA funding a watershed for the city, Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis says about a dozen sites will be looked at.
“One of the most insurmountable obstacles to redevelopment has been, always ford decades, what do we do with these abandoned industrial sites?” DeSantis said. “It takes so much money and so much time to remediate and then you can’t even start the remediation until you know all the facts about the site. So this an absolute light at the end of the tunnel for us.”
DeSantis says many of the sites are in residential areas and that converting them to more residential spaces, recreational areas or a combination of both would fit with the community’s goals.
“The Cayadutta Creek runs all the way through the city, we have a recreational trail, it’s a linear park that goes through the entire city and out both sides, and there are times when you can almost envision what it looked like before the factories were built, what beauty there was here,” the mayor said. “You get that vision of what it could be in the future. Something that contributes to an extremely high quality of life. We are so fortunate to be right on the fringes of the Adirondack Park, in the foothills of the Adirondacks and you can see the natural beauty here just beneath the surface, so when you get rid of and remediate those industrial sites there is a number of tremendous projects that could be begun and successfully concluded in those places.”
The EPA’s Lopez says he expects paperwork that will allow Gloversville to move forward in the process will be completed by the fall.
The EPA also awarded Brownfield grants to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation, as well as the city of Springfield and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Massachusetts. Six grants were awarded for projects in Vermont, while the Connecticut Brownfield Land Bank and the town of Stafford were each awarded $300,000 for assessment work.