01.12.23

STANDING AT ONE OF SENECA COUNTY’S WORST CONTAMINATED DERELICT FORMER GAS STATIONS, SCHUMER REVEALS HIS TWO PRONGED PLAN TO LAUNCH SENECA’S FIRST EVER BROWNFIELD TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY TO CLEAN UP DOZENS OF TOXIC EYESORES ACROSS THE FINGER LAKES & DELIVER FED FUNDING TO TURN THESE SITES INTO NEW ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

Hazardous Abandoned “Buisch” & “George’s” Gas Stations Have Plagued Community For Years But Industrial Pollution From Past Use Has Stifled Businesses That Want To Redevelop These Sites & Grow In Seneca County And The Finger Lakes

Senator Launches Push for Vital EPA Grant to Kickstart Initiative, To Clean Up Hazardous Blights Offering New Opportunity To Redevelop Dozens Of Finger Lakes Sites To Help Lure In New Businesses And Take Burden Off Local Taxpayer For Polluted Properties

 

Schumer: The Finger Lakes Has Waited Long Enough -- It’s Time To Clean Up Brownfields For New Investment!

Standing at contaminated, long-abandoned former Buisch’s gas station brownfield site, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched his two pronged plan to get the feds to help clean up this eyesore, the nearby similarly abandoned former George’s Service Station brownfield site, and dozens of other hazardous sites like these across the Finger Lakes for new development and economic opportunities.

 

“The Finger Lakes has had to deal with contaminated community eyesores like these for far too long and it is time for the feds to help transform this site and keep our neighborhoods safe, healthy, and growing,” said Senator Schumer. “That starts with the EPA providing a federal boost to Seneca County for a first-of-its-kind initiative to clean up these lots, from the long-abandoned gas station to the crumbling former Seneca Falls Hospital. Sites like these in Seneca County and the broader Finger Lakes region are exactly why I fought so hard for a historic $1.5 billion for the EPA’s Brownfields program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law. It is time to return these blighted properties of our past back to productive use to breathe new more life into the Finger Lakes.”

 

First, Schumer said that he is putting his full support behind Seneca County and the Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank Corporation (FLRLBC) in their effort to access existing federal brownfield grant funding, including $1.5 billion in grants Schumer helped secure in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for Seneca County’s first-ever Brownfields Redevelopment Strategy.  Specifically, today he announced his push for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to launch this initiative with a key $500,000 grant that will kickstart the redevelopment of these toxic sites.  

 

Second, the senator said he is pushing to reauthorize the EPA’s Brownfield Program which is otherwise set to expire at the end of this year because Seneca County will rely on further EPA Brownfield grants to complete the redevelopment of these sites.  Schumer said his two pronged plan will supercharge local efforts to transform these blighted sites, improve public health, and create new development and job opportunities.

“Seneca County, together with the Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank Corporation, has launched a strategy to address a number of brownfield properties, the purpose of which is to return them to the tax rolls, activate new uses, improve streetscapes and strengthen our local economy.  I am grateful to Senator Schumer for his support as we proceed with this very important initiative,” said Michael Enslow, Chairman of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors.

Schumer said while these brownfields have long stood in the way of business development in Seneca County, on top of being eyesores and a burden to local taxpayers, many of these sites are located in prime commercial areas and along the county’s waterfronts and as a result, are ripe for redevelopment once remediation is resolved.  For example, Schumer was joined by Seneca County small business owner Julie Bellone who owns Austin Physical Therapy on the lot adjacent to the George’s brownfield site across the street from where Schumer stood today.  Julie has been interested in acquiring the George’s lot to expand her business, but the likely hazardous contamination has prevented her from moving forward. 

This is why as step one Schumer said he is putting his full weight behind Seneca County and the FLRLBC’s aplication to access existing federal brownfield grant funding for its first-ever Brownfields Redevelopment Strategy which aims to clean up and redevelop these abandoned sites. Schumer said this “win-win” strategy would be kickstarted by securing the initial $500,000 EPA Brownfield Assessment grant that would be used by Seneca County to conduct Phase I and II ESAs (Environmental Site Assessments) and to prepare remediation plans for suspected brownfields in order to return these properties to active use, increase local tax revenue, and improve job-creating economic and health outcomes related to the sites.  For Seneca to complete remediations, Schumer explained that thanks to the historic investments he was able to secure in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, billions of dollars in funding will now be available to remediate contamination of sites throughout Upstate New York, including Seneca County. This funding includes $1.2 billion for the Brownfields competitive grants and $300 million for Brownfields categorical grants to support the development of and progress being made under state-led Brownfields efforts.

As step two, Schumer today announced his push to reauthorize the EPA’s Brownfields Program which is otherwise set to expire at the end of this year because Seneca County will need to rely on further EPA Brownfield grants to complete the redevelopment of these sites. Historically, cleaning up brownfields can cost millions of dollars and take several years, meaning local municipalities reply on support from state and federal governments to deal with the high costs of remediation.  These competitive grants can be used to help Seneca County fund everything from the physical cleanup, to revolving loan funds and developing job-training programs to support the revitalization of the site.

There are currently dozens of documented or suspected brownfields encompassing hundreds of acres throughout Seneca County, particularly in the Seneca Falls and Waterloo, NY population centers. These sites—including chemical manufacturers, dry cleaners, industrial producers, service stations, manufactured gas plants, and others—contain or likely contain hazardous contaminants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals within soils, groundwater, and sediment, and soil gas that pose health threats to local residents and hamper redevelopment. Seneca county recently identified nine likely brownfield properties, encompassing 166 acres, that could be assessed, cleaned up, and redeveloped with the help of federal funds, including: 

• Buisch’s at 1265 Waterloo-Geneva Road, Waterloo.

• George’s at 1292 Waterloo-Geneva Road, Waterloo.

• Povero’s gas station at 170 Ovid St., Seneca Falls.

• Old landfills at 3454 West Covert Road, Covert, and 3580 Route 96, Fayette.

• Old tire lots at 84 Auburn Road, Seneca Falls and 8538 Route 414, Lodi.

• A vacant, rural junkyard on Border City Road in Waterloo.

• An abandoned agricultural land on Seneca Road in Lodi.

 

Additionally, Seneca County would look to use EPA grant funding to investigate and clean up potential contaminants at the former abandoned Seneca Falls Hospital Site along the canal waterfront, with plans to address asbestos, underground tanks, and on-site solid waste disposal due to historical hospital operations. Community input has identified the site’s best redevelopment plan as a home to senior housing and open space overlooking the canal.

 

This new Brownfields Redevelopment Strategy will also support and enhance existing redevelopment efforts including the Seneca Falls Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the Vision for Waterloo Plan 2019 by transforming brownfields into vibrant destinations that will support a mix of jobs, housing, open space, and provide availability of food and basic services for the area’s residents. 

 

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the EPA appears below:

 

Dear EPA Administrator,

 

I write in strong support of the application submitted by Seneca County and the Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank Corporation (FLRLBC) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a Brownfields Communitywide Assessment Grant (the “EPA Grant”) needed to launch the County’s first-ever Brownfields Redevelopment Strategy, which aims to ultimately clean up, redevelop, and return dozens of now contaminated and abandoned sites to the tax rolls and to active use.

 

I commend Seneca County and the FLRLBC for pursuing this initiating that provides the county’s towns, residents, and businesses with a “win-win” strategy to ultimately remediate harmful contaminants to transform now dilapidated properties into opportunities for new investment and jobs.  Specifically, the EPA grant would be used to kick-off this new effort, enabling Seneca County to conduct Phase I and II ESAs (Environmental Site Assessments) and to prepare remediation plans for suspected brownfields in order to return these properties to active use, increase local tax revenues, and improve job-creating economic and health outcomes related to the sites.

 

There are currently dozens of documented or suspected brownfields encompassing hundreds of acres throughout Seneca County, particularly in the Seneca Falls and Waterloo, NY population centers.  These sites—including chemical manufacturers, dry cleaners, industrial producers, service stations, manufactured gas plants, and others—contain hazardous contaminants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals within soils, groundwater, and sediment, and soil gas that pose health threats to local residents and hamper redevelopment.  Many of these sites are located in prime commercial areas and along the county’s waterfront and as a result, are ripe for redevelopment once remediation is resolved.  As such, this new Brownfields Strategy will also support and enhance existing redevelopment efforts, including the Seneca Falls Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the Vision for Waterloo Plan 2019 by transforming brownfields into vibrant destinations that will support a mix of jobs, housing, open space, and provide availability of food and basic services for the area’s residents. 

 

Again, I applaud Seneca County for its foresight which I fully support, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.  

 

Sincerely,

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