Local and state officials are preparing to clean up the last known contaminated site along Broadway in downtown Schenectady, opening more of the corridor up to possible development in the future.
The site at 312 Broadway measures three-quarters of an acre and borders an active rail line to the west, Van Guysling Avenue to the east, and the Broadway South parking lot (which uses the same address) to the north. It was once home to a scrap yard, gas station and coal storage facility. Guarded by concrete jersey barriers and a steel cable gate, the small site is mostly vacant these days save for the occasional staging of construction materials.
Preliminary investigations of the site by the state Department of Environmental Conservation detected polychlorinated biphenyls — PCBs, a suspected carcinogen — in the soil. More sampling is needed of the soil, groundwater and surface water to fully characterize contamination at the site and come up with a remediation plan.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority expects to begin a $900,000 cleanup of the site in the spring. DEC will cover 90 percent of the cost, leaving Metroplex to cover $90,000.
“This is the final phase of the Broadway cleanup, to our knowledge,” said Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen.
Various agencies have worked for several years to clean up contamination along the lower Broadway corridor, which Metroplex considers crucial to downtown Schenectady’s ongoing revitalization.
Much of the contamination stemmed from a plant that manufactured gas from coal at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street in the second half of the 19th century. The plant was demolished, but left behind coal tar that over time migrated underground to nearby sites.
One nearby site was the Broadway South parking lot, a 300-space surface lot owned and operated by Metroplex just south of the Broadway parking garage.
In 2012, National Grid, in coordination with DEC and Metroplex, spent about $2 million to remove contaminated soil from the 2.5-acre lot and fill it in with clean soil. The next summer, Metroplex spent $255,000 to repave the lot and install new curbs, fences, lights, surveillance cameras and landscaping.
A small, unpaved parcel to the southwest of the lot was left untouched to be investigated and cleared separately. Once Metroplex clears this parcel of contamination in the spring, the site could be marketed for future development or it could be used for additional parking, Gillen said.
“As these sites are cleared up, it opens up more property for new development,” he said.
Last year, Rotterdam developer John Luke Hodorowski built a three-story residential/office building up the road at the corner of Broadway and Hamilton Street, and is now looking to build a four-story residential/office building across the street between Villa Italia Bakery and the Broadway South lot.
Gillen said he has even received offers from developers interested in building on the parking lot.
“We have received offers on this lot but we need the parking,” he said. “So we are not looking to sell the lot.”
DEC will announce a draft cleanup plan for the site at 312 Broadway in the coming months, and will present it to the public for review and comment during a 45-day comment period and at a public meeting still to be determined.
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