Site testing in Amsterdam to inform developer’s West End purchase option

The Volkswagen Beetle that sits atop a smokestack at the former site of Dudka's Garage on Carmichael Street in Amsterdam is seen on March 21.

The Volkswagen Beetle that sits atop a smokestack at the former site of Dudka's Garage on Carmichael Street in Amsterdam is seen on March 21.

AMSTERDAM — The Common Council awarded a $24,500 contract to C&S Companies to conduct environmental site testing on several properties on the West End to determine the estimated cost of remediating the sites and inform the final decision of a developer holding a purchase option on the parcels.

The Common Council in November unanimously approved a purchase option agreement between the city and Mohawk Valley Developments LLC for 399 W. Main St., 36 Carmichael St., and 52 Carmichael St. The city had acquired each of the properties through foreclosure a few years ago.

The city subsequently demolished a portion of the former All Seasons Motor Sports facility at 399 W. Main St. in March 2020 after crews with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered the building had partially collapsed while conducting environmental testing at the site. The EPA later removed 176 drums of hazardous fluids from the site at no cost to the city.

Research of the past uses of the properties was completed before the city entered the purchase option agreement Mohawk Valley Developments.

The city secured a $50,000 Brownfield Redevelopment Assistance Program grant award from National Grid to cover the cost of site testing.

“It’s taken quite a while to go through with National Grid to identify any possible contaminant so [developers] can factor it into their development price,” aid Amanda Bearcroft, director of the Community and Economic Development Department. “They already have a whole litany of work they have done, they are waiting on these costs to then determine what their demo and site remediation costs are specifically going to be.”

The $24,500 contract with C&S Companies will involve sampling of surface and subsurface soils across the sites to identify any contaminants. The contractor also will install microwells for additional testing and will collect materials from any existing wells that can be located.

In addition to the properties included in the purchase option, site testing will be conducted at another city-owned property at 46 Carmichael St. Two other properties that are not owned by the city at 397 W. Main St. and 328 Division St. that neighbor the parcels being investigated for potential contamination also will undergo site testing.

Each of the properties that will undergo environmental testing were previously used for automotive repair work, manufacturing and other commercial uses involving chemicals, including dry cleaning.

The city has not received a full timeline for the environmental work, although lab work is expected to take roughly a week with the contractor to  return a letter analyzing the data within two weeks after site testing has been conducted.

City officials are hopeful the findings will report only minor levels of contamination to encourage the developer to exercise the purchase options for the properties for a large-scale redevelopment project that would revitalize a massive portion of the West End.

“He’s expecting there to be an environmental cleanup cost and he’s factored that into his thinking,” Mayor Michael Cinquanti said. “Anything really severe would of course scare away people and that’s why he took an option instead of purchasing the property to protect [himself]. We’re really hoping that it’s what he expects it to be.”

If the developer ultimately purchases the properties, Cinquanti acknowledged they would likely seek grant funding to support the cost of remediating the sites before undertaking a project. While the city would support those efforts, the municipality would not have any financial responsibility for the cleanup costs.

Under the purchase option, Mohawk Valley Developments agreed to take on sole responsibility for razing the existing structures and remediating the site if it exercises its option and makes an offer on the properties. The developer has expressed interest in constructing a mixed-use project across the sites incorporating residential, commercial and public spaces.

What would become of the Volkswagen Beetle that sits atop a smokestack at the former site of Dudka’s Garage at 36 Carmichael St. if the property deal moves forward is uncertain. A grassroots campaign to save the Beetle was launched over social media after the purchase option agreement was signed.

Area residents point to the automobile that was once used to attract business to the now shuttered garage as a historical landmark. But neighboring property owners have also expressed fears that the smokestack is unstable and needs to be taken down before it falls.

City officials have no plans for the Beetle, meaning it would be up to the future landowner to decide what, if anything, to do with the Volkswagen.

“If the deal falls through, we’ll have to make a decision on it,” Cinquanti said. “Some people love it, some people hate it. I really don’t have much of an opinion on it.”

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