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Community Builders looks to DEC for help with brownfield cleanup

Community Builders looks to DEC for help with brownfield cleanup

The cleanup is part of the organizations second phase of its Hamilton Hill project
Community Builders looks to DEC for help with brownfield cleanup
Work is done at the former St. Columba's School last September as part of The Community Builders' Hamilton Hill Project.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY -- The Community Builders is looking to clean up the brownfield site where the second-phase of its Hamilton Hill Project will be.

The nonprofit development company submitted an application to be included in the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. This would allow the project to receive tax credits toward 4 percent of the total cost of the cleanup, according to Jennica Huff, senior project manager at The Community Builders chapter in Albany.

The cleanup would take place in several parcels on Albany and Craig streets.

The Community Builders purchased several vacant properties in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood as part of its $40 million dollar second phase of its project. It will include a mix of apartments and commercial/retail space.

Most of the properties were acquired in November while the others were purchased during a City Council meeting earlier this month. Huff said last week that more than 20 of the buildings on those properties are slated to be demolished this summer, the cost of which she said is more than $1 million.

The funding would come from a mixture of grants and state resources, Huff previously said.

Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen previously said the organization would be giving $300,000 toward the demolition of three buildings included in the project.

The cost of the cleanup is included in the overall cost of the second phase of the project, Huff said.

The $20 million dollar first phase of the project is already underway. It includes turning the St. Columba’s and Horace Mann school on Craig Street into 58 apartments.

After the demolitions will come the cleanup of 13 parcels on Albany and Craig Streets, according to information in the application on DEC’s website. It’s an area that contains several vacant lots, a building that was once occupied by a dry cleaning business, an auto body supply shop, a paint store, and seven bay garages that were believed to have been used for automotive repairs.

There are also three abandoned storage tanks on the site, with one completely buried and the other two partially buried within a concrete retaining wall in the basement of 830 Albany St., according to the application.

The actual contents of the tanks aren’t known, but the application says it was believed to have contained fuel oil. Those tanks will have to be registered with the state Petroleum Bulk Storage program, according to the application.

According to a site description in the application, the site’s soil is believed to be contaminated with lead paint and also other items from the fill -- which included concrete, gravel, brick and asphalt -- that was brought to it.

The description also says that the groundwater is contaminated with “solvent and petroleum-type contaminants.” This was near the location of the former dry cleaning business and the storage tanks. There is also a mention of a spill in the description that occurred at the site, which is said was referred to the DEC’s Hazardous Waste Unit.

There is also belief a nearby “historic gasoline tank” was another possible contaminant, according to the description.

Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association President Marva Isaacs said she was unaware the area was a brownfield. She declined to comment on the closed cleanup project.

Gillen said the cleanup of the area is part of the process of getting the area redeveloped.

“This is a multiyear effort to bring new investment into that neighborhood,” Gillen said. “We believe this is a very high quality project with a proven developer.”

Huff said she believes the project will get accepted into the DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. It’s a project she said that needs to be done for the Hamilton Hill neighborhood.

“If it’s left in its current condition, [the parcels] would continue to have a blighting effect on the community,” Huff said.

Gillen said Metroplex would try to find other funding sources if the project wasn’t included in the cleanup program. But he said getting those tax credits from the DEC are “crucial.”

“It would be harmful to the project and we would have to work with the developer to seek other financing,” Gillen said. ‘It would cause issues, for sure.”

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