September 14, 2012

Standing at Niagara River World in Tonawanda, Gillibrand Announces Legislation to Revitalize Inactive Waterfront Industrial Sites

Legislation Would Help Develop a 100-Acre Brownfield Site Along the Niagara River Into a Mixed-Use Property

Tonawanda, NY – Standing at Niagara River World in the Town of Tonawanda, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Supervisor Anthony Caruana and Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka, today introduced new legislation to revitalize inactive industrial sites. The site, a priority project in the Town’s Master Plan and once home to one of the region’s largest steel plants, consists of over 100 acres of privately owned land, that when developed would be utilized for both economic development, recreation and habitat preservation. The Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act would award grants to local government and nonprofits that redevelop abandoned, idled or underused industrial properties on waterfronts. Brownfields are inactive facilities where expansion is often complicated by environmental contamination. The grants authorized in the legislation would spur economic development and protect the environment by cleaning up and developing dormant industrial facilities and reconnecting communities with their waterfronts through the revitalization of these sites.  

“Niagara River World sits on this beautiful waterfront – bursting with potential for economic growth,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “New York’s industrial economy powered us through the 20th century, and put sites like this on the map. Now we have an opportunity to revitalize our communities, attract new businesses and create new jobs, and make our waterfront a place for Western New Yorkers to live, work and raise a family. This commonsense bill can harness the potential for our waterfronts to drive our local economy, and help the Town of Tonawanda thrive.” 

“The Town of Tonawanda stands at the threshold of reclaiming a key section of its waterfront after nearly 100 years,” said Supervisor Caruana. “Although a significant portion of the former Wickwire Steel plant has been remediated, several more steps are needed to transform the site into a center of economic activity once again. The Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act would give us critical resources to complete our goal of sustainable development along the Niagara River – for us and for future generations.“

Concept plans for the Niagara River World site focus on office and mixed-use space, and would make extensive use of green space, trails and amenities – such as a banquet facility – to highlight beautiful views of the Niagara River.  Preliminary studies project 500,000 square-feet of building space valued at $20 million, generating more than $1.3 million in property taxes. The project would support more than 600 jobs. In order to complete the redevelopment of the site, an estimated $2.1 million would be required to complete demolition and site clearance. 

Niagara River World is immediately adjacent to another 70 acres of land – once part of the same steel plant – that has been remediated and made ready for use as parkland. The parkland will highlight natural habitats along the Niagara River, as well as the town’s early history along the Erie Canal. Together, these projects would create continuous public access of nearly a mile along the Niagara River shoreline, bringing together the environmental, economic and cultural heritage of the Town of Tonawanda. 

Under Senator Gillibrand’s Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act, entities and nonprofits would apply for competitive grants up to $500,000 for the remediation, reuse or site characterization and assessment of brownfields properties. Additionally, the legislation would establish a task force to examine existing and potential funding, methods to coordinate waterfront brownfields revitalization, and identify barriers to solutions and technical assistance.  The task force would  be commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and would include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state and local government, and community-based organizations. The legislation would authorize $220 million each fiscal year from 2013-2017.