September 14, 2012

Standing at the Former Vacuum Oil Site, Gillibrand, Slaughter Announce Legislation to Revitalize Inactive Waterfront Industrial Sites

Legislation Would Help Develop A Brownfield Site Along The Genesee River Into Mixed Use Property In Rochester’s Southwest Neighborhood

Rochester, NY – Standing at the former Vacuum Oil site, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, joined by Mayor Thomas S. Richards, along with southwest neighborhood leaders John Curran and Dorothy Hall, today introduced new legislation to revitalize inactive industrial sites. The Vacuum Oil Brownfields Opportunity Area (BOA) is a collection of public and privately held properties along the Genesee River.  The City of Rochester is currently undertaking master planning activities at this site for mixed use purposes. The Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act would award grants to local government and nonprofits that redevelop abandoned, idled or underused industrial properties on waterfronts. Waterfront brownfields are inactive sites adjacent to a body of water 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.  

“The entire South Genesee River Corridor 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 Upstate New Yorkers to live, work and raise a family. This common sense bill can harness the potential for our waterfronts to drive our local economy, and help Rochester thrive.” 

“Since I first introduced this bill in 2008, I have worked with the City of Rochester to reconnect our community with the Genesee River waterfront after decades of environmental contamination,” said Rep. Slaughter. “As the City seeks assistance with its third and final stage of revitalizing the Vacuum Oil site, I am continuing my efforts to cut bureaucratic red tape for the revitalization of this site and other such areas that dot the waterfronts of Western New York and across the country.  With this legislation, cities and the federal government will partner together in revitalizing our waterfronts into vibrant engines of economic activity, job creation and community development.”   

“I commend Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Slaughter for their untiring efforts to help improve our cities and communities throughout New York State,” said Mayor Thomas S. Richards.  “Their legislation will provide important financial and technical resources to municipalities like Rochester who must deal with difficult waterfront brownfield challenges. Ultimately, it will help stimulate job creation and economic development.” 

The Former Vacuum Oil Site is a 25-acre waterfront brownfield centrally located within an area that has received New York State funding and designation as a BOA.  This BOA sits on the western bank of the Genesee River and falls within the South Genesee River Corridor. This BOA is generally located on the western bank of the Genesee River between the Ford Street Bridge and the railroad bridge crossing, recently reopened for pedestrian use, connected to the University of Rochester campus. 

The City of Rochester is nearing the completion of the BOA nomination study phase of the planning program.  The City is also gearing up for additional environmental investigation of several City-owned parcels located on the former Vacuum Oil site.   The City’s BOA project involves completion of a planning level study to gauge feasible and realistic redevelopment scenarios for the property that considers a range of existing conditions, including economic and market conditions, as well as environmental ones. The City for the past two years has been working with the PLEX (Plymouth Exchange) neighborhood to identify preferred future land uses and to develop a land use master plan for the entire BOA study area.   The BOA Project goals include an inventory and assessment of existing conditions in the neighborhood associated with brownfields properties, vacant and underutilized sites; the development of a vision and community consensus on the future of the neighborhood, including specific uses of strategic sites identified during the process; determining viable redevelopment alternatives for the Vacuum Oil site and other sites of strategic importance; coordination with local community members, regional partners, and state and federal agencies; and the exploration of public-private partnerships that will help Rochester leverage investment in the study area to spur both environmental cleanup and revitalization throughout the neighborhood and enhance this strategically located study area. 

Under Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Slaughter’s Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act, public 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.