Last Friday, the City of Ithaca received word that it did not qualify for a grant from the Restore New York Program to revitalize the former Ithaca Gun factory site.
In late September, the Ithaca Common Council submitted a grant application to Restore New York in hopes of obtaining funding to remove hazardous materials and redevelop the land. The application was submitted at the recommendation of an engineering firm hired by Wally Diehl, head of the limited liability corporation which co-owns the property along with the City of Ithaca.
In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency performed a $4.8 million cleanup using Superfund resources at the site, located near the Ithaca Falls section of Fall Creek. However, recent tests indicate that contaminants including lead, asbestos and arsenic remain on the property. Several past proposals to clean the site and construct either an office or apartment building fell through prior to the Restore New York grant submission.
The city also learned on Friday that Restore New York rejected its other project proposal; funding for an upgrade to the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, which suffered damages last spring and was subsequently forced to temporarily close.
The Ithaca Journal reported that although no Tompkins County projects were slated to receive funding, the nearby City of Cortland and the Town of Romulus made the list.
According to New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of the 125th district, the city and state have been in discussions with Diehl to fund additional cleanup. However, if he is unable to find the necessary resources, “the responsibility falls back to the State of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation and possibly to the federal EPA that did the recent cleanup of other parts of the site,” Lifton stated.
The City of Ithaca can also submit a second-round application for the Restore New York grant.
According to Ithaca Fire Marshall Tom Parsons, both the City of Ithaca and the DEC have sent legal notices to Diehl requiring that he take certain actions. “One of those notices, from the Building Commissioner, requires the demolition of the building before the end of March 2007,” he stated.
A fire in the abandoned factory this summer caught the attention of several politicians and prompted a renewed effort to revitalize the site. The Ithaca Fire Department has since secured the building and surrounding property to keep out trespassers, and Diehl has hired a private security contractor to patrol the site.
While the initial rejection from the Restore New York program comes as a disappointment to the Ithaca community, the City of Ithaca will continue to pursue other options to fund the Ithaca Gun cleanup project.