September 9, 2009

Despite Financial Woes, Gun Factory Clean-Up Continues

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Financial setbacks facing the City of Ithaca have led to a halt over the summer in the cleanup of debris around the site of the former Ithaca Gun Factory, whose demolition began last November.
The entire process was broken down into two phases, where phase one involved the demolition of the building, including the complete removal of debris. The second phase entails the early development of the site for the construction of high-end condominiums in the near future, a project that would cost many millions.
The Restore New York Program, managed by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD), aims to take blighted areas in the state and restore vitality to the region by sponsoring development and construction, including the land upon which the Ithaca Gun Factory once stood. [img_assist|nid=37908|title=Demolition zone|desc=The Ithaca Gun Factory has been demolished since last spring and clean-up of the site is still underway despite setbacks during the summer involving a lack of funds.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=223]
The program provided the City of Ithaca with a total of $2.3 million towards the demolition and development of the gun factory site. An initial allocation of $1.46 million towards demolition and clean-up meant that the remaining $860,000 would go towards redevelopment of the land for 33 upscale condominiums, led by developer Frost Travis, in addition to a public walkway that will overlook the Ithaca Falls.
The cleanup of the 125-year-old dilapidated factory site, which used to house the Ithaca Gun Company, had previously raised concerns over the management of on-site toxins, which were the products of over 100 years of firearm production and testing at the site.
Originally slated for completion before the arrival of students for the fall semester, phase one has yet to be completed as financial setbacks have left the City of Ithaca unable to pay for the removal of the remaining debris.
Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson attributes the clean-up delay to the discovery of hazardous chemicals at the former factory site.
“O’Brien & Gere [the Syracuse-based developers] discovered that the bricks used to build the Ithaca Gun Factory many years ago actually contained dangerous levels of Barium,” Peterson stated. “Toxic debris cannot be disposed of in a normal landfill. It has to be taken care of accordingly by bringing it to a proper hazardous waste landfill, which is a much more costly procedure.”
It was an unexpected finding, Peterson suggested. However, in order to compensate for the financial shortfalls of the cleanup, the City of Ithaca sent a proposal to the ESD to reallocate the state funds from phase two towards the completion of phase one.
According to Peterson, the developer of the future condominium-site, Travis, fully supported this reallocation of state funds.
“It should only take a couple of weeks to complete the cleanup once the ‘OK’ is given by the ESD,” Peterson added. “It’s still going to be financially tight, because there may be as much as an additional $30,000 necessary, in addition to the reallocated funds, in order to finally complete phase one.”
To students living in nearby areas, like local Gun Hill resident Siddharth Ramshankar ’11, the completion of the phase one debris removal would call for a sigh of relief.
“It’s kind of an eye-sore to be honest. It’s not exactly something you want to be looking at every day. If it was cleared up, the land could actually be put to good use,” Ramshankar said. “I assumed they were cleaning the mess up. Trucks pass by and park at the site almost everyday, but nothing’s ever going on,” he added.
Gary Peng ’11, who is living in Gun Hill for his second year, views the current state of the site as a significant improvement over last year.
“Since demolition was completed over the summer, there is no more debris flying around. The air definitely feels much fresher, and things just seem pretty normal right now,” Peng said. “They’ve done a very good job of maintaining the air quality around the site, so there hasn’t been much of a problem. I believe it’s definitely a step up from before and during demolition.”