October 20, 2021

City gets funding to clean up brownfield

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Elizabeth Kinney of Cortland walks her dog down the Huntington Street sidewalk Wednesday past the nearby railway included in the Cortland brownfields. File photo from August 2018.

The city of Cortland has received funding to begin implementing a clean up plan at a former manufacturing site, unused for almost half a century, that dates back to the 1800s on the city’s south end.

The governor’s office announced this week that $115,000 was awarded to the city to begin cleaning Noss Industrial Park. The funding is part of $4.8 million in grants to help four municipalities clean contamination at sites targeted for redevelopment.

Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency, said there’s infrastructure at the site already to bolster development, including a roadway. Use of the site can begin once the Environmental Remediation Plan through the state Department of Environmental Conservation is finished.

In 2018, the site was part of a larger- scope project aimed at cleaning up vacant, unused or contaminated sites across a portion of the city’s 450 acres of Cortland’s south side and southeast quadrant. Just under $600,000 in grants had been collected for planning rehab efforts.

“It’s a good thing,” VanGorder said. “It allows us one more good development site in the city.”

In 2018, the DEC proposed a cleanup plan for the five-acre Noss Industrial Park site on south Main Street, which could prepare the brownfield for future development — including the removal of soil and monitoring of ground water. The estimated total cost for the cleanup was around $161,000.

An investigation by the DEC of the site identified lead, arsenic, copper and other metals and semi-volatile organic compounds in surface soil in western areas of the site, according to the DEC’s fact sheet.

The was formerly the Rosen Brothers property. It once was home to the Wickwire Brothers Inc. wire factory from about 1866 to 1970, which included a nail mill, netting mill, glass cloth weave mill and several storage buildings.

The city acquired the site in 1988 and it was declared a brownfield by the state in the late 1990s. Areas around Noss Park include South Avenue, south Main Street, Pine Street and Crawford Street.

These are neighborhoods where the striking bones of Victorian architecture hulk above overgrown lawns. The contrast is stark: sinking porches, boarded up windows and unkempt facades.

For decades, the south side of the city lagged other neighborhoods, with more poverty and higher crime. That’s improved — crime and incident reports in that neighborhood are declining, police say, and U.S. Census data since 2000 show the neighborhood is gaining on the rest of the city in household income, educational attainment and property values.

Signs of revival have arrived. An exquisitely built railroad station, a hallmark of better days, now houses CoffeeMania operations. An urban farm, Main Street Farms, was established nearby. And the Crescent Commons building has been renovated and now houses offices and apartments.

Groundwater is 10 to 17 feet below the surface and flows north to northeast toward Huntington and Pendleton streets, although no contamination has migrated off site, the DEC reports.

VanGorder said any development at the site would be better than the trees that are there now. One of the best uses would be manufacturing.