(WBNG Binghamton) New York Senator Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday called on the Air Force to step up and release a firm timeline for the demolition of the vacant BAE Systems site in Westover in the Town of Union, so that the community can save on maintenance costs and begin the process of redevelopment.
According to a news release from Schumer's office:
BAE Systems was severely flooded during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 to the point of inhabitability; Schumer has since pushed to keep BAE and its 1,300 jobs in the Southern Tier, and subsequently turned his focus to the shut down and demolition of the vacant facility owned by the Department of Defense. The local Industrial Development Agency (IDA) holds the contract for deed on the property and is paying maintenance costs to keep the shuttered building secure until demolition begins. Schumer explained that the IDA and the community are eager to renovate the dilapidated site and require a definite timeline for its demolition in order to plan its long-term redevelopment.
Schumer said today that the DoD, specifically the Air Force, must step up and provide a timeline for the demolition of this site, in order to prevent the former BAE facility from becoming a blight on the community and a sinkhole for local resources while the site is in a holding pattern. Following a 2012 meeting in Schumer’s office, the Department of Defense had agreed to help plan for a new use for the old site to ensure that it does not weigh down local businesses. Noting the significant amount of time that the facility has stood empty, Schumer said that the Air Force must update Broome County and local stakeholders as to their plans for this site.
“The bottom line is that Broome County has made tremendous strides in rebuilding and rebounding from the damaging flood of 2011. The federal government must do all it can to support these efforts, and the removal and cleanup of this site is just what is in order,” Schumer said. “Funds are being expended to keep this site secure, and real work to create a future for this site is stymied while the community awaits demolition. Stakeholders are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, and we cannot allow any more time to pass without a plan.”
“We are eager to have the former BAE building removed, cleaned up and ready for new opportunity. Time and money, that could be better spent elsewhere, are being used to keep this site secure as we await demolition,” said Kevin McLaughlin Broome County IDA Executive Director. “A shovel ready site holds countless possibilities, and it is time we move forward with our flood recovery and find a new use for this site that will have real benefit to the community. I thank Senator Schumer for his efforts to get us some answers, so we can get to work on the future of this site.”
“We applaud Senator Schumer’s efforts in moving forward with this project,” says Broome County Executive Debbie Preston. “We hope this process is a quick and smooth one.”
After BAE’s Town of Union facility was severely damaged in the flooding, BAE had considered moving out of the Southern Tier, in part due to the high costs of closing down their facility, which is owned by the Air Force. Following the flood, Schumer personally spoke with Defense Secretary Panetta, Air Force Secretary Donley, FEMA Administrator Fugate, and top BAE officials urging them to work together on a plan to keep BAE in the Southern Tier. After repeated calls and meetings, the Air Force committed to helping to pay for a significant portion of the costs associated with closing down the damaged facility, paving the way for BAE to officially sign a lease agreement to remain in the Southern Tier, which Schumer announced in March 2012.
Schumer continued, “My first priority was ensuring that BAE System’s 1,300 jobs were safe and sound in the Southern Tier. With BAE in its new facility and Southern Tier workers on the job, I have pivoted to ensure that the former BAE site in the Town of Union is not left a blight on the community. In March of 2012, the Department of Defense and Air Force committed to ensuring that the former facility, which they own, is shut down and demolished as quickly as possible. Now, over a year and a half later, that still has not happened, and I’m calling on the Air Force to provide a firm timeline for the long-awaited removal of this vacant eyesore, which is a drag on the community and the businesses that surround it.”