Turning around brownfields in Binghamton

By Perry Russom

October 3, 2013 Updated Oct 3, 2013 at 11:56 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Blueprint Binghamton continues its goal to make the city "blight-free" by handling contaminated sites.

On Thursday, they held a panel at the Roberson Museum and discussed brownfields.

Brownfields are abandoned buildings or areas that have a hazardous substance or have the potential presence of a hazardous substance.

Broome County's Chief Planner Frank Evangelisti said real contamination is easy to deal with because the county is able to quantify the damage.

He said it's the perceived contamination that's the larger issue.

"'The biggest issue is people thinking they're worse than they are," said Evangelisti. "Thinking that the cost of clean-up is far greater than it is, so once you get in and establish what the costs truly are, it becomes a lot easier to redevelop those sites."

Evangelisti said developers are hesitant to invest in these properties because of the liability of potential contamination.

The brownfields in the county are mostly old rundown factories or warehouses from the industrial boom.

Some are old Endicott-Johnson and IBM factories that had a number of chemical spills over the years.

"Where there's development pressure, where there's development interest, brownfields get redeveloped," said Evangelisti. "When there's not, then they sit idle, so we try to generate development interest in these sites."

One of the buildings that was turned around is the old EJ Victory Building in Johnson City.

When the building was in it's prime, it was the home to a shoe factory.

It was left abandoned after chemical spills built up over the years.

After cleaning up and controlling the contamination, it was turned into a storage facility.

Right across the street from the building is a Walmart. That used to be a brownfield, too.

It was an EJ site that was contaminated before the county came in and turned it around.

To help in cleaning up these sites, the county is using a number of grants and funds for the projects.

One of those funds comes from taxing hotels, which brings in $200,000 and 300,000 a year.