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For Release: Thursday, January 30, 2020

DEC Announces New Agreement with State and Local Partners to Redevelop and Revitalize Blighted Properties in Onondaga County

Measure Helps Remove Obstacles to Put Properties Back on Tax Rolls and Address Contamination to Protect Communities

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced a new cooperative agreement with State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Onondaga County, the city of Syracuse, and the Greater Syracuse Land Bank to promote the redevelopment of dozens of brownfield properties in Onondaga County. The agreement, modeled after a similar effort in Suffolk County in 2016, is designed to help remove brownfield properties from tax foreclosure lists and help put them back into productive use, while also addressing potential contamination that could be present.

"This new state-local partnership, modeled after a similar successful agreement implemented in Suffolk County, will help reverse blight, turn delinquent properties into new businesses, and clean up brownfields to create a healthier, more prosperous Onondaga County," Commissioner Seggos said. "Governor Andrew Cuomo is committed to providing local governments with resources to grow economies and revitalize neighborhoods, and DEC will continue using tools like this agreement to promote redevelopment across the state."

"New York's Oil Spill Fund is successfully helping communities clean up polluted properties. This important agreement utilizes the Greater Syracuse Land Bank to restore to the tax rolls 138 properties in Onondaga County, the city of Syracuse, and more than a dozen towns from Lysander to Marcellus," said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who administers the fund. "Some properties are less than an acre or as large as 21 acres, but all of the properties will be redeveloped. This is a great example of state and local government working together for a combined environmental and economic purpose."

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank works with Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse to address problems stemming from vacant, abandoned, tax delinquent, and underutilized properties by taking title to tax delinquent, tax foreclosed, vacant, or abandoned residential, commercial, or industrial properties. Once acquired, the properties are repurposed, redeveloped, resold, and ultimately restored to the tax rolls. The process can be complicated by the presence of contamination on brownfield sites.

To address concerns such as liability, cost recovery, and access to potentially contaminated sites, the agreement helps remove these and other obstacles that prevent the economic development of vacant and underused properties. The agreement allows the Land Bank, city, and county to foreclose or take title of properties that are contaminated or potentially contaminated without becoming liable under State and Federal environmental laws. The agreement also provides a mechanism for sharing sale proceeds from properties to help cover costs incurred by the state for the cleanup of contamination. If a site requires a cleanup, today's agreement requires the developer and/or new property owner to enter one of DEC's remedial programs, such as the Brownfield Cleanup Program or the Spill Response program, which is funded by the Office of the State Comptroller's (OSC) New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund.

"This agreement solidifies the shared interest by New York State and our local partners in ensuring that environmental issues associated with brownfields do not interfere with the return of the properties to local tax rolls, and that environmental issues are timely and appropriately addressed to protect public health and the environment," said DEC Region 7 Director Matthew Marko. "We look forward to continuing to work together to use the cleanup tools available to help create a healthier and more prosperous city and county."

Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon, II, said, "The DEC is providing the County with another tool to help us return blighted properties back to a productive use. This agreement with the State continues to move forward our agenda of fighting poverty, improving infrastructure and increasing economic development."

"I'm very pleased this cooperative agreement is moving forward to address longtime, delinquent brownfield properties in the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County," said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. "For far too long, these contaminated properties have negatively impacted neighborhoods, property values and economic opportunity in the City. I look forward to working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation, the State Comptroller's Office, Greater Syracuse Land Bank, and Onondaga County to implement the agreement. It gives us a new tool to address dozens of tax delinquent brownfield sites in the City."

Katelyn Wright, Executive Director of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, said, "Land banks were created to return vacant and abandoned properties to productive use. For many years we, along with local governments, have struggled to address vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties which were environmentally contaminated due to the potential liability associated with owning these properties. Those concerns are greatly diminished by this agreement. We are extremely grateful for the DEC's support and creativity. This groundbreaking agreement will enable us to work with the City and County to do what we were created to do."

There are currently 138 properties identified in the agreement, with flexibility to amend the county-wide list in the future. The properties are located in Syracuse, Camillus, Cicero, Clay, Dewitt, East Syracuse, Jamesville, Jordan, Liverpool, Lysander, Marcellus, North Syracuse, Salina, and Van Buren, and range in size from less than one acre to more than 21 acres.

The Onondaga County-based agreement is modeled on a similar agreement DEC enacted in Suffolk County in 2016 between DEC, OSC, Suffolk County, and the Suffolk County Land Bank, which has already helped facilitate the sale, cleanup, and redevelopment of several tax delinquent brownfields. The agreement, combined with other Suffolk County Land Bank efforts, has helped generate more than $2 million in sales revenue, over $350,000 in annual taxes, and more than $7 million in back taxes collected from tax delinquent property owners. DEC has provided clean up guidance and funding for these properties in Suffolk County and received more than $469,000 from the sale of three properties as a result of the historic agreement.

For more information about DEC's cleanup programs, visit DEC's website.

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