Test results to affect Ogdensburg plans to redevelop psych center land

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OGDENSBURG — The new year should bring word regarding whether there is any soil contamination at a 45-acre parcel of property city officials are trying to acquire at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.

The so-called Parcel A property borders Route 37 and is considered a prime location for development. It is also part of some 160 acres of idle land city officials hope the state eventually will turn over to the municipality.

In late November, a subsurface environmental investigation began at the property. Known in environmental circles as a Phase II assessment, the testing was carried out recently by the engineering and consulting firm Barton & Loguidice and paid for in part with funding from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency.

Ogdensburg Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith said the investigation is aimed at determining whether there is any evidence of petroleum or other hazardous substances in the ground or water at the site.

The land being sought by the city contains several buildings that were used to store coal and transformers. An area near the floor drain in a former residence also was one of the sites tested for contamination, according to officials.

Ms. Smith said the Phase II environmental testing is part of the city’s obligation on the property before taking possession. She said the results of the test will play a role in how the municipality and state move forward with development.

“The next steps depend greatly on the results of the environmental investigation, which we do not yet have,” Ms. Smith said. “However, the findings, whether clean or not, will allow the city to either finalize the terms of the sale or renegotiate the terms of sale with New York state.”

Ms. Smith said the test results also will play a role in how the property is used.

“In turn, this will enable us to negotiate the resale of the property to the private sector for development,” she said.

The testing on the parcel A property was conducted Nov. 28, according to Ms. Smith, and the city is awaiting the results.

In addition to subsurface soil borings and groundwater testing, Ms. Smith said, concrete chip floor samples were taken from one of the buildings and an asbestos survey was done at another.

“No report has been issued to the city with findings to date,” she said.

There are four empty parcels of land comprising some 160 acres along what locals call either Chimney Point or Point Airy on the psych center grounds.

The property hugs the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River.

Although mostly unused, the land is still owned by the state and controlled by the state Office of Mental Health.

Potential redevelopment plans include retail business, housing developments and even a high-tech greenhouse, according to city officials.

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