Standing outside the crumbling and hazardous former site of Jamestown’s Crawford Furniture Factory, that just experienced a fire late last year potentially putting public health at risk, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer launched his three-pronged plan to clean up the community eyesore and turn the hazardous building into a site for new opportunity.
First, Schumer said he is calling for the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bolster their presence at the site and launch a full investigation and coordinate with Jamestown to bring all resources to bare to ensure the continued safety of the community. Second, the senator highlighted that he secured $5 billion for the EPA’s critical Brownfields and Superfund programs, and reinstated the Superfund tax to ensure long term funding was available for these cleanups. This funding is exactly what this site needs as Jamestown and EPA move forward towards a possible Superfund cleanup action.
“Given the City’s deep and storied history in our nation’s furniture-making business, the Crawford Furniture Factory was a beating heart for Jamestown, but for too long this hazardous crumbling building has sat as an eyesore, and as the recent fire showed its continued presence only puts our public health and environment at risk. Jamestown is doing everything it can, but the cost of cleanup should not fall on local taxpayers for this contaminated site,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why we need a full investigation and to move quickly and efficiently towards a Superfund cleanup action, drawing on the historic funding I secured in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to make this hazardous relic of the past into a site of new development and growth for Jamestown’s future.”
“I would like to thank Senator Schumer for his support in trying to secure funding through the EPA for our cleanup of the 1061 Allen Street site”, said Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist. “Thanks to the brave work of our Jamestown Fire Department and our mutual aid partners, we were able to extinguish the fire with no serious injuries and minimal damage to surrounding businesses. This devastating fire was something that no municipality can truly prepare for. Funds for cleanup will help us recover and help ensure that our residents aren’t on the hook for the irresponsible actions of the owner of the building.”
“Senator Schumer’s support is vital for the City to receive the funding required to clean up the Crawford Factory site”, said Jamestown Director of Development Crystal Surdyk. “Without these funds, the City will face serious fiscal distress. Thanks to our work with the EPA and other State and Federal agencies prior to the fire, we are well-positioned and determined to hold the property owner accountable to ensure that Jamestown’s taxpayers do not bear the financial burden of this devastating event.”
The former Crawford Furniture Factory property located at 1061 Allen Street in Jamestown was once part of the areas rich historical legacy as the “Furniture Capital of the World.” Historical records indicate the site has been developed and used for industrial uses since 1883, and based on the age and industrial processes uses at the building it is possible asbestos and other chemicals are present at the site. The current owner has abandoned the facility, and according Jamestown, the property has been tax delinquent since 2018. In late November, the building went up in flames risking the releases of possibly hazardous substances posing a potential threat to public health and safety.
Schumer said Jamestown has followed every precaution necessary to mitigate any potential threat. However the rapidness in which the building came down from the fire, Schumer said, necessitates further EPA attention as they pursue efforts to clean up the site.
Schumer explained that the cleanup necessary at the Allen Street site is already projected to be a significant financial burden to the City of Jamestown, and beyond their current resources, and therefore it is imperative the EPA do everything in their power to help cleanup this site and protect neighboring businesses, residents and the community.
The senator said the first step is for the EPA to complete a full investigation of the site, using its authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-510) more commonly known as the Superfund program. If EPA finds immediate risks to health and public safety, EPA can then perform a Superfund Removal Action to engage a short-term response to protect the public. What differentiates this from traditional Superfund work is it does not depend on if the site is listed on the National Priorities List.
If EPA deems it necessary, this Superfund Removal Action could be funded through the historic investments Schumer was able to secure in the bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding includes $3.5 billion for the Superfund program and $1.5 billion for the Brownfield program, including, $300 million for Brownfields categorical grants to support the development of and progress being made under state-led Brownfields efforts.
Schumer explained that historically, cleaning up Brownfields can cost millions of dollars, and, until recently, little funding from the federal government had been available to help local municipalities deal with those high costs. The $1.2 billion in competitive grants can be used to help Jamestown fund everything from the physical cleanup, to revolving loan funds and developing job-training programs to support the revitalization of the site. Schumer said that especially as New York emerges from the pandemic, the cleanup of these legacy industrial sites is especially important to maximize the economic and environmental recovery of our most vulnerable communities like those in Western NY.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the EPA appears below:
Dear Administrator Regan:
I write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bolster its presence at Jamestown’s former Crawford Furniture Factory site in order to conduct a thorough investigation and expeditiously provide federal resources for removal action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Over the course of its history the former Crawford Furniture Factory site has been used for various industrial and manufacturing uses. Due to the site’s history, it has a known presence of hazardous substances such acetone, toluene, chromium and asbestos. On November 16, 2022, the situation was made even worse when a fire destroyed the property, likely releasing volatile materials including asbestos into the environment. Not only did the initial release of these substances endanger first responders and the nearby community, but each day the debris continues to sit poses an even greater threat to the community.
While the City of Jamestown has done great work in the containment of this site, following every precaution necessary to mitigate any potential threat, the recent fire necessitates federal action. The removal of the contaminated debris is a technical and financial challenge better suited for the EPA. I urge you to expeditiously conduct an investigation of this site in order for it to be added to the Superfund Site list and receive necessary federal aid. This federal aid will be crucial to ensuring the safety of the neighboring community.
Thank you for your attention to this important request. Please feel free to contact my staff with any questions.