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State environmental officials unveiled a plan Monday evening for developing the old Miller Wiper Co. property at Liberty and Kensington avenues.

The 1.9-acre "brownfields" site, long used for illegal dumping, would be returned to the tax rolls as a location for light industrial or commercial development, using funds from the state's Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996.

Envisioned by the city as part of a 16-acre "neighborhood friendly" Eco-Industrial Park, the state's plan for this parcel was outlined during a public meeting in the Kensington-Bailey Community Center by Gerald F. Pietraszek, senior engineering geologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Three oil-contaminated areas were unearthed by a consultant, Ecology and Environment Inc., he said. Contamination at the site also includes some volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, pesticides and several naturally occurring metals.

The state explored options ranging in cost from $18,257 to contain the contamination for commercial use of the land, to $626,765 to prepare the site for home construction.

Pietraszek said the state has opted for a $67,322 plan to prepare the site for commercial development by excavating 310 cubic yards of soil -- about 30 dump truck loads -- from the three trouble areas. Deed restrictions would prevent the rest of the underlying soil from being disturbed in the future.

"The city could then develop this land and not worry about liability," said Martin L. Doster, remediation engineer from Pietraszek's office. "Or the city could sell the rights to develop the land. I'd say development could start soon."

James A. Smith, director of the city's Office for the Environment, lauded the plan.

"We're taking property that people were afraid to take and will make it useful again -- for light industry or commercial use," he said. "The mayor campaigned for the governor's environmental bond act, and the citizens of Buffalo voted for it."

Recalling that the city proposed light-industrial or commercial use of this land, Dennis Sutton of Buffalo's Office of the Environment said this plan should "return the land to the tax rolls, create jobs and help businesses to remain in the city or expand here."

But Charles Breem, president of the Wyoming Avenue Block Club, warned officials to "avoid a 'Son of Miller Wiper' -- don't let it happen this time."

"It's just not going to happen," Smith reassured him. "The residents wouldn't have any problem with a small to medium sized operation."

Miller Wiper Co. occupied the property from 1944 to 1963, after it was given up by Buffalo House Wrecking Co. From 1963 to 1984, Arcade Textile Corp. used it. A fire in 1988 destroyed the two-story brick building, and the city took it over in 1993.

"These smaller sites would be the locus for jobs that these neighborhoods need," Smith said. "We're talking about any kind of light commercial development -- not repair shops, but something like a microchip manufacturer, which would gain easy access to a larger place like American Axle. Or a light electronics operation, or an industrial valves or a hydraulics maker."

Breem stressed that the welfare of neighborhood residents must govern whatever happens to the site.

"We're the ones who stuck it out by living here," Breem said. "If you kill those groups, no matter how much commercial development you have, all you'll have is another bunch of empty commercial buildings in 15 years."

Written comments may be sent by April 17 to Gerald F. Pietraszek, Division of Hazardous Waste Remediation, 270 Michigan Ave., Buffalo 14203.

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