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Brownfield cleanup slated for North Tonawanda apartment site

NORTH TONAWANDA – Once a brownfield cleanup is completed, an Erie County real estate development firm plans to build about 110 units of apartments and town homes on a Niagara River waterfront site.

Lucian Visone of Clarence, who with Jeffry Rockoff of Amherst owns Rock One Development, presented the idea to the North Tonawanda Planning Board in the past month.

Visone said he intends to seek the necessary approval for his project while the environmental cleanup is going on.

The 5.95-acre site was home to Niagara Iron Works, later Tonawanda Iron Works, from 1886 to 1972, according to Kristen Davidson of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mayor Robert G. Ortt is enthusiastic about the project, dubbed “600 River Road Apartments” after its address. “Anytime you can put residential [property] on the waterfront, that’s where people want to be. It certainly fits with our master plan of what we want on our waterfront,” Ortt said.

“It’s got about 400 feet of frontage on the Niagara River. It’s right next to a marina. It’s got a beautiful view,” Visone said. He said he and Rockoff knew about the old industrial contamination when they bought the site in May 2012 for $340,000.

Eventually, the phased construction is to result in three buildings of 24 or 25 units each, with accompanying town homes. All the units will be for rent, Visone said. He anticipates asking about $1,200 per month in rent.

The only building standing on the site is a 2,940-square-foot metal warehouse, which Visone said he’d like to convert into a community center for the residents of his development.

The DEC says after the iron works shut down, the site was inactive until AJ Marine opened in 1988 and continued its retailing business until 2008.

The DEC’s site report says there is an assortment of dubious fill on the site, including old slag extending as much as 12 feet below the surface. Cinders, brick fragments, concrete, and coal stained with iron also are found. Chemicals believed to be in the fill include arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead and zinc.

Visone said the cleanup work will start soon and last for “several months.”

Public comment on the remedial plan is being accepted by the DEC until May 17. The documentation is available for review in the North Tonawanda Public Library, 505 Meadow Drive.