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Gillibrand pushes cleanup program for post-industrial waterfronts

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand did one of her bill-promoting swings through upstate New York on Friday. This one was for money to help cities redevelopment their once industrial waterfronts.

The democratic senator stopped in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse to promote the Waterfront Brownfields Redevelopment Act.

The program would create $500,000 grants for governments and nonprofits to be directed towards cleanup activities. And in true Washington fashion, it would also create a special task force on the issue.

"It was a site just like this that helped give New York’s strong manufacturing tradition the ability to power us through the 20th century and put us on the map," Gillibrand said while standing alongside Syracuse's Inner Harbor. "But in the wake of decades of watching businesses shut down, factories close and jobs sent overseas; it’s sites like this that have some of the worst economic decline."

The program comes on the heels of upstate cities already making efforts to improve their waterfronts.

Buffalo is in the midst of a $50 million dredging project of the Buffalo River and is working to get more people to visit the shores of Lake Erie.

In Utica, a capping program got underway this month at its harbor.

Syracuse this summer approved a large redevelopment of its Inner Harbor. A developer will spend $350 million building a hotel, living and retail spaces and a satellite campus for the local community college. It first needs to spend an estimated $11 million on environmental cleanup of the site.

The prospect of redeveloping the Inner Harbor has Syracuse's mayor excited.

"It is an incredibly rare opportunity that we in the city of Syracuse have to take underdeveloped waterfront property and build an entire new neighborhood," mayor Stephanie Miner says.

But Gillibrand admitted during her stop at Syracuse's Inner Harbor that this was an issue for after the election.

"This kind of idea isn't a Democrat... or Republican idea, it's a very good common sense idea that, frankly, creates opportunity for economic growth in a very productive way," Gillibrand says.

Development of Syracuse's Inner Harbor is scheduled to take five to seven years, so there may be plenty of time.

You can follow reporter Ryan Delaney on Twitter @RyanWRVO

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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