The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Brownsfield Program is coordinating efforts with several tribal programs to remove abandoned homes and other unsafe structures in Akwesasne. Pictured is excavator operator Christopher Adams, Lazore’s Construction, who removed the first of fifteen old structures that was located on Raquette Point Road on Monday, November 26, 2018.
Published December 5, 2018
Tribal Council Funds Public Safety Enhancements
AKWESASNE — The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Brownfields Program is moving forward with the demolition of abandoned homes in Akwesasne following Tribal Council’s allocation of $127,000 from the Community Development Investment Fund. On November 26, 2018; several tribal programs worked together to safely demolish the first of fifteen abandoned homes in a joint effort to remove unsafe structures in the community.
“The initiative to identify and demolish abandoned homes began in 2015 with a callout for individuals interested in having a Phase I Assessment conducted on old structures located on their properties,” said the Tribe’s Brownfields Redevelopment Specialist Julia Jacobs. Jacobs added, “These assessments entailed the identification of structures that may pose a danger to human health and the environment, which included collecting information on any hazardous substances and other potential contamination.”
Limited funding prevented any movement on the abandoned homes until this year when an EPA Brownfields Grant provided $10,000 in funding for ten abandoned homes to undergo Phase I Assessments. Based on the assessments, five of the structures have been approved for demolition by the end of 2018 and are located on Raquette Point Road, Frogtown Road, Jock Road, St. Regis Road and Route 37. The remaining ten structures however, must undergo further investigation and a possible Phase II Assessment due to the presence of potential hazards.
The expense to demolish all fifteen homes was not funded and is estimated at $127,000; which includes the cost of labor, fuel for an excavator and transporting materials, transfer station tipping fees, and to purchase clean fill to leave property owners with the ability to redevelop the land. To help in this effort, the Tribe’s Agriculture Program has loaned an excavator, Planning & Infrastructure provided a dump truck, Emergency Planning Office supplied a list of unsafe structures for prioritizing, and the Solid Waste Transfer Station is receiving the materials to sort and ready for transporting to a land fill.
“Having a safe and healthy environment for every tribal member continues to be a priority for us,” noted the Tribal Council. As a result of the Brownsfield Program not receiving external funding to complete their work, the Tribal Council identified it as a priority to help improve public safety and address public health concerns. They added, “We are proud to support the Brownfield Program in completing their work of safely removing dangerous structures in the community. This would not have been possible without funding from the Community Development Investment Fund and represents the most recent opportunity to utilize patent funds to improve the wellbeing of tribal members.”
Demolition of the fifteen abandoned homes is expected to last more than one year and represents a start, as the Brownfields Program estimates there are upwards of 150 old structures located throughout the community. Although some property owners may not consider the structures to be “abandoned”, they still have negative impacts on the community. They pose safety hazards, environmental concerns, and are susceptible to pests, mold, illegal trespassing, drug use, arson, as well as an eyesore for any developing tourism industry.
Removing all of the concerns associated with unsafe structures is a benefit, but an even greater benefit is that the property owners may use their newly cleared areas for other purposes; such as building a new home, developing a business, planting a garden or trees, or for selling the property.