Formerly part of the city’s IBM campus, the land is owned by Alan L. Ginsberg and contains piles of asbestos-containing materials seemingly weighing multiple tons, as well as two vacant, asbestos-containing buildings now open to the surrounding environment.
The site is near a residential area and sits close to athletic fields used by a children’s soccer league.
Ginsberg’s various Tech City LLCs hold different properties on the campus and owe $12 million in back property and school taxes, according to Ulster County. The carcinogenic buildings and debris piles have complicated the county foreclosing on parts of the site.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced the decision, made by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“Ginsberg has taken what used to be the crown jewel of our County’s economy and turned it into a festering wound. He is worse than a slumlord and I am thrilled the EPA has taken this extraordinary step holding him personally accountable for his history of bad actions,” he said.
Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley said the town has tried to work with Ginsberg in the past.
“We’ve afforded him every accommodation under our code,” he said. “We have not been rewarded with him keeping his word or delivering anything that would fix the problem,” he said.
Ginsberg’s Tech City Site
The site is not being placed on the National Priorities List under the Superfund Program, a designation given to the most dire hazardous waste sites, such as the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn and the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics site in Hoosick Falls.
Still, the EPA has powers to compel Ginsberg to clean the site under the law. He will first be given the chance to remediate the property. If he does not, remediation is taken over by the EPA, which can then use its powers to refund itself from Ginsberg and his holdings.
Ginsberg must notify the EPA of his intentions by Dec. 30, including how he plans to fund the remediation and what firms he will hire, according to the EPA’s notification to Ginsberg.
The buildings on the site were being worked on by an asbestos abatement company in the summer of 2016 when the state Department of Labor issued a stop work notification because of violations pertaining to handling hazardous materials, according to the EPA notification.
The asbestos abatement company, Newburgh-based A2 Environmental Solutions, was included in the EPA notification and will most likely have to join in remediating the site, according to the EPA.
The EPA inspected the site in May 2017 after being contacted by Ulster County officials and found one asbestos-containing building partially demolished, a second unsecured, and a 40-foot trailer stuffed with hundreds of bags of the hazardous material, according to the EPA notification.
The buildings were secured by Tech City with EPA oversight that December, but these interim measures were “clearly not adequate,” according to the EPA notification.
The debris piles were reclassified as asbestos-containing in April 2018 by the state Department of Labor, according to the EPA.
The EPA could not give an estimate of how much the ordered remediation will cost, but the Ulster County Executive’s Office estimated it would cost millions.
Holding Ulster County’s Economy “Hostage”
Ulster County Executive Ryan and others stressed the importance of the Tech City site, where IBM once employed as many as 7,000 people.
“[Ginsberg] has essentially held our county’s real economic development prospects hostage. That is going to end, and this is a big step in ending it,” Ryan said.
Ginsberg owns 258 acres at the former economic powerhouse, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Town of Ulster Supervisor Quigley said the most economically viable part of the property was not any of the existing buildings, but 92 acres of vacant land.
“I expect County Executive Ryan to keep his word and to foreclose on those 92 acres,” he said. “They are the key…to the economic revival of this parcel,” he said.
Ryan displayed a photo of one of Ginsberg’s possible properties, a $1.6 million beachside residence in Miami, implying to reporters Ginsberg was a wealthy man despite owing million of back taxes and part of Tech City being foreclosed upon.
The EPA suggests Ginsberg also owns an $800,000 address in Rhinebeck and a $1.6 million property in Las Vegas, but the agency still had to confirm this information, according to correspondence between Ulster County and the EPA.
The EPA sent its notice to Ginsberg Dec. 11. His attorney did not immediately respond to the notice or acknowledge its acceptance and did not confirm he was representing Ginsberg by Dec. 13, according to the correspondence.