City: Crawford Property Cleanup After Fire Will Be Costly

Pictured is the site of the former Crawford Furniture building, located at 1061 Allen St. City officials are coordinating with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency to create a plan for clean-up. City officials are also working to hold the owner accountable and avoid taxpayers paying for the clean-up of the property. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

The cleanup for the fire at the former Crawford Furniture property is expected to cost more than $1 million.

On Monday, City Councilwoman Marie Carrubba, D-Ward IV, asked Crystal Surdyk, Department of Development director, for an update regarding the fire at the Crawford building, located at 1061 Allen St. Carruba also asked Surdyk if the property owners, Richard and Patricia Rusiniak, had insurance on the property.

“There is no insurance to my knowledge,” Surdyk said.

When asked by Councilwoman Regina Brackman, D-Ward III, about the cause of the Crawford Furniture building fire, Surdyk told the City Council Housing Committee that the cause of the fire has still not been identified.

“We don’t have cause yet,” she said. “Things are still under investigation as far as I know. We are trying to continue to pursue accountability of the owner, which we will absolutely be doing.”

Pictured are Councilman Brent Sheldon, R-Ward I, Councilwoman Regina Brackman, D-Ward III, and Councilwoman Marie Carrubba, D-Ward IV, at Monday’s City Council work session meeting.

City officials estimate the Crawford Furniture property is about three times as large as the former Royal Upholstery manufacturing building, located at 308 Crescent St., which also was destroyed by a fire in June 2021.

Due to the size of the Crawford Furniture building property, city officials anticipate the cost to clean up the site will be three times as much as the previous furniture building fire.

“It’s likely going to be well over $1 million,” Surdyk said.

Surdyk told the Housing Committee that the city is doing everything possible to prevent taxpayers from having to pay for the cost of the property cleanup. She explained the city is working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation to determine the best course for the city to take.

“There are a lot of moving parts right now,” she said. “We have been coordinating with the EPA. The DEC was involved, and there is probably going to continue to be a lot of interaction with those different agencies as we put together a plan for cleanup.”

If the city had to pay for the clean-up of the property, Surdyk acknowledged it would “wipe out” the city’s demolition budget approved for next year.

“This would not help to have that burden on the taxpayers,” Carrubba said.

While Surdyk acknowledged the city had not received a “formal commitment” from the EPA regarding the clean-up of the property, she explained the city has been in conversation with the agency and has requested the EPA to utilize their removal program to help with the demolition and clean-up of the Allen St. property.

According to Surdyk, the EPA has been actively involved with the Allen St. property for the past year and a half.

“We began that conversation with the EPA a year and a half ago for that exact reason,” she said. “We reached out to them a year and a half ago in anticipation that something catastrophic like this could happen simply because of the condition of the building and because of the number of incidents that we were aware of for vandalism and theft and a lot of activity there. It was sort of trying to be proactive knowing that we did not have the resources should something like that happen.”

Surdyk said several barrels of hazardous materials were removed from the Crawford Furniture building over the past year and a half. Thanks to the city’s coordination efforts with the DEC and the EPA, a more extreme tragedy was prevented.

“It could have been a much more disastrous event than it was,” she said. “We’re certainly grateful for that, but now we have a major pile of debris that does contain asbestos and there were some barrels of hazardous materials that remained.”

While the city is continuing to coordinate clean-up efforts with the EPA and the DEC before implementing a plan for the safe clean-up of the property, Surdyk told the City Council that the EPA recently put a fence around the property to prevent additional incidents at the Crawford Furniture building location.


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