York City bags $1 million grant to clean up Danskin eyesore

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

More than eight years after Danskin closed its York City clothing factory, the lot sits half-demolished and vacant, with couches and trash piling up amidst an acre of debris.

Thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, city officials are $1 million closer to getting the site cleaned up.

The former Danskin factory on State Street in York City, Thursday, June 8, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

The York City Redevelopment Authority bagged the seven-figure grant Dec. 12, with Gov. Tom Wolf lauding the city’s efforts to rehab the unused property into a 56-unit apartment building on the North State Street property.

Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties has an agreement with the authority to build the housing complex, but before construction can begin, demolition must be finished.

The city’s grant was one of two awarded through the state’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program, with the RDA picking up $1 million — the largest amount possible from the grant program — and Easton getting more than $150,000 for an environmental assessment in that city.

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The grant will be used to remove debris from the Danskin factory’s partial demolition in 2010, including tons of debris containing potentially hazardous materials and asbestos, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

City officials have said they hope to begin cleanup in early 2018.

Toxic site? The Danskin clothing factory was York City’s largest employer for decades before the manufacturer closed in August 2009. 

According to county records, 300 North State Street LP bought the property in 2010 for $260,000, but five years later the Redevelopment Authority stepped in to take ownership of the site. 

The authority purchased the property for $25,000 in July 2015, beginning the multi-year process of cleaning up and redeveloping the eyesore property, which sits next to the Alexander D. Goode School. 

The York City Redevelopment Authority operates under the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development, led by acting director Shilvosky Buffaloe.

After an anonymous tip raised concerns in February about potential toxic materials at the site, officials from the city and York City School District began conducting a series of environmental tests.

An initial test by EHS Environmental Inc. in March found no evidence of past or current air pollution, but the company's report said there are nearly 40,000 pounds of building and materials that likely contain asbestos at the site.

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After EHS issued its report, RDA-hired contractors installed gated fencing around the property to deter trespassing and dumping, Buffaloe said in June. 

Short-term fixes: Contractors also installed a 500-foot silt sock along the western edge of the property to control water runoff at the site, while hazmat removal contractors conducted tests on and removed several drums of potentially hazardous material left behind by Danksin, Buffaloe said.

A York City school director blasted the RDA in June for not pursuing lawsuits against 300 North State Street LP and leaving sections of the property open to trespassers and children at the school next door.

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Though the property is surrounded by fencing, sections of the fence were leaning at 45-degree angles and buckling under the weight of debris, while one section along the property boundary with the Goode school had a 3-foot-tall hole.

The silt sock installed in April had numerous holes in its lining, and a section of it sat in a horseshoe shape several feet from the fence, leaving a gap nearly 10 feet wide for potentially hazardous materials to escape through.