Zoning Change Could Shape Marathon Site’s Future

Marathon Battery

The site of the former Marathon Battery property on Kemble Avenue, looking north (Photo by M. Turton)

Would allow homes, offices, retail, parking on empty Kemble lot

A proposed zoning change could determine the future of the former Marathon Battery property, Cold Spring’s last remaining, significant tract of undeveloped, privately owned land. 

The classification of the nearly 12-acre field on Kemble Avenue, zoned Office-Light Industry, will change to Mixed Use as part of an ongoing update of the Village Code. That revision was one of many presented at a public hearing on Sept. 7, which considered four existing chapters of the code and one addition. 

In addition to the property on Kemble, the eastern portion of the south side of Rock Street would become part of the Mixed-Use Zone. 

Pamela Tames, a remedial project manager at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, confirmed on Wednesday (Sept. 15) that the parcel can be redeveloped. The agency’s website calls it “Superfund Success Story.”

The Cold Spring Village Board was scheduled to continue discussion of the code update, including Chapter 134 on zoning, on Thursday (Sept 16).

The code change would permit single-family residential, business and professional offices, live-work units, retail, restaurants, professional services, recreational facilities, municipal parking and certain types of manufacturing and assembly.

Residential, business and mixed uses would each be allowed to occupy up to 30 percent of the Mixed-Use Zone, with buildings limited to two-and-a-half stories. Accessory apartments and short-term rentals would not be permitted.


A view from Kemble Avenue in 1993 of the former battery plant (EPA)

The Kemble property is owned by The Kearney Group. About 10 years ago, at a meeting of the Special Board for Cold Spring’s Comprehensive Plan, developer Ken Kearney discussed a conceptual plan for the property that included a clustered mix of residential, commercial and live-work buildings as well as green space. At the time, Kearney mentioned a storage unit complex as another possibility, though he favored the mixed development.

The property has sat idle for more than 40 years because of its long history of pollution, which began in 1952 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 46,000-square-foot battery factory on the northern, 7-acre portion of the site. 

The Sonotone Corp., which operated the factory, purchased 5 additional acres at the southern end of the property in 1966, using it, in part, to dispose of toxic waste.

The Marathon Battery Corp. purchased the factory in 1969. The following year, the federal government sued Marathon to stop the discharge of toxic chemicals. 

In 1971, fish in Foundry Cove, adjacent to the property, were found to contain extremely high levels of cadmium, a metal used in the manufacture of nickel-cadmium batteries. The next year, the EPA ordered Marathon to dredge the cove, resulting in the removal of more than 90,000 cubic meters of contaminated sediment that was buried on-site in a clay-lined vault. 

Marathon closed the plant in 1979 and, two years later, the EPA designated the area as a Superfund site and compelled the owners to clean it up or reimburse the government for the work. That process took nine years.

In 1993, the clay-capped vault was excavated. The Army, Marathon Corp. and Gould Inc. agreed to pay $91 million for the cleanup and $13.5 million to the EPA for its work and future oversight. 

The overall site, which, in addition to the battery plant property takes in 58 acres of East Foundry Marsh and Cove and the Hudson River, was removed from the Superfund list in 1996 and the EPA began a series of five-year reviews of its condition.

Kearney Realty purchased the parcel from Gould Inc. in 2003. In 2009, the EPA tested the basements of 10 homes on The Boulevard and Constitution Drive for polluting vapors; a mitigation system was installed in one of the houses. The EPA concluded the main source of groundwater contamination was a solvent shed that had been located on the factory property.

The EPA’s most recent five-year report, from 2018, indicated that groundwater beneath the property remains polluted and will continue to be monitored. It also found that nearby Foundry Cove Marsh has not yet recovered from the toxic discharge.

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4 thoughts on “Zoning Change Could Shape Marathon Site’s Future

  1. Probably a far better use of this contaminated battery factory site would be as a museum, memorial and research library to the ignorance, greed, envy and deceit that allowed the thousands upon thousands of toxic environmental and health disasters, and the various deleterious effects on human society from them, in the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State from about the start of World War Two (or better, from the very start of the Industrial Era, and yes, right here in Cold Spring – see the Cold Spring Boat Club’s gasification factory among others – and all over Putnam County – see the toxic mine tailing sites) through the Cold War, and. yes, to the present day. Otherwise this type of behavior and these sorts of mistakes, many truly irreversible at least in our lifetimes, the full consequences of which we will never fully understand, continue indefinitely into the future.

    Why anyone would knowingly want to live or work in, park, camp, or eat at or nearby, or commute to or from this, or any, toxic waste dump, or permit or facilitate family or friends to do so, is beyond me.

    The perhaps unintentional, or at least insufficiently unexamined, consequences of this proposed rezoning will be to continue (or is it to preserve, protect, and defend?) this long-established tradition of ignorance, greed, envy and deceit into a new era and a new generation. Some few likely will profit. Modestly more may expect some meaningful advantage ultimately never realizing it. A vastly greater number will be sickened and debilitated. That is how these things work.

  2. Looking at the proposed zoning map and seeing all the new traffic being funneled through Kemble Avenue was an eye-opener. The addition of 23 new houses (not to mention businesses and restaurants) could affect not only Kemble but Main. Would we need a second stoplight, for instance? I’m wondering if these concerns will be discussed at the public hearing on the code concerning traffic on Sept. 28. [via Facebook]

  3. We will leave no piece of land undeveloped. Look at what happened in North Tarrytown by the river and in Beacon. It’s sad. [via Facebook]