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Patience is an important part of revitalization

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Good things come to those who wait.

That is the phrase to keep in mind when you consider the potential for Ogdensburg’s waterfront. One day, the city’s waterfront will be attractive to tourists, merchants and home buyers.

City officials earlier this week held a meeting to get residents’ feelings on the latest plans for four waterfront properties on their way to redevelopment. Those plans are the culmination of years of work.

It’s a major understatement to say the process is long to get these sites from contaminated eyesores that aren’t fit for any use to sporting businesses and/or homes and back on the tax rolls.

It takes decades, with a lot of blood, sweat, tears and frustration in between.

It’s easy for city residents to criticize officials for a seeming lack of work on these lands, many of which still sit vacant or worse, sporting unused, dilapidated buildings.

But these endeavors take a long time. Take the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. property in the town of Clifton, for instance. A ton of work over the last couple of decades has gone into getting it cleaned up to this point, and there is still a lot of work ahead to get it to a point where a business will operate there. Officials have opted to break off a smaller, less polluted portion of the overall 54-acre site so that at least some of it has a chance to be redeveloped in the foreseeable future.

It has taken so long, in part, because of bureaucratic red tape and government funding setbacks, but mostly because it just takes a really long time to clean up heavy contamination to a point where the land is no longer dangerous to anyone’s health. It takes testing, assessing, digging, more testing, more assessment and analysis, lather, rinse, repeat.

In the case of Ogdensburg’s waterfront, the city first had to acquire the lands and test to see how bad the contamination was, then had to apply for funding from the right programs and jump through the appropriate hoops to get it. Once the funding was granted, the agencies involved in getting those sites cleaned up had their own jobs to do, which, as outlined above, can take a really long time. We are finally at a point where city officials are considering concrete plans to direct how those parcels are going to be redeveloped.

Once those plans are in place, they will have market the lands to people willing to invest in business and housing projects. That process will be a whole other ball game that won’t play out overnight.

In the meantime, residents don’t see anything to show for all that work. Grass grows on these sites, and they attract the occasional bit of trash, but there is no visible progress. It’s easy to understand why so many people wonder if city officials are ever going to get off their duffs and do something with those properties because nothing has been built. It’s hard not to scoff when you hear them talk about all the progress that has been made.

But a lot of progress has been made. We are a long way from where we were 20 years ago with all of these properties, and it’s not like the decisions that have been made so far have been made in a vacuum. Residents’ feelings about what should happen have played a major role in the process. In that respect, the naysayers really have no right to complain.

Officials have not sat on their duffs. They are working on it. And once the process is done, Ogdensburg will be a better place.

We have to have faith that good things are on the horizon. And good things come to those who wait.

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