The city is creating a new office to clean up brownfields for development, an issue outlined last year in its PlaNYC sustainability plan. Officials have said the existing incentives for landowners to clean up the sites do not provide sufficient push to remediate. With the reformed program, the city hopes, will come quicker remediation and new uses for the land.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES CREATION OF OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION AND OUTLINES NECESSARY REFORM MEASURES TO OVERHAUL NEW YORK’S BROWNFIELD CLEANUP PROGRAM
New Office Will Lead City’s Expansion of Brownfield Identification and Cleanup
Efforts as Outlined in PlaNYC and Work with State on Instituting Reform
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) to expedite the cleanup of contaminated brownfield sites throughout New York City as outlined in PlaNYC. The new office will create a new local brownfield program and work with communities and developers to help them navigate remediation processes. Mayor Bloomberg also outlined a series of reform measures for New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, including State authorization of the City to offer liability protection for Brownfield cleanups performed under City oversight. The Mayor was joined at the announcement, which took place at Edgewater Concrete Plant in the Bronx, by newly appointed OER Director Daniel Walsh, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations Jeffrey Kay and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
“Over the past six years, we have undertaken a comprehensive review and transformation of land-use in New York City, unlocking transit-accessible areas for new residential and commercial development, creating and enhancing parks and playgrounds and revitalizing more than 60 miles of waterfront,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Cleaning our more than 7,600 acres of contaminated sites and putting them to productive use is the critical next step in that effort. Our new Office of Environmental Remediation, led by Dan Walsh, will spearhead our plan to make that happen, but we can’t do it alone. We need Albany to introduce a series of critical reforms to make brownfield remediation easier and more economical, and to ensure it is done with greater input from local communities.”
OER Director Walsh is the former director of the city office of the Superfund and Brownfield Cleanup Program for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The new office will be housed within the Mayor’s Office of Operations.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed reforms to the State Brownfield Law, including the request for authorization of State liability protection for City-managed brownfields, are essential to making brownfield cleanup programs work in New York City,” said OER Director Walsh. “In New York City, land is scarce. We need to be creative to ensure maximum enrollment of our brownfield properties in cleanup programs to prepare the way for new parks, housing and commercial enterprise. Our new City program will deliver high quality cleanups based on State standards, provide City assistance to deliver cleanups more promptly, engage and support our communities in innovative ways, and introduce a variety of new programs that incorporate sustainability principals into the cleanup process.”
Cleaning up all contaminated land in New York City is one of the 10 major goals of PlaNYC, New York City’s long-term sustainability plan. The City has invested $18 million over the next five years to fund local brownfield cleanup efforts and significantly expand the City’s role to encourage testing and cleanup of the sites.
The New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program, which was created by law in 2003, has been effectively shut down for the last year due to State concerns over the high cost of State tax credits issued to relatively few completed sites. The program is currently closed with a 90-day moratorium to allow legislators time to consider reform.
One of the key measures outlined by the Mayor is the creation of a new brownfield cleanup program dedicated to light and moderately contaminated sites throughout New York City. State authorization of program, which would be administered by OER, would allow the City to offer State liability protection, an important incentive for enrollment in the brownfield cleanup programs in New York State and throughout the country. The program would be the first in the U.S. to incorporate sustainability as a core principal in a remedial program. Including the authority to establish the local program, the City will pursue a reform package that includes five key measures:
- Authorize a local voluntary brownfield cleanup program for New York City to address light and moderately-contaminated sites and reduce the number of at-risk remediations in New York City;
- Redistribute State Brownfield Credits to encourage more participation in the State Brownfield Clean Up Program;
- Establish a 10 percent tax credit for sites in Brownfield Opportunity Areas that are developed in conjunction with a community based plan to increase the community’s voice in site development;
- Increase eligibility for State cleanup oversight by removing the restriction of historic ‘fill sites.’ which represent up to 25 percent of New York City’s land; and,
- Enhance the Brownfield Opportunity Area Grant Program to provide community groups the planning resources they need.
Concrete Plant Park, where the announcement was held, is situated along the western shore of the Bronx River in the Crotona Park East neighborhood of the Bronx. When complete the project will add a new 2.7-acre waterfront park to the system that will be part of the Bronx River Greenway. Formerly a concrete plant, it serves as a prime example of a site that could benefit from a new local program. Along the Bronx River, in close partnership with community and public agency partners, the Parks Department and Bronx River Alliance have
succeeded in transforming industrial sites by re-establishing salt marshes on a riverbank once strewn with trash and tires, hosting community festivals, and bringing hundreds of people to the river in canoes and kayaks.