NY Breaks Ground On Nation's First Municipally Run Brownfield Cleanup Program (With Video)

The start of a cleanup and redevelopment of a vacant lot in Brooklyn, N.Y. are occurring because of the PlaNYC New York City Brownfield Cleanup Program, the first municipally-run brownfield cleanup program in the nation. The program, launched by Mayor Bloomberg in August of last year, provides for high quality cleanups and offers liability protection and other incentives to encourage developers to use the new City program. Brownfields are vacant or underutilized properties where the redevelopment or reuse is complicated by environmental contamination.

“We have solved the problem of developers being reluctant to clean and redevelop land because the liability for clean-up was too unpredictable and potentially costly,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “The City-run Brownfield Clean-up Program, the first of its kind in the nation, breaks the cycle of disinvestment and abandonment. I’d like to thank the State DEC, the City Council, and our Office of Environmental Remediation for their impressive collaboration on this project.”

“With well more than 7,000 acres of brownfields in the five boroughs, developing a workable program to clean and redevelop these sites is both environmentally and economically imperative,” Speaker Christine C. Quinn said. “I’m proud to say that this groundbreaking is the result of a program born out of Council legislation that makes cleaning up and reusing brownfields easier, safer, and more affordable. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for always being a strong advocate for environmentally responsible growth in our City, and the work of Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and our Council’s Environmental Chair, Jim Gennaro, who has long made brownfield remediation a top priority.”

“New York City took the right approach when designing its brownfield cleanup program by bringing in experienced managers and focusing on high quality cleanups, and we were pleased to have the opportunity to enter into an agreement with Mayor Bloomberg last year,” State DEC Commissioner Martens said. “The City's program, which targets lightly contaminated sites, broadens DEC’s effort to revitalize our cities and should achieve concrete gains for the State.”

“Today’s Brownfield groundbreaking for PlaNYC is a landmark event and speaks to our continuing commitments to green our community,” said Council Member Diana Reyna, Chair of the Committee on Small Business.  “The South Williamsburg neighborhood is dotted with stalled construction and scarred by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway – we are excited that this initiative at 456 Grand Street will enable redevelopment and add jobs.  We must continue to do our part and provide some real open and green space for residents of the Southside who are forced to play on pavement which radiates heat during the summer, and breathe the smog from excessive truck traffic in our streets creating high asthma rates among our youth.”

The cleanup will enable construction of a $15 million redevelopment that is estimated to generate 100 permanent new jobs and over 100 construction-related jobs, and clean a contaminated site. The approximately half-acre site will be developed by The Triangle Court, LLC into a six-story residential housing building with ground floor retail space including a diner, a pharmacy and other small businesses and neighborhood amenities. When the cleanup is complete the property will receive a NYC Green Property certification, which signifies the City’s confidence that a property is fully protective of public health and the environment for its intended use.

“NYC has made enormous progress toward making brownfield properties more competitive to redevelop. In the past, these properties would be passed-over and left vacant. Now developers can clean up these properties and get the liability protection they need to get financing and make the development plan work,” Deputy Mayor Goldsmith said. “Other tools we have developed are also making a difference. Our NYC Brownfield Incentive Grant (BIG) awards help encourage cleanup of brownfield sites by lowering cleanup costs and our SPEED online real estate search engine has made it easier to find properties to cleanup and develop.”

The BIG Program was launched in June 2010 and has awarded or earmarked over $800,000 in city cleanup incentives so far. SPEED, the City’s online Searchable Property Environmental Electronic Database, was launched in late 2010 and has had over 500,000 visitors since that time.

 “Cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields is inherently sustainable,” said David Bragdon, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. “Reclaiming land provides local job opportunities, and revitalizes neighborhoods. Brownfield remediation is one of the major PlaNYC goals to create a greener, greater New York.”

“The strong interest that we have received in the City’s new brownfield cleanup program is gratifying. It is also rewarding to see that in just the first few months we are helping projects in places like Harlem, the South Bronx, Flushing and Williamsburg. These projects are delivering high quality cleanups and are receiving strong support from community brownfield planners,” said Director Walsh. “With the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Goldsmith, City Council Speaker Quinn and strong governmental collaborators like Commissioner Martens, we will continue to make great strides under the upcoming revision to PlaNYC.” Mayor Bloomberg has established 11 new brownfield initiatives consisting of 35 new milestones in the brownfield chapter of the revised PlaNYC to be released on April 21.

“The City’s new brownfield programs offer environmental liability protection and cleanup grants and made it more attractive to move forward with this project.” said Meir Babaev, the site developer for Triangle Court LLC. “Navigating the program was very predictable and at the end of the day we will put this vacant site back into productive use and create jobs for the community.”

In 2009, the City Council passed a bill that put the comprehensive program for the remediation and reuse of brownfields into place. As called for in PlaNYC, the bill formally established an Office of Environmental Remediation within the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability charged with developing initiatives to reclaim a vital city resource —abandoned and underutilized property. Previously, there was no local cleanup process for City brownfield owners.

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