Staten Island – Standing with local community leaders in Port Richmond, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was joined today by New York State Senator Diane Savino, Assemblyman Matthew Titone, Councilwoman Debi Rose, Northfield Community Local Development Corporation (Northfield LDC) Executive Director Joan Catalano, and Staten Island Economic Development Corporation’s Steven Grillo to announce bipartisan federal legislation that would jumpstart development efforts and provide additional resources for contaminated brownfield sites in need of redevelopment. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act would allow local municipalities and non-profit organizations, such as Northfield LDC and SIEDC, to access more funding, tools and resources as they work toward project completion and help create new jobs. Congressional authorization for the Brownfield program lapsed at the end of 2006, leaving economic development opportunities at risk of falling by the wayside.
“The Port Richmond neighborhood on Staten Island is full of potential to help our economy grow,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This strong, bipartisan bill can unlock new investments to develop brownfield sites into usable spaces and a stronger working waterfront that can attract new businesses, support new jobs, and make more Staten Island communities a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
“The City has a long and successful history of collaborating with landowners and developers to cleanup and redevelop brownfields sites across the city,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “As a result of Senator Gillibrand’s leadership, this bi-partisan piece of legislation will ensure additional federal resources will be available to address and remediate brownfields. We look forward to working with the Senator to ensure that more federal brownfield resources are made available for communities in the City and nationwide.”
“I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue. Staten Island has long suffered from the effects of Brownfields, many of which have caused health related issues for residents and have helped suppress future development,” State Senator Savino said. “The BUILD Act will ensure that Staten Islanders will have a better opportunity to clean up these sites and prepare them for future development.”
“No one should have to live near toxic spaces under any circumstances,” Assemblyman Titone said. “Cleaning brownfields is not only the healthy and moral thing to do, it will also boost local development and the economy. I applaud Senator Gillibrand; this legislation will help to transform blight into environmentally sound and welcoming spaces.
“The BUILD Act will go a long way toward encouraging the environmental remediation of Brownfields,” said Borough President James P. Molinaro. “Not only will it be easier to improve the quality of life of Borough residents through cleanup of these hazardous sites, but once transformed, a former Brownfield site can provide both economic and preservation opportunities. I commend Senator Gillibrand for her attention to this important issue.”
“The waterfront is full of potential opportunities that could serve as catalysts for economic growth,” Joan Catalano, Executive Director of Northfield LDC, said. “After an extensive and fruitful outreach to the community, we can now present recommendations built on community consensus that will benefit the whole neighborhood. Federal support will further bolster the Staten Island community with streamlined tools and remediation resources to brownfield sites. Senator Gillibrand’s Builds Act will help leverage investment for future development projects. We appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s efforts helping those of us on the ground strengthen our communities and strengthen local economic growth.”
“SIEDC is happy to welcome Senator Gillibrand to Staten Island for the announcement of her Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act,” said Steven Grillo, SIEDC Director of Projects. “SIEDC has been a local leader in brownfield advocacy through various programs and we are excited for the new opportunities presented by the act. By streamlining access to funding, tools and resources the BUILD Act will help redevelop valuable contaminated and underused industrial sites. The BUILD Act address specific roadblocks to redevelopment on the North and West Shores including administrative costs, permitting delays and access to upfront funding. Of particular importance for the borough, the BUILD Act incorporates Senator Gillibrand’s Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act to help identify opportunities for redevelopment of industrial properties on waterfronts and makes clean energy projects at brownfield sites eligible for funding. SIEDC’s work towards the proposed West Shore Green Zone and West Shore Business Improvement District, and an upcoming environmental planning project sponsored by the USEPA and Global Greens will benefit tremendously from the Senator’s effort.”
In June, the Northfield LDC, together with the New York City Department of City Planning, completed over a year of extensive outreach to the Staten Island community, and is now working to redevelop Port Richmond by identifying strategic brownfield sites that are potential candidates for redevelopment. Recommendations for the Port Richmond Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), which are the result of a state-funded, community-based planning effort to identify strategies to reuse brownfield sites, include developing the foot of Port Richmond Avenue as the catalyst for helping to revitalize Staten Island’s economy. The vision would aim to create new retail services, open public space, and strengthen the working waterfront creating new jobs.
A staple on Staten Island for more than 35 years, Northfield LDC has made efforts on Staten Island to create strategies to revitalize these underutilized brownfields by hosting “community visioning workshops” for the public. The non-profit has also played a role in developing the North Shore’s beautiful waterfront to make the space more accessible to residents, as well as helping to change the exteriors of storefronts to create more welcoming commercial spaces in the community.
While New York helped power the country through the industrial revolution, large manufacturers left behind contaminated land where the factories once stood. These abandoned sites – brownfields – must be cleaned up before new development can begin. There are between 450,000 and 1 million abandoned and contaminated sites in the United States, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Brownfield sites range in size from half an acre to tens of acres and are located in both urban and rural areas. The redevelopment of these sites have proven to be beneficial to communities, providing a boost to the economy through private investment, business development, job creation, community development and overall quality of life in the area.
The federal EPA’s Brownfields Program targets these sites to help communities assess, clean up, redevelop and reuse contaminated properties. Since 2012, the EPA has awarded nearly $1.5 million in federal funding to New York City through the City’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (NYC BCP), a new program operated by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (OER).
The BUILD Act builds on previously existing Brownfield initiatives by expanding the reach of these efforts and increasing the amount of funds applicants can request. This bill would bolster New York City and Staten Island community’s efforts to remediate and redevelop brownfield sites that dot the island’s shoreline. Specifically, the legislation:
- Recognizes that the cost of cleaning up past contamination is a barrier to bringing brownfield sites back into the market by increasing the funding ceiling for cleanup grants and allowing funds to be used for administrative costs.
- Allows the Environmental Protection Agency to award multipurpose grants that will speed redevelopment by streamlining and increasing certainty on the cleanup process. This update recognizes that the redevelopment is a complex, multistep effort that can include site inventory, characterization, assessment planning, or remediation for one or more brownfield sites through one grant. Securing upfront funding for the various phases of brownfields redevelopment instead of having to seek funding for the different phases of the project allows a community to work more closely with a developer to turn blighted properties into community assets.
- Expands eligibility for site assessment grants to non-profit organizations. Currently, non-profits and community-based organizations are eligible for cleanup grants but not assessment grants. Expanding eligibility will better position communities since these non-profits are often in the best position to identify or prioritize sites and initiate redevelopment.
- Allows local governments to apply for site assessment grants for properties that were acquired by a community before the creation of the brownfields program. This provision of the BUILD Act would allow more brownfields to be evaluated for contamination without eliminating the local government’s liability to clean up the site.
- Incorporates elements of Senator Gillibrand’s Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act by identifying opportunities for redevelopment of abandoned, idled or underused industrial properties on waterfronts.
- Makes clean energy projects at brownfield sites eligible for funding, including any facility that generates renewable electricity from wind, solar or geothermal.