Rochester, NY – Standing with Mayor Thomas S. Richards at the former Carriage Factory site, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced a new bipartisan effort to reauthorize and improve programs to cleanup and rebuild on brownfield sites. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (Build) Act, would jumpstart development efforts and provide additional resources and for sites in need of redevelopment. The measure would allow local municipalities and non-profit organizations access to more money, tools and resources as they work toward project completion as well as help to create and sustain jobs.
Congressional authorization for the Brownfield program lapsed at the end of 2006, leaving economic development opportunities to fall by the wayside.
“Redeveloping sites like the Carriage Factory is a smart way to help our economy grow,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This strong, bipartisan bill can unlock new investments to develop brownfield sites into usable spaces that can attract new businesses, support new jobs, and make more New York communities a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
“I’m glad we are continuing our efforts to convert contaminated Brownfield sites to viable engines of economic growth and job creation,” said Rep. Slaughter, who is sponsoring the BUILD Act in the House, and has introduced legislation to clean up waterfront Brownfields in the last three congresses. “Our industrial heritage has made us a great nation, but part of that legacy has been urban blight and environmental pollution. It’s long past time we revitalized these sites so we can attract new businesses and tourism to these areas, both of which will help our local economy.”
“Senator Gillibrand’s proposed BUILD Act is good news for Rochester as we look to find new uses for properties with environmental challenges,” said Mayor Thomas S. Richards. “The Act would help Rochester create more opportunities to take blighted buildings and turn them into assets in our neighborhoods, and we thank Senator Gillibrand for her efforts towards community revitalization.”
While New York helped power the country through the industrial revolution, large manufacturers left behind contaminated land where they factories once stood. These abandoned sites – brownfields – must be cleaned up before new development can begin. There are between 450,000 and one million abandoned and contaminated sites in the United States, according to the Government Acceptability Office (GAO). Brownfield sites range in size from a half an acre to tens of acres that are located in both urban and rural areas. The redevelopment of these sites have proven to be beneficial to communities as they provide a boost to the economy through private investment and business development, job creation, community development and overall quality of life in the area.
This 73,000 square-foot building was originally the home of the Cunningham Carriage Factory and is one of the oldest manufacturing plants in Rochester. The building has been vacant for almost 25 years. Built in 1910 to manufacture handmade customized horse-drawn carriages, Cunningham would later produce hand-made automobiles until the creation of the assembly line forced the closure of the factory. The four-story building sits on 1.55 acres of land zoned Center City District but is just on the border of the Susan B. Anthony Preservation District. DePaul is a not-for-profit organization committed to providing quality senior living residential services; mental health residential and treatment programs; addiction prevention and support programs, vocational programs and affordable housing. They will transform the building into 71 rental units to accommodate affordable housing and special-needs occupants. This supportive housing project will serve adults with a mental health diagnosis and also provide affordable housing to disabled and non-disabled populations. This project includes $50,000 in EPA funds as well as investments from New York State, City of Rochester and private sources. The $23 million project is expected to take approximately 16 months to complete.
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. 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 process is a complex, multistep effort that can include site inventory, characterization, assessment, planning, or remediation for one or more brownfields site 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.