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Be Prepared For Unwanted Surprises Emanating From Land Status Surveys

26 Oct 2018 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Steve Dwyer

It’s a discovery of the most unsavory kind, one that public officials often brace for. And it’s a dilemma that urban redevelopment stakeholders in New York City’s five boroughs should eternally be vigilant about due to the breadth and depth of brownfield assets.

The unwanted discovery? Learning that you’re now dealing with a much larger portfolio of abandoned and contaminated properties—above and beyond what prevailing estimates had indicated from city survey reports.

It’s a dilemma that can hopefully be mitigated by garnering access to New York State’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) program, set up to promote revitalization efforts and crafting strategies for redevelopment.

This subject has a nearby example as a lesson learned: In Brookhaven, N.Y. planning officials in late summer identified more than 633 potentially contaminated properties—more than double what they had anticipated—that are ripe for remediation efforts in the greater Bellport area, according to a September report in Newsday.

Most of the brownfield parcels served as the sites of warehouses and auto and manufacturing businesses, where oils, liquids and antifreeze leak into soil and groundwater along Montauk Highway in North Bellport, Hagerman and East Patchogue, planning officials said.

Initially, Brookhaven expected to survey 302 parcels of land for incidence of contamination. During a study, officials determined additional properties needed to be inspected, Brookhaven Town planner Joseph Sanzano told Newsday.

Of the 633 identified properties, 24% are in developed commercial areas, 18% are in industrial areas, 10% are in residential communities and the remaining parcels are on vacant land, planning officials said.

This area represents a large footprint: Brookhaven, the most populous of the 10 towns of Suffolk County, is the only community in the county that stretches from the North Shore to the South Shore of Long Island.

When so many undisclosed and unexpected parcels are deemed to be potentially contaminated, heavy lifting commences. When 300 parcels originally thought to be surveyed doubles in size, communities brace for a higher level of liability and a robust investigation schedule must commence—Phases 1, 2 and 3. Brookhaven officials said perceived threats to soils and groundwater could deter potential developers from investing in “this residential, socio-economically challenged community,” according to the Newsday report.

That’s what’s in store, but a little history of the area: The Greater Bellport Land Use Plan was adopted by Brookhaven officials in 2014, at which time officials applied for and were awarded about $300,000 in state grant money to conduct a study. Brookhaven was awarded the grant from the New York State’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) program to promote revitalization efforts in the Bellport community. Strategies for redevelopment and the potential impacts of redevelopment were evaluated.

Since the adoption of the community-based Greater Bellport Land Use Plan four years ago, the town has implemented many recommendations, including soliciting the BOA designation, addressing chaotic auto related uses, identifying brownfields, regulating zombie homes, adopting new zoning to define the hamlet centers, and monitoring compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental regulations in the hamlets of Bellport, Hagerman and East Patchogue.

These area-wide initiatives in planning/remediation and implementation of these recommendations were shaped by the unique vision that was established for by community fathers.

The BOA designation, like other state-wide and nationwide, provide the leverage to secure additional opportunities for grant funding for planning, infrastructure and other amenities.

Community input was a key fulcrum of this effort. The town recognized the importance of community input towards transforming neighborhoods; thus, community members and stakeholders were asked to provide revitalization input through a community survey.

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