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  • 18 Aug 2020 10:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Kate Abazis has a stated career goal to reduce urban sprawl by turning around brownfields, and is on track to become a geologist. 

    Emma Garrison is a firm believer that remediation and redevelopment can spark the introduction of new green technologies in order to build a brighter and more sustainable future for cities.

    Meantime, Taylor Hard advocates for brownfields as affordable housing end uses, as well as outlets to serve as emergency shelters, housing for military veterans and an overarching objective to “assist residents.” 

    These three young professionals are among seven of the most recent Abbey Duncan Brownfield Scholarship Program recipients, an annual event designed to provide financial support to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in the brownfield industry in New York City.

    The scholarship was named in honor of Ms. Duncan, an avid environmentalist, talented dancer and tireless community supporter who died in 2010. 

    The scholarship awardees, along with three of the other four recipients, joined Partnership board members for a Zoom video conference in mid-July to discuss how the scholarship money will enable them to further their career paths as urban redevelopment change-makers—the new generation of brownfield practitioners. 

    On the Zoom call representing the Partnership were President Ernie Rossano, Vice President: Ezgi Karayel, Treasurer Michele Rogers, Secretary Laura Senkevitch, and Executive Director Susan Boyle. 

    The team asked broader questions of the recipients about their studies and how they were coping within the COVID-19 pandemic era. The conversation dovetailed into urban redevelopment and, for Kate Abazis (CUNY Queens College, Master of Science in Applied Environmental Geosciences), the region where she went to college,  Broome County, N.Y., saw large employer-corporations such as IBM depart the area and also leave heavy contamination in its wake. 

    In the county, the city of Binghamton, N.Y. is turning a very long and twisting corner with the recent launch of a construction project that will ultimately be a $20.5-million affordable housing development at Canal Plaza. The project is poised to deliver 48 apartments and new commercial space—built on a former brownfield and answering a regional need for quality and affordable housing. 

    To Kate, “Broome County is a beautiful part of New York state but the economic potential of the region went unnoticed for too long. Recently Binghamton University became a recipient of the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program and several new businesses have opened nearby. I believe that remediation and redevelopment of the brownfields in Broome county are the key to revitalizing the region for the long term and reducing urban sprawl. This would also decrease the reliance on the university as the sole source of funds, building a stronger community.”

    In addressing pollution and remediation of contaminants, the “transformation of brownfields is a burden on local communities that entails time, money and many agencies to fix the problem. It may be difficult to convince companies to address the issue in a community that might not have immediate economic potential.”

    The trend of potential developers cutting and running is a sad narrative across the U.S. “Companies might not want to address the issue for fear of being blamed for the problem. It is imperative that these regions are cleaned up and reused instead of moving industries to greenfields where issues can expand,” Kate states. 

    Emma Garrison (CUNY Queens College, Earth and Environmental Sciences career path pursing a master of arts degree in geological and environmental science) talked about sites in her New York community as case studies for younger students to learn about themes such as biodiversity and green infrastructure. 

    Emma has a vast interest in rectifying NYC pollution that greatly impacts local organisms and ecosystems, and how these ecosystems are able to cope with the stressors of wide-ranging carbon impacts, but also how using data can help produce better resiliency in future designs.

    Taylor Hard (CUNY, Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, pursing a master’s degree in public health) has closely been watching the collaborative efforts between the public/private partnership to generate brownfield opportunity—with end result being projects that are cost effective and protective.

    Taylor has an inside track about the process: She works for the New York City Mayor’s office within the Office of Environmental Remediation (OER), and spoke on Zoom about wanting to become more involved in tackling urban air pollution and carbon reductions, with an emphasis on mitigating lead exposure later found in children. The remedy would start with a “multi-disciplinary approach to tackling this issue,” Taylor said.  

    Taylor detailed solutions to reconcile the financial risks of a project and the potential rewards that can be realized. It’s a chronic issue when documenting the many projects nationwide that start but are later aborted, but then perhaps jump-started again under new development regimes. 

    She also talked about the State Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) and the way the best and most savvy developers have been able to maximize tax credits to use for remediation purposes. Drilling down further this effort was recently spotlighted as a Partnership blog and how BCP has evolved over the years, marked by better accountability and overall efficiency. 

    Following are snapshots of four other Abbey Duncan scholarship recipients and some insights into where they have been and where they hope to go. 

    Francesca King

    Pursuing a degree in Applied Environmental Geoscience. She is currently employed with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in the Water Resources Group as a Public Health Sanitarian.

    Francesca spoke about the legal liability of businesses for their role in contamination and about the drinking water contamination crisis. “Many businesses go to great lengths to avoid the liability, which makes the push forward counter-productive. My primary responsibility is the enforcement of the sanitary code on businesses that utilize private wells as a drinking water source. I also assist with the private well survey program, and find this work to be the most rewarding. If a potential drinking water contaminant is identified, our group goes door-to-door notifying homeowners and collecting water samples.” 

    Francesca finds that “one of the main challenges with brownfield site redevelopment is legal liability, especially concerning the funding for remediation. This is most evident with the controversies and lawsuits concerning emerging contaminants, such as PFOAs and 1,4-dioxane,” she said. 

    Michelle Ren 

    (New York University, pursuing a civil engineering degree) 

    Michelle decided to major in civil engineering because “it would allow me to have the tools and knowledge to understand impacts of structural and environmental improvements. However, I am interested in eventually becoming an environmental engineer in order to contribute to the efforts in solving pressing concerns around providing access to clean water.”

    Her long-term interest lies in designing and enacting cost-efficient and practical solutions to water pollution “while also making clean water accessible to struggling communities. This also means finding ways to protect existing water resources such as groundwater, which can be contaminated if they lie under brownfields. Working as an environmental engineer would give me the opportunity to not only pursue my passions in improving the environment but also contribute to the health and living standards of my community.” 

    Claire Siegrist 

    (NYU, pursuing a master of science in Environmental Science)

    As an Assistant Project Manager with GBTS, Claire has assisted in managing multiple remedial investigations and remedial actions in New York and New Jersey. “I have overseen the in-situ chemical oxidation of chlorinated volatile organic compounds, petroleum spill delineation through soil borings and laser-induced fluorescence, and the in-situ solidification/stabilization of purifier waste and coal tar contaminants at two parcels within the former Hunts Point Manufactured Gas Plant.” 

    Through her work at GBTS, Claire continues to expand her managerial skills and portfolio of contaminated sites. “My fascination, however, lies in the science of contaminant fate and transport and the design of cleanup actions,” she says. 

    Kennly Weerasinghe

    (CUNY Queens College Biology, Geological and Environmental Studies)

    Kennly’s goals in starting and completing the MA program “is to become well versed in hydrogeological field work, laboratory work and modelling techniques. With the acquired data, I want to be able to write and publish a thesis related to an aspect of environmental remediation with respect to water and soil contamination.” 

    Upon completing her graduate studies at CUNY Queens College, she plans on either continuing her education in a PhD program or pursuing a career in the private or public sector related to environmental remediation.

    “Brownfield sites are impacted by the real or perceived environmental contamination present and the associated challenges with respect to remediation strategies,” she says. “These sites exhibit contamination by compounds such as lead, petroleum spills, PCBs, PAHs and VOCs. The contaminants found at these sites may pose a significant health risk to individuals through prolonged exposure and thus render brownfield sites unsuitable for residential and or commercial use in its present condition. The physical and chemical properties of the contaminants and the degree of contaminant penetration at the sites often complicate remediation efforts.”

    Over the next year, we will try and stay in touch with the seven scholarship recipients as they blaze their respective trails in becoming the future spear carriers for this industry in New York City and New York State.

  • 11 Jun 2020 11:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Susan E. Golden and Hilary G. Atzrott, Venable LLP

    Local Law 97 of New York City's Climate Mobilization Act requires certain buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2024. The City is moving forward to implement the law, although certain elements have been affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. Venable's prior summary of Local Law 97 is available here.


  • 10 Jun 2020 2:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer 

    New York State brownfield stakeholders received  a “report card” about the 17-year-old Brownfield Cleanup Program, a report that shone a light on the program’s tax credit distribution trends—a mechanism that developers are able to apply for and obtain to enable winning projects. 

    Michael Murphy, on the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation team, presented “Brownfield Cleanup Program by the Numbers” as a program presented jointly by the Environmental and Energy Law Section of the New York State Bar Association and Environmental Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York last December. Many New York City Brownfield Partnership Board members planned and/or attended the event and wanted to share this information with our membership.  We appreciate the approval from Mr. Murphy and the Section and Committee of the Bar Association to do just that.

    The session provided an inside look at the State’s program, and the verdict delivered by Murphy is that the BCP, established in 2003, is “demonstrating continued strength.” New York State brownfield stakeholders on both the public and private side concur that the BCP has significantly evolved over its lifetime. 

    David J. Freeman, Director, Environmental Law Department, Gibbons P.C., New York City, remarks that DEC’s attitude toward the BCP program has significantly evolved over time. “DEC’s view has swung from being a big proponent of the program (immediately after its initial enactment), to viewing it as a problem and keeping sites out of it via ‘eligibility criteria,’ to having a more balanced view—being generally supportive of it but conservative as to the amount of  tax creditable expenses being authorized by Decision Documents

    Julia Martin, Esq., a partner with Bousquet Holstein PLLC, considers BCP a critical piece of the redevelopment tapestry in the Empire State—both across downstate New York City regions as well as upstate. A recent trend: there’s been a growing emphasis on tax credit dollars directed to developers championing Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOAs) and affordable housing projects, both powerful endgames to drive social and economic change.   

    Martin says the BCP has created critical resources for the brownfield redevelopment community to not just survive but to thrive. Lenders can approve loans more readily when they see that their borrower-customers can gain access to state-sponsored tax credits via ambitious, forward-thinking reimbursement templates for riskier sites. Project developers are able to more confidently throw their hat into the ring in the first place, and develop sites within the urban infill for these projects—all the while knowing they have a higher level of financial insulation. 

    “With each new classification of site generation [there are three classifications, Generation 1 through 3] the state has made a case to make BCP enhancement, and that’s seen through the narrowing the program focus,” comments Martin.  

    Martin believes that the tax credit distribution process has evolved to where stakeholders of Gen 3 sites are seeing tax credits flow their way within a restructured BCP where tax credits are commensurate with contamination levels. To wit, footprints with high incidence of contamination, and subsequent remediation work are eligible to receive tax credit allocations that match the remediation work necessary. On the flipside, lower remediation work means fewer tax credit allowances.

    Inside The Numbers 

    During the December presentation, Murphy of DEC provided a snapshot of the BCP program, starting with a broad summary of brownfield redevelopment credits from 2005 through 2018. Drilling down, redevelopment claimed costs and credits showed total costs amassed $12.99 billion over the period while credits distribution amassed $1.98 billion, or 15.25%.

    Crunching the numbers of total costs and credits for “on-site preparation” showed costs of $1.45 billion and tax credits $421 million, or 28.87%. “Tangible property component” saw costs reach $11.46 billion and tax credits of $1.54 billion, or 13.47%. “Onsite groundwater remediation” costs came to $71.5 million and credits of $16.5 million, or 23.15%. 

    Articulated across the nine New York State regions, Murphy said there’s a total average of $5.01 million in redevelopment credits per certificate of completion (COC). Of all regions, Region 4 (the greater Albany area) amassed $15.1 million in redevelopment credits while smaller New York State areas such as Region 6 fetched $147,000 in credits. Region 2 (New York City and the five boroughs) landed second with $7.7 million in credits.

    Last December, Murphy with DEC presented data indicating that redevelopment credits per the three generations saw Generation 1 site classifications garner $1.07 billion in credits, or 13.92% of the total pie, while Generation 3 accumulated only $16.37 million of tax credits—a far smaller sum. However, while the total credit sum was smaller for Gen 3 the tax credit money registered at a higher percentage—34.39%. Gen 2 sites were in the middle, receiving $885 million in credits, or 17.06%.

    The indication is that Gen 1 had historically over time received a significant amount of tax credit dollars for a fewer number of very large properties, while Gen 3 received fewer tax credit dollars spread out across far more smaller-size properties.  

    “Years ago, there were brownfield developments that received tens of millions of dollars where the cleanup was very minimal,” says Freeman. “This was because the initial tax credit scheme allowed tax credits as a right for all development expenses for any site that was admitted into the program.” 

    DEC responded with a set of “eligibility criteria” that attempted to address this issue by artificially keeping sites out of the program, says Freeman. “A series of cases, culminating in the Lighthouse Pointe decision by the Court of Appeals, ultimately struck down these criteria as not authorized by the Brownfield Cleanup Act.  But the Legislature took matters into its own hands and, in both 2008 and 2015, amended that Act to limit the generosity of the tax credit scheme.” 

    Martin of Bousquet Holstein advises brownfield stakeholders to better comprehend the benefits of the tax credits and other economic development incentives available for brownfields. The law firm has represented redevelopment projects in New York State with an estimated construction value exceeding $5 billion, which will generate BCP tax credits well over $750 million.

    Drilling down, here are some highlights pulled out of context: 

    Affordable housing emphasis. In May 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled the landmark $20 billion, five-year plan to combat homelessness and advance construction of affordable housing in New York State, marking the largest investment in the creation and preservation of affordable housing—all underpinned by the quest to end homelessness in New York. In an “Affordable Housing Preservation” line item, $146 million had been earmarked for substantial or moderate rehabilitation of existing affordable multi-family rental housing currently under a regulatory agreement.

    The line item has incentivized developers and their partners, and is accelerating at a robust level.  Developers can indeed reap the benefits in championing affordable housing developments, witnessed by an accelerated tax credit outlay if they meet certain spelled-out criteria set forth in the revised BCP accord.

    In Murphy of DEC’s PowerPoint presentation, a slide entitled “redevelopment credits per generation” listed three generations but also integrated BOAs and affordable housing sites as separate line items. Affordable housing projects saw total tax credits rise to $7.9 million while BOAs accumulated tax credits of $23.2 million over the period. 

    Martin of Bousquet Holstein says that “BOAs are designated areas where a community organization conducts a study and a redevelopment blueprint is established—a vision for the area,” Martin says. “Some BOAs could establish affordable housing as part of the blueprint. Perhaps the end use mandates a retail component, such as mall or grocery store.”

    She says that some BOA guidelines expressly mandate that X percent of the overall project be set aside for affordable housing. Developers must adhere to the BOA blueprint to maximize their tax credit positions. 

    Cost-containment principles produce accountability. The BCP has evolved to where Gen 3 tax credit distribution is held to more stringent standards. Program accountability has been fortified, and an example is the “necessary cost” aspect—buttoning that down by proving that costs are necessary. 

    Regional trends. Murphy revealed that per nine New York State regions and taking into account certificates of completion (COCs), the average per COC amounted to $5 million. Across all regions sees varying levels of brownfield work taking shape. In Region 2 (NYC), tax credit outlays over the years has been significant due to the density of the metro footprint. Region 4 (the greater Albany) has also been the beneficiary of tax credit reimbursement over the years due to an aggressive push for smart growth in that area. The same applies to Region 9, which encompasses Buffalo, which has been undergoing a significant amount of brownfield work over the past few years.

    Being cognizant of tax credits. A burning question is: Are developers and other stakeholder even aware they’re potentially eligible for credits? Getting the word out is paramount. In Regions such as 5 and 6, which have seen less robust tax credit allotments over the years, it could be a case of scale—fewer projects are undertaken in regions that have less square mile bandwidth. But, it could be a case of developers not being aware of the BCP tax credit program, thus they avoid pursuing projects there.    

    End use development trends.  When taking a snapshot of the type of end uses that have been executed, the trend has seen a preponderance of “restricted residential” projects—amassing 164 in all. Simply put, these are sites where there are terms and conditions underpinning what can be developed. Commercial projects topped 130, unrestricted 56, industrial 21 and “residential” 19. 

    Lessons learned through experience. Industry participants have learned much over 17 years. Clearly at the outset and reflecting Generation 1 projects, developers walked away with large tax credit sum. The program has evolved where equity and balance have been implemented into the system.  

    Going forward, there are to date 44.7% of “active” BCP sites having received a certificate of completion. The average time from BCP application to completion is about 4.5 years, according to Murphy’s presentation. COCs that are wrapped up quicker more than likely occurred as stakeholders learned to navigate the process more nimbly.

    “The average time between site admission and issuance of a COC has been calculated by DEC as 4.7 years,” says Freeman. “However, that number is likely to be inflated by some of the early sites, which took 10 or more years to obtain their COCs. A more typical time frame, particularly for more recent sites, is 2 to 3 years from admission to COC issuance.”

    There were 67 sites in the DEC department pipeline awaiting COCs by the end of 2019, with 37 in the Gen 3 bucket and 27 within Gen 2, which is consistent with a trend that sees Gen 1 sites “sunsetting” over time and Gen 3 rising up and dominating the BCP landscape. 

    As Martin of Bousquet Holstein concludes: “The Gen 1 sites were pretty progressive [back in 2003] where developers, within the public-private partnership, were driving change within communities. From the start it was a novel approach to create more redevelopment of impoverished sites. Over time, the BCP has been greatly refined to intensify the focus on economically challenging areas.” 

  • 3 Jun 2020 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer

    You can’t miss the simple but powerful two-word calling card embossed on Gil Lopez’s email stamp: “In SOIL-idarity.” This speaks volumes about the way Lopez is hard wired toward championing environmental reform within the New York City urban infill. 

    An evangelist for all things environmental justice, Lopez, co-founder and president of Smiling Hogshead Ranch, was named the 2020 NYC Brownfield Partnership’s “Distinguished Service Award” recipient. “I moved here with determination and rigor to move the needle further on community greening,” declares Lopez. “Back then the community garden idea had really been stagnant.”

    That sure has changed. The Big Apple boasts more than 450 community gardens, most a fixture of city living. There was a time they bordered on extinction. In the late 1990s, city officials, seeking revenue, planned to auction off vacant lots—including more than a hundred community gardens—to the highest bidder.

    These days, every borough plays host to at least one urban farm—just two of many include GrowNYC (21,000-square-foot urban garden filled with vegetable beds made from recycled materials) and the Battery Urban Farm (one acre in the 25-acre Battery Park dedicated to growing more than 100 types of vegetables).  

    Nominated by NYCBP board member Laura Senkevitch, who had partnered with Gil while at Long Island City-based The Fortune Society, Lopez’s selection was unanimous—and for a host of reasons. “Gil envisions brownfields as a connector to the greater good,” says Senkevitch. “I’ve worked with him a long time and have understood his vision. He sees the urban/community garden as a future-forward concept—really a larger ‘macro’ vision and not just about brownfield environmental remediation, but about building connections for the future.”

    The acclaimed environmental educator and landscape designer was the principal behind what at the time was dubbed a “guerilla urban garden” ensconced on a former railroad bed in Long Island City, and launched almost a decade ago. In that period, Lopez helped transform the green space into a bona fide community centerpiece that’s the fabric of LIC. 

    States Senkevitch: “Gil explained his vision for brownfield remediation and the role of the garden. He wanted to partner with community people, and over the course of 10 years so much has been accomplished—hosting interns to learn composting, establishing synergistic partnerships, engaging with students, and so much more.” 

    This complemented The Fortune Society well, as the community-based organization strives to strengthen the fabric of communities through education and advocacy to create a fair, humane and rehabilitative correctional system—and also trains their jobseekers in the skills needed to succeed in environmental careers.

    These attributes—and others—are done as a common thread pervades the urban garden: That is, to build civic and neighborhood pride, offering LIC residents something to be proud of and to become invested in. 

    Multitude of Benefits 

    Establishing itself as a non-for-profit entity provided leverage for Lopez to generate funding and power up its engines. Today, the green space is armed with a multitude of returns: It serves as an instruction incubator for many New York City K-12 students; a job provider noted for hiring many individuals, including those who have been released from correctional facilities and crave a second chance; a vital destination for folks to compost food and other waste so waste material doesn’t see the light of landfills.   

    Lopez, who moved to New York City in 2010, mastered permaculture design concepts in landscape architecture school, establishing a keen interest in productive landscapes. In 2011, he along with a group of LIC neighbors established the guerilla garden concept on a set of abandoned railroad tracks—a shuttered line at the Montauk Cutoff and owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). He negotiated with MTA to secure a garden license agreement for the property around the time his outfit secured non-profit status. Previously, there hadn’t been a framework for leasing the property, but the not-for-profit stamp helped put everything in motion.  

    The footprint required environmental remediation, as one could imagine on a former railroad property laced with cadmium, arsenic and other trace material. Work commenced to clear, clean, design and utilize the lot. Lopez identified trace materials on the property and established a remediation course that encompassed removal, capping, in-Situ remediation and more techniques to address the pollution—also underpinned by a green and sustainable cleanup mentality. (The efforts have been heralded in a number of forums—recently featured in the Natural Farmer publication.)

    All efforts occurred with a wave of historical inspiration driving Lopez, unwavering to recognize the local pioneers of urban and community gardens tracing to the 1970s. “Their names are not recorded in our history but they championed the community garden concept, and I stand on the shoulders of these giants that came before me,” Lopez says. 

    He singled out Hattie Carthan, who worked tirelessly from her Hattie Carthan Food Projects in Central Brooklyn, an educational herb farm to promote use of herbs for holistic individual, communal and environmental health—all within the principle of fostering food justice. 

    Another was the First Community Garden in New York City helmed by Liz Christy, a local resident who with a group of gardening activists were known as the “Green Guerillas.” They planted window boxes, vacant lots with seed bombs and tree pits in the area. 

    The coalition saw the large rubble-strewn lot as a potential garden, and petitioned the city to find a way to gain official use of the land. In 1974, the site was approved for rental as the Bowery Houston Community Farm and Garden. Not long after, the Green Guerillas were running workshops and planting experimental plots to learn how a wide range of plants could be grown in hostile conditions. The garden became a site for many plant giveaways, where plants grown on-site, donated from nurseries and local gardeners, were bestowed to aid new gardens all over the City. 

    New Normal 

    Senkevitch of NYCBP recalls how Lopez’s ranch was armed from the outset with a multi-dimension vision that transcended brownfield remediation, because this vision was about the long play: Potential uses of sites and imagining what they could be and establishing the ranch as a model for other community garden ventures. “Gil’s company went from being a volunteer-centric entity to non-profit so it could get access to loans, grants, establish a board of directors,” she says.  

    The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way he has gone about business. In regular times, Lopez hosted “Terrific Tuesday” events, sharing pot luck dinners and scheduling spring planting events in April.  

    His composting effort is a prolific one to be reckoned with, as it deploys seven different composting systems. But with the COVID-19 health crisis hitting hard in March, the dynamic shifted. The NYC Compost Project was geared to provide mega-composting capability for residents and more, handling and dispersing large amounts of material. 

    But since March, that service was interrupted. Stepping into to try and fill the void was Lopez’ operation, which suddenly became “inundated with composted volume. It’s hard to handle this deluge of demand,” he says.  

    Historically the non-for-profit designation also provided his outfit with an opportunity to better partner with schools: until the pandemic hit it was known to host field trips of 40 to 50 students from local schools, where they toured the farm to see demonstrations on composting and were introduced to the idea of what makes a successful community garden. 

    “We are education-focused, and hosted school groups to teach them about food. Now we have had to rethink how to do that in a different way, remotely,” he says. 

    Lopez remarks that there’s a keen distinction between the concept of “urban agriculture” and “urban/community garden.” With his involvement in championing the latter model, urban gardens are about reclaiming space, but urban agriculture might place an emphasis on pure agriculture and output—a more rigid approach. It capitalizes on using the space but does not pay a living wage and might even export foods, he explains. 

    As he sums up his journey, which—as Robert Frost so eloquently wrote, has many miles before he sleeps—Lopez states the obvious: “I am part of the working class. Over the years, there has been a slow creep to the community garden paradigm.”

    Gil Lopez is seeing to it that the paradigm reaches a higher level, if not the pinnacle. 

  • 11 May 2020 11:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The NYC Brownfield Partnership is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Big Apple Brownfield Awards. Click here to download the pdf file with all the details on the winning projects.

  • 7 Jan 2020 11:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Big Apple Brownfield Awards (BABAs) promote excellence in brownfield redevelopment by honoring successful brownfield projects in New York City. To nominate your project for the 2020 BABAs, please click here. The deadline for submitting an application is Friday, February 14, 2020.

  • 7 Jan 2020 11:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer

    In the fall, the New York City Council passed a $1.7 billion plan to expand protected bike lanes as part of an effort to overhaul the city’s streetscape.

    The plan aims to create a comprehensive reimagining of how roads can best serve all New Yorkers navigating them. Spearheaded by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and recently backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, this follows a sharp spike in cyclist deaths this year—25 so far, a two-decade peak, and more than double the 10 recorded in 2018. 

    Overhauling the city streetscape and fostering a plan to promote bike transportation has a brownfield redevelopment connection, all within transportation-oriented developments, or TODs. Beyond the safety aspects, the legislation seeks to overhaul how New Yorkers bike, bus and walk through the five boroughs by requiring the city to build 250 miles of protected bike lanes and 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes over a five-year period. It also calls for one million square feet of new pedestrian space within the first two years, along with new signaling technology and accessibility upgrades throughout the city.

    Under the bill, the city’s Department of Transportation is required to release a plan every five years to make street safety improvements and to prioritize public transit. The city must also hit annual targets, conduct public education on the effort and issue a report on any changes to the plan each February. The first master plan is due December 2021, with the second slated for 2026. The latter is set to complete the city’s bike lane network—something transportation advocates have long demanded.

    Using a broad lens, a TOD-oriented blueprint within the urban infill is continuing to gather momentum each year across many major metro areas as a growing number of people, from millennials to boomers, transition to city living—boomers after downsizing homes and millennials often to be closer to work. It’s all part of the “live-work-play” dynamic. 

    TODs have much upside: They are an environmental boon as it reduces the carbon footprint as fewer people are inclined to drive because it means easier navigation within the grid across bike, light rail, electric scooter and walking. People drive less when TODs are executed to the letter and it also sparks the local economy. As people get to places quicker, which include local businesses, they can spend additional disposable income and spark the local economy.  

    A growing number of developers, many brownfield professionals, are initiating mixed-used projects that start with perhaps an anchor multi-unit living complex that’s built minus enclosed or open-air parking. That’s the point: Build out the project to attract folks who are expressly seeking NOT to drive because they developed a propensity for alt-transportation. 

    New York City lawmakers that support this ambitious plan emphasize that the effort is not a push toward eliminating cars from the city, but instead is a shift away from car-centric design with safety improvements geared toward improving quality of life and safety on city streets for all.

    Far from everyone is on board with the legislation, and several city lawmakers complained in late October about how the bill lacks community engagement for the changes that are coming to New Yorkers’ neighborhoods. 

    The de Blasio administration has completed 100 miles of protected bike lane since 2014, and in August the mayor unveiled a $58.4 million “Green Wave” plan that seeks to build safe cycling infrastructure and promote biking. The master streets plan takes the effort further with a more aggressive push toward making streets friendly to pedestrians and public transit.

    This is all a testament to TOD-oriented projects, which seem to fly under the radar from a brownfield redevelopment standpoint. But they are powerful catalyst for habit-changing and to stimulate economic, environmental and social change. 

    This month, we’ll take a closer look at the same brand of under-the-radar brownfields—the power of urban garden programs and the bandwidth it might have for greater expansion in New York City and beyond. Stay tuned. 

  • 16 Dec 2019 1:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Abbey Duncan Brownfield Scholarship Program is an annual program designed to provide financial support to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in the brownfield industry in New York City.

    The Abbey Duncan Brownfield Scholarship Program is administered by the NYC Brownfield Partnership, an association of member organizations involved in the brownfield industry in New York City.

    2020 Scholarships will be one-time awards of up to $5,000. Funds will be disbursed directly to the college at which the student is enrolled in coordination with the school’s financial aid office.


    Scholarship recipients will be selected on a competitive basis. In order to be eligible for the award, students must be:

    • An undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at one of the colleges affiliated with CUNY and other select colleges in the New York City Metro area;
    • Enrolled in at least one course during the 2020 academic year; and
    • Pursuing studies related to brownfield redevelopment, such as environmental engineering, environmental or geosciences, geology or hydrogeology, environmental policy, environmental planning, environmental justice, environmental law, real estate, sustainable development or industrial hygiene.

    To Apply:

    All application materials are found online at:


    All applications must be received by March 25, 2020

    Please contact scholarships@nycbrownfieldpartnership.org with any questions.

  • 16 Dec 2019 1:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer

    State, local and federal laws and regulations can make or break some of New York City and New York State’s incentives to invest—or not—in remediating and redeveloping brownfield properties. There are several outcomes across the broad spectrum, from tax burdens that push private investors away to tax relief measures that incentivize them. 

    There are a lot of moving parts.  In early September, development rights and construction funding were awarded for four new housing projects that will collectively create more than 2,700 affordable-supportive residential units. Herkimer Gardens, located on Herkimer Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is one of the projects to tap funding and approvals from the NYS  $1.4 billion “Vital Brooklyn” housing initiative.

    A year earlier, all hands were on deck to keep tax credit payments flowing to stakeholders under the Brownfield Cleanup Program, and you will remember that the NYC Brownfield Partnership strongly recommended that deferral of BCP tax credit payments (as proposed in the New York state executive budget) not be incorporated into the 2018-19 budget. It wasn’t.

    New York Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOAs) are proliferating, now 47 BOAs located across the Empire State. BOA establishment provides municipalities and community-based organizations with assistance, up to 90% of the eligible project costs, to complete revitalization plans and implementation strategies for areas or communities affected by the presence of brownfield sites, and site assessments for strategic brownfield sites.

    There is another movement that’s worth watching.  USEPA is eager for investors to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone (OZ) tax benefit program focused on distressed communities to assist with cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield properties. But to have it work requires assistance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to clarify whether typical brownfield site activities, including site assessment and cleanup, are considered valid site preparation costs.

    Opportunity Zones, as established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, are economically distressed communities identified by state governors as having potential for investment. Through the IRS program, investors may defer capital gains tax by adding their gains to special funds dedicated to OZ revitalization. The OZ program is intelligent and innovative, but like many tax programs it’s also complicated.

    An initial tranche of IRS guidelines for the program, issued in October of 2018, made USEPA uncertain whether typical brownfield site activities, including site assessment and cleanup, are considered valid site preparation costs..

    The second tranche of guidelines, released in April, appeared to clarify that those are valid in certain cases. But the IRS does not mention brownfields explicitly, and therein lies the rub.

    Is the IRS usually viewed as an agency dedicated to effecting much change to help ramp up activity in the brownfield redevelopment context? Probably not. The NYC Brownfield Partnership should continue to monitor the IRS clarification on brownfields and site preparation costs for OZs and determine if it is assisting NYC and NYS to realize accelerated remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites in the Zones. When the time is right, the Partnership’s comments  might assist in better federal decision-making to accelerate brownfield revitalization. 

  • 6 Nov 2019 6:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer 

    In the brownfield redevelopment industry, everyone’s eternally seeking the secret sauce to success. For one young practitioner, the first big secret came thanks to a simple Google search: Attend a New York City Brownfield Partnership meeting and land a new environmental position—in a matter of weeks. 

    Indeed, Rob Dwyer (no relation to this blog’s author) accepted a position last January with Impact Environmental, Bohemia, N.Y., when he attended a holiday networking event and scholarship fundraiser held in December 2018 to simply meet and greet, do a little networking with members. 

    Dwyer, 30, a native of Sydney, Australia who had recently relocated to New York, didn’t know many environmental professionals in the area. So he started the process with a web search and punched in terms like “environmental remediation companies” and “brownfields.” The Partnership name prominently appeared on the search. Dwyer made a call, found out attending an event was his for a nominal fee—and set out to the event with eyes wide open. 

    It turned out to be a home run, the kind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge deposits in the right field stands.   

    “My girlfriend (who works in the hazmat sector of environmental remediation) and I went to the event, met professionals from companies like GEI, Langan and Impact Environmental,” says Dwyer, who, before relocating to the States had worked eight years in Sydney, immersed in remediation projects within the urban infill in the Land Down Under. He also spent time working in the United Kingdom.

    “At the December event, I set up an interview with Impact for the first week of January and soon after accepted an environmental and engineering-related position within the same month. I honestly thought this would take three or four months to land a job—certainly not three weeks,” he says.

    The Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) and the Society of Women Envrionmental Professionals (SWEP) Metro Net group joined the Partnership in putting on the December 2018 event. Now a member of both the Partnership and BCONE, Dwyer is currently involved with several environmental projects that include affordable housing projects in the Bronx, a school authority project in the Bronx and a landfill initiative in New Jersey that’s being converted into a solar farm. “As an environmental engineer who’s tasked with remedial design and remediation oversight, you have to be flexible to assume a lot of duties, to juggle many balls at once,” says Dwyer. 

    He has no regrets about his full plate at Impact, all spawned thanks to a Partnership/SWEP/BCONE holiday event. He encourages more young professionals to take a similar approach because it’s often a win-win. 

    Separately, it was fascinating to hear Rob Dwyer compare and contrast the differences between the brownfield redevelopment process in Australia versus in the U.S. He sees U.S. brownfield’s process as one that functions better than what he experienced abroad. 

    “In Australia—and from a technical side—there are many similarities (to the States) when it comes to performing investigations and remedial designs. Both models offer the same textbooks, but when it comes to the implementation of projects here in the States you, as a private company, work closely with the city or municipality across all project functions—and this engagement is apparent right to the end of the project cycle,” he says. 

    He says that in Sydney, “it’s different in that they (public sector) will almost hang up the phone on you until you provide project details that are updated for review. In the U.S., I’ve noticed the close relationship between the public and private sectors. In Australia, it’s more like a silo between the two, with no dialogue between the two entities throughout the whole process. Here, just to be able to call someone in New York City is crucial. They take your call, offer advice and help you all the way down the line,” he says.  

    The strategies underpinning end use in Australia and in the States is also very different, he says.  

    “In Australia, there are many restrictions (about what a certain site end use can become)—a line in the sand is drawn. And the more invasive the environmental activity is, the more challenging the task.”   

    He says that there are so many environmental remediation methods being adopted with his work at Impact, ones that are “non-invasive” to soil and groundwater that it opens up a treasure trove of end use possibilities, provides many more options for stakeholders to consider. 

    “I have taken notice to how many private firms and public partners have an affinity for understanding the intricacies of specialized brownfields—it’s almost like everyone is up to speed (on mastering it).”

    Dwyer says that, globally, only a handful of contractors had an affinity for specialized brownfield projects, beginning at the outset with Phase 1-3 investigations. “Today, many firms I’m aware of even advertise brownfields as a specialization on their website. These firms have gone from, ‘no, we don’t do that type of work’ to ‘yes, we embrace this kind of work.’” 

    So what was learned? Well, the structure of U.S. brownfields has a clear edge against those in many other countries. And, that when it comes to networking to be able to work in this industry, the New York City Brownfield Partnership is a clear broker—match-maker, if you will.

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