Brownfields are underused or vacant plots of land that remain undeveloped because of fears that they may have been contaminated by industrial or commercial use in the past. These sites are not always actually contaminated.
However, these fears often prevent property owners from obtaining financial support from banks and developers in order to reclaim these sites. Thus, many brownfields remain neglected. These sites are a concern within the realms of urban planning and environmental design.
Recently, in New York City, urban planners, environmental nonprofits, and other community-based organizations have been stepping up to the plate and designing sustainable strategies to renew these sites. In addition, state and local governments have offered assistance to groups committed to cleaning up these polluted sites. Through the Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) Program, financial and technical support is provided to municipalities and community-based organizations via the Department of State (DOS). Funding can be applied to complete revitalization, site assessments, and implementation strategies for strategic brownfield sites as well as areas affected by them.
The positive impact of New York’s BOA program in encouraging sustainability has been particularly influential in Newtown Creek, one of the New York City’s most contaminated sites, which is located between Brooklyn and Queens and is flanked by the neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Long Island City, East Williamsburg, and West Maspeth.
Aside from past and present industrial dumping, there are currently twenty-three active combined sewer outfalls (CSOs) that empty their combination of untreated sewage and rainwater directly into the creek. In addition there are nineteen waste transfer stations within a quarter mile of the Creek that together handle 38% of all the waste moving through New York City. In 2008, the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Riverkeeper and the Newtown Creek Alliance received an award of $625,454 in New York State BOA funding for community-driven urban planning, environmental design initiatives, redevelopment analyses of Newtown Creek, and surrounding contaminated sites in Queens and Brooklyn.
What government incentive programs have successfully encouraged environmental remediation in your town or city?
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