At one time a leader in environmental legislation, New York State now lags far behind the rest of the nation in brownfields remediation programs. As a result, thousands of acres of property sit idle while development drifts across state lines. In the five boroughs of New York City there are estimated to be as many as 5,000 brownfields sites, many of them located in waterfront neighborhoods. The absence of codified reuse programs has had a direct impact on the vitality of these neighborhoods, and on the entire city’s ability to remain competitive with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut — both of which have codified reuse programs and incentives.

In January of this year, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg both cited brownfields revitalization as priorities of their administrations. Bloomberg’s assertion resonates in statements made by the commissioners of the city’s housing and planning agencies, and echoes the sentiments of business, environmental and community leaders who have lobbied for nearly a decade to bring attention to the issue.

Nevertheless, yet another session may come to a close without the New York State legislature reaching a consensus on brownfields. The main problem appears to be a lack of political momentum behind any one of the many brownfields legislative proposals that have been made. The city, while actively supporting brownfields reuse and legislation in concept, has yet to advocate directly for any specific legislative package or priorities.

Click here (pdf) to read this Urban Prospect on the impact of brownfields on the vitality of the city.