Governor Spitzer, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno Sign Agreement to Spur Economic Revitalization in Blighted Areas

Press Release

Date: March 7, 2008


More Than $7.25 Million Will Go To 50 Brownfield Opportunity Area Projects

Governor Eliot Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno today announced the signing of an agreement to help rebuild blighted areas and spur economic development by providing more than $7.25 million to fund projects under the State's Brownfield Opportunity Area program.

The funds, awarded to 50 local governments and community groups across New York, will help pay for research, planning, marketing studies, and other initiatives that are intended to lead to a designation as a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA).

"If we are going to drive economic growth, protect the environment and revive our communities, we must continue to revitalize brownfields areas," said Governor Spitzer. "Today's agreement will help many worthy projects move forward so that recipients can develop comprehensive strategies to assist in land use planning that will help improve affected communities throughout the State."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "Brownfields often pose environmental and public health threats, as well as legal and financial burdens on communities. Left unchecked, these contaminated sites often threaten the economic viability of adjoining properties. For years, the Assembly has led the fight to clean up the State's brownfields and get these abandoned sites back on the tax rolls to help revitalize local economies and bring much-needed jobs to communities from Lackawanna to Long Island. This agreement provides grassroots financial support toward the goal of a brownfields remediation program that is protective of the public health and the environment. This is a victory for all New Yorkers."

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said: "Brownfields pose environmental and financial burdens on communities. Left vacant, contaminated sites can diminish the value of surrounding property and threaten the economic viability of adjoining properties. There are tens of thousands of brownfields, ranging from abandoned gas stations to old industrial sites, throughout New York State. These funds are critically important and are an important step toward revitalizing the communities where they are located and at the same time, protecting the health of residents and the environment."

The BOA program, created in 2003 along with the State's Brownfield Cleanup Program, is an innovative planning program that provides communities with financial assistance to facilitate the collection of basic information about an area blighted with brownfields. The program provides assistance to identify, prepare, create, develop, and assemble information to be included in an application to "nominate" an area as a BOA. The program also provides financial assistance for site assessments performed in designated BOAs.

Designation of an area as a BOA can provide other benefits. For example, projects located within the BOA can receive priority and preference when considered for financial assistance under some State, federal or local programs, and may receive preference in infrastructure improvements. A BOA designation is likely to help attract redevelopment interest because of the community support that underlies a BOA plan.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said: "The Brownfield Opportunity Area Program is critical because it can serve as a springboard to many community revitalization efforts. Without it many localities would not have the financial or technical wherewithal even to begin addressing neighborhoods impacted by polluted sites. This agreement will help communities across the State clean up the environment, attract redevelopment and meet local needs."

Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said: "This cooperative agreement provides resources to community-based organizations and local governments across New York State to help plan for the redevelopment of dormant properties. These properties, often a symbol of economic hardship, can become catalysts for economic and cultural growth. The Brownfield Opportunity Area Program now empowers community-based organizations, as well as local governments, to have a say in their community's priorities for redevelopment, whether it's creating jobs, attainable housing, or community amenities - all while cleaning up fallow, polluted lands. The successful redevelopment of brownfields will help to revitalize neighborhoods while providing a cleaner, healthier environment for all New Yorkers."

Upstate Economic Development Chairmen Daniel C. Gundersen said: "In our Regional Blueprint sessions we heard that brownfields, perhaps more than any other challenge, are an incredible barrier to development in Upstate urban areas. This funding, under the State's Brownfield Opportunity Area Program, will help communities take the necessary steps to rebuild blighted areas and, in turn, revitalize Upstate New York."

Downstate Empire State Development Chairman Pat Foye said: "Today's agreement means that we can provide vital funding needed to assist in our State's community revitalization efforts. The Brownfield Opportunity Area Program is imperative to the redevelopment of distressed areas across the State as well as to the preservation and protection of New York's environment."

An earlier round of BOA grants was awarded in March of 2005, with 53 BOA projects across the State receiving $7.6 million. The program is administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation with the assistance of the Department of State.