Outstanding New York BOAs Recognized at Annual Brownfields Summit
New Partners for Community Revitilization
Five communities participating in NY’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) program are being recognized today at the 8th Annual Brownfields Summit in Albany. Created in 2003 as part of the state’s landmark Brownfields law, BOA provides resources to poor urban and downtown communities to address brownfields and the underlying conditions fueling abandonment and decay. (Brownfields are vacant and under-utilized properties that have a legacy of toxic pollution from previous industrial facilities, illegal dumping and other noxious uses.) BOA has become very important in weak market areas – giving community leaders a new, effective tool to reverse the downward cycle of disinvestment. The five Outstanding BOAs being recognized at this year’s Summit are:
- South Buffalo BOA
- Town of Riverhead BOA
- Vacuum Oil, Rochester BOA
- Sunset Park, Brooklyn BOA
- Lower Concourse, Bronx BOA
“We are very pleased to honor these Outstanding BOAs,” said Jim Tripp, Board Chair of the nonprofit New Partners for Community Revitalization (NPCR) and Senior Counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund. “There are currently over 125 New York neighborhoods participating in the BOA program. These five leaders were selected because they are carrying out extraordinary economic revitalization initiatives that show that neighborhoods long plagued by contamination can use state resources to create value and attract private investments that build on their neighborhood’s character and strengths. The BOA program has proven to be one of the state’s most effective tools for creating synergy between environmental cleanups, community interests and economic development.” NPCR, New York’s leading nonprofit brownfields policy group, hosts the annual Brownfields Summit.
Since its launch more than a decade ago, some $46 million has been awarded to New York neighborhoods through BOA. “This state funding is leveraging an estimated $25 billion in investment for affordable housing, open space, transportation/transit oriented development, jobs, and other economic regeneration activities,” said NPCR Executive Director Jody Kass. “The BOA program’s area-wide approach — as opposed to site-by-site investments that have failed to create new economic anchors in our most challenged neighborhoods — has also become a national model, copied in several states, including Ohio, and by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.”
In New York, BOA has strong support from elected leaders in communities working to overcome neglect and contamination.
On behalf of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, Assemblyman Karim Camara said: “BOA has been a successful and important part of the state’s Brownfield cleanup toolbox which is of particular value to the communities we represent, often left unheard. BOA is the only program that addresses area-wide contamination in our communities and provides funding for constituent participation in planning for a toxic free future.”
Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, Chair of New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators, said: “Brownfields represent the continuing unfortunate legacy of our failure to protect our environment and public health in the past, and are, simply put, a waste of space. They also represent opportunities to right past wrongs and strengthen our communities. With enough resources and dedication, we can replace abandoned toxic sites with community centers, housing, and even nature preserves. I stand with these passionate advocates in calling for a robust response to brownfields across the state.”
“This recognition is much appreciated,” said City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “There is over $4.3 billion in new economic activity in the City of Buffalo today. The South Buffalo BOA is a critical part of this development momentum. Almost $1.7 billion in public and private investments have been made in the South Buffalo BOA since BOA planning activities began in 2008. We appreciate the recognition from New Partners for Community Revitalization.”
Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns said: “For many years, the South Buffalo BOA was home to many important industries near the shores of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River. Unfortunately, we experienced a reversal of fortune when industry abandoned these areas and left behind contaminated land. Today under the South Buffalo BOA Program we reclaimed this land and we are experiencing growth as well as a revitalization of South Buffalo.”
Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation, Senator Mark Grisanti, said: “The cleanup of legacy brownfields and the revitalization of New York’s older, urban communities is of critical importance to job creation and the state’s economic future. In my part of the state, especially in Buffalo and the City of Niagara Falls, brownfields are a major drag on our economy. Getting these sites cleaned up and back into productive use is one of my top priorities. I believe that the BOA program is an innovative and critical part of the state’s economic development and job creation strategy.”
“The BOA program is producing real, tangible results for communities where there is a weak real estate market, said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “There are now five BOA study areas in The Bronx. These sites are in economically struggling communities of color. For example, the Lower Concourse BOA is in the least affluent Congressional District in the United States, with a median income of $20,451. Nevertheless, BOA dollars have been used to advance dozens of sites through feasibility studies, market analyses, site assessments and other pre-development activities.”
“By bringing together a multiplicity of stakeholders to address community priorities through development, the BOA creates local resilience, strengthens relationships, and generates creativity,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE), Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization, which is managing the Sunset Park Brooklyn BOA. “There is no question that the BOA program has helped to strengthen neighborhoods statewide. I urge full support of this program,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.
Senator Velmanette Montgomery said: “I have long been impressed with the efforts and results of the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Areas programs, and have taken great comfort knowing that in my District (NYS 25) we would be guided by the visionary Elizabeth Yeampierre, founder and director of UPROSE. The subject of brownfield remediation could easily be reduced to a simple set of goals and procedures, but Elizabeth has taught us all the importance of understanding the social and personal ramifications of both the problem and any possible solutions. Problems caused by humans, to humans, require a profoundly human sensibility, which she has tirelessly made available to our community and the social/ecology movement globally. She has my most profound admiration and I thank you for recognizing her ongoing efforts.”
Assemblyman Felix Ortiz said: “I congratulate Sunset Park/UPROSE BOA for being selected to receive NPCR’s Outstanding BOA award for 2014. UPROSE has led the fight to help clean-up the Sunset Park neighborhood that is addressing the long-term consequences of multiple brownfield sites. We must continue to do all we can to eliminate the toxic waste sites as Sunset Park leads the way in economic development and job growth.”
Senator Ken LaValle said: “I am pleased that the Town of Riverhead has been recognized for a Community Revitalization BOA award. This good news is another success that will go hand-in-hand with the Town’s downtown revitalization efforts, the enactment of our EPCAL (Enterprise Park at Calverton Reuse and Revitalization) legislation and the awarding of $6.3 million in State funding for the upgrade of the sewage treatment facilities at EPCAL.”
Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said: “The Town of Riverhead is so thankful to be recognized by the New Partners for Community Revitalization 2014 Outstanding BOA award. The award is perfectly timed as Downtown Riverhead is seeing a wave of new development through both public and private investment of over $50 million dollars in just the last 4 years including the opening this month of the newly renovated formerly vacant 36,000 square foot Woolworth building that was vacant for over 10 years, several new businesses, and a new shared office concept building that will be the first of its kind on Eastern Long Island. The Town’s ongoing beautification of Grangebel Park, including a nationally recognized migratory fish passage, and renovation of the East End Arts Council Green Space with improved access to the Peconic River and Great Peconic Bay as well as $1.5 million dollars in new sidewalks is turning Riverhead into the new hot spot for investment in Suffolk.”
Mark Gregor, Manager of Environmental Quality, City of Rochester, said: “The legacy of the former Standard Oil Company of New York Vacuum Oil refinery facility, which discontinued operations in the 1930’s, still echoes throughout the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood in southwest Rochester. Vacant and underutilized brownfield properties, once part of the Vacuum Oil operation, have prevented meaningful development and separated an entire neighborhood from the Genesee River for three generations. The NYSDOS BOA program has provided the resources and visibility needed for the City of Rochester and the community to begin transforming the former refinery site and improving the surrounding neighborhood.”
DESCRIPTION OF THE 2014 OUSTANDING BOAs
Lower Concourse Bronx BOA
Since 2004, the nonprofit South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO) has worked on the Port Morris-Lower Concourse BOA, an area with a long history of heavy industrial use in the south-westernmost section of the Bronx. Located in New York City’s lowest-income community district and the nation’s lowest-income Congressional District, the 30-block area was successfully rezoned from manufacturing to mixed-use as a Special Waterfront District, with significant commercial, residential, community facility and open space development potential. SoBRO has since received two subsequent BOA grants to carry out its implementation strategy. This will include waterfront development and access, green infrastructure, and multi-modal transportation improvements along the Harlem River from 149th Street to Lincoln Avenue.
The Lower Concourse BOA team includes SoBRO, along with their consultants, Magnusson Architecture and Planning, AKRF, Urban Matrix, and Ewell W. Finley. SoBRO’s Senior Vice President, Lourdes Zapata, said, “it is an honor to accept this award from NPCR on behalf of the Lower Concourse BOA and it is a testament to the hard work, advocacy, and innovative planning efforts that have defined the South Bronx community for decades.”
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