By Steve Dwyer
How important are technologies and tools to drive the decision-making process within the brownfield redevelopment realm?
This topic is being broached because it was reassuring to see a new online tool recently created by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), to act as a service for both public and professionals who need to navigate their way around the Empire State when it comes to their business or non-business endeavors.
It doesn’t appear to be any charge either for the DEC-sponsored DECinfo Locator, an interactive map that provides access to DEC documents and public data about New York’s environment and outdoor recreation resources. And while one of the intentions for DECinfo Locator is to enable the public to generate maps for a host of purposes, brownfield developers can also perceive the resource as a vehicle for making informed decisions around redevelopment plans.
This first-of-its-kind DEC mapping application generates results specific to locations across the state, including water and air permits, enforcement actions, recreational assets, environmental education facilities and sites in the New York state’s Superfund and Brownfield Cleanup programs.
“DEC created this platform to make information about New York’s environment accessible to everyone,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “From viewing permits to searching for state land regulations, DEC’s new tool provides transparency to our work and helps New Yorkers better understand the full breadth of DEC’s work protecting the environment and our communities.”
With more than 50 interactive data layers, DECinfo Locator lets users see and download permits, former industrial site cleanup plans, water quality reports, and more based on where they live, work, or play. Selecting a map feature can bring up links to database records for petroleum bulk storage facilities, oil wells, or permitted mines. Users can also view potential environmental justice areas and Climate Smart Communities or find out what local wastewater facilities are doing to reduce their impact on New York's waterbodies. Several information layers can be active at the same time, allowing users to see the many ways DEC is working to protect and enhance the state's environment and recreational opportunities.
The map’s “Near Me” feature allows users to narrow data results by creating an interactive list of data points within an area of up to 10 miles from a selected point. Additional features and data will be added to the DECinfo Locator in the future.
Overall, it behooves New York City practitioners and beyond to give a resource like DECinfo Locator a test drive to determine what kind of power it might provide in allowing you to navigate your project from point A to point B, from C to D. Because the gut intuition and other traditional consensus-building efforts, while sound, don’t always cut it alone. You have to be grateful for the new technologies like DECinfo Locator that present themselves when they do.