Program milestone 18 months ahead of schedule
NEW YORK – To kick off Earth week, today Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the completion of environmental remediation on the 500th tax lot under NYC oversight since his administration began in 2014, achieving 75% of his OneNYC cleanup goal 18 months ahead of schedule. Each of the remediated properties has achieved rigorous state cleanup standards. The remediated land has been redeveloped with over 27 million square feet of new building space, representing private investment of $8.2 billion in new construction and producing an estimated 3,700 permanent new jobs, 3,600 new units of affordable and supportive housing and is expected to generate over $960 million in new, long-term tax revenue for NYC and a comparable amount to New York State. Construction of these new buildings also employed over 13,500 construction workers. Remediation since 2014 has cleaned up a total of 138 acres of land, including removal of more than 300 underground storage tanks.
“We are cleaning up vacant lots and revitalizing neighborhoods across the city – and hitting our goals a year-and-a-half ahead of schedule,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “New York’s city cleanup program is a commitment to combatting pollution that disproportionately affects already disadvantaged communities. Our environmental remediation program is also a boon to the economic vitality of neighborhoods, creating jobs and cleaning up land to welcome new businesses and housing.”
These cleanups eliminate pollutant exposure and have occurred in many NYC neighborhoods, with over 50% of the 577 remediated lots located in moderate- and low-income communities. All of these lots have been redeveloped, enabling safe reuse and revitalization of property that has been vacant for an average of over 10 years. Eighty-one (81) of these remediated properties are located in the coastal flood zone, where pollutant removal reduces risks from storm surge, achieving over 80% of the OneNYC goal to clean up sites in the floodplain. Remediation is managed by the NYC Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) which operates the NYC Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) under a collaborative agreement with New York State that delivers high quality cleanups that meet stringent state land remediation standards. The VCP is the only municipally-run environmental remediation program in the nation, and it manages lightly- and moderately-contaminated property. OneNYC is Mayor de Blasio’s plan for a strong and just city.
Mayor de Blasio also announced the establishment of new grants under OneNYC to assist community-directed revitalization of vacant land in city neighborhoods. These grants, part of OER’s Place-Based Community Planning program for vacant land, provide between $10,000 and $25,000 to help community-based organizations and faith-based developers identify strategic vacant and contaminated properties and plan environmental remediation to pave the way for community-oriented development.
The 500th remediated tax lot is located on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 127th Street in Central Harlem. The property has been redeveloped with a 10-story building that is now the home for Harlem Dowling-West Side Center for Children & Family Services and The Children’s Village, two of the oldest charitable organizations in the U.S. (founded in 1836 and 1851, respectively), 47 units of affordable housing, and 12 units of supportive housing for youth at risk of homelessness as they transition out of foster care. The project was funded by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development and the NYC Housing Development Corporation and is a joint venture with affordable housing developer Alembic Community Development. The project created 117 construction jobs and will support 85 permanent jobs, including 20 new jobs that include local Harlem residents. Children’s Village serves families and vulnerable children across NYC.
Harlem Dowling provides child-care and foster care services and established the first orphanage for children of color located on West 12th St. near Sixth Avenue. In the next decade, larger quarters were constructed on Fifth Avenue between 43-44th Streets. This facility was burned down during the NYC draft riots in 1863, forcing the organization to relocate several times since. The new building, known as the Home for Harlem Dowling, is dedicated to the original building that was destroyed. The remediation resulted in the removal and regulated disposal of over 7,000 tons of soil and achieved the highest standard for soil cleanup established by New York State. The property was awarded a Green Property Certification by OER, signifying that it is now one of the safest buildings in NYC to live and work. The project also received $70,000 in cleanup grant funding from OER. The property was vacant for 23 years before remediation and redevelopment.
“We have limited available land for new development, and it is vitally important to rehabilitate our vacant and abandoned land. This administration recognizes the disproportionate impact of environmental pollution in low-income communities and has focused city resources in disadvantaged areas to pursue greater equity in environmental quality and economic opportunity,” said First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. “We will continue to build new programs and find innovative ways to improve our environment and help communities achieve their grass-roots vision for reuse of vacant land.”
“Cleanup of contaminated land is one of the most important environmental success stories of our generation. With our colleagues at New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NYC is working to reverse 150 years of land pollution, one property at a time. This effort is critically important in low-income communities where the impacts of pollution and land vacancy hit hardest,” said Dr. Daniel Walsh, founding Director of OER.
“Ensuring that historic brownfields are remediated and contributing to the city’s economy is a vital part of creating healthy and affordable neighborhoods,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director of Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer for the NYC Mayor’s Office. “Today, we celebrate the achievements ahead of schedule by our colleagues at the Office of Environmental Remediation to reach the completion of environmental remediation on the 500th tax lot since 2014 representing 75% of our cleanup goals. This illustrates the commitment of the City and partners and ensures that our land is not only clean and livable, but resilient in the face of climate change.”
“Contaminated sites put our communities at risk, lower people’s quality of life and can lead to economic blight,” said Catherine McCabe, Acting U.S. EPA Regional Administrator. “The EPA provides support to local and state partners to clean up contaminated properties such as those in New York City’s Office of Environmental Remediation program. We applaud their hard work and the accomplishment of their 500th remediated lot.”
“Along with clean air and water, clean land is one of our most important natural resources. However, our cities carry the burden from many decades of indiscriminate pollution of land. We are pleased to see the leadership that New York City has shown in operating the only city-run land remediation program in the country and the difference this program has made for our environment in such a short time. We are glad that OER works closely with New York State DEC to ensure rigorous state standards are met. We need new ways to improve the environment, and this is a model other cities can consider to address their own legacy of pollution,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
“We are very pleased to see the progress the de Blasio administration is making with its land remediation program. Land cleanup is important in cities because many contaminated properties are located in disadvantaged communities, cause a disproportional burden of pollution to residents and are a significant source of environmental injustice. Cleanup under OER oversight lowers this pollution burden and also enables revitalization of abandoned properties in ways that can serve community needs, such as creation of new affordable housing, jobs, and community facilities. The environmental remediation that is happening in the coastal flood plain also lowers the risks of storm surge and removes contaminants from our communities,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
“Regulation of cleanup of land pollution is an important function of government. When Environmental Defense Fund supported the NYC Brownfield bill in NYC City Council hearings several years ago, we recognized that this would result in the first city-run land remediation program in the country. We are pleased with the remarkable progress OER has made in just a few years. Importantly, New York City is showing other cities that they can lead in the effort to overcome land pollution and improve the quality of our environment for future generations,” said Jim Tripp, Senior Counsel at Environmental Defense Fund.
“For decades, our neighborhoods were the dumping grounds for the city, particularly in low-income communities of color, and residents were forced to bang their heads against the wall as more and more vacant properties became polluted eye sores that were left to fester by the city,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “Finally, we are making common sense decisions to protect and improve our environment while also lifting up neglected communities. I’d like to thank and congratulate Mayor de Blasio for delivering environmental remediation that will help revitalize distressed areas and capitalize on their vacant land to ensure that these properties are used to improve long-forgotten neighborhoods.”
“This is not just a physical restoration of our historically neglected communities,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “It is also a restoration of the commitment that all communities, no matter their wealth or location, matter. Instead of polluted vacant lots, our neighborhoods can now welcome affordable housing and new businesses. I applaud the Mayor’s steadfast commitment to environmental and economic justice for today’s generation and beyond.”
“We applaud the de Blasio administration for demonstrating such a strong focus on improving the quality of land and at the same time facilitating revitalization of vacant land in New York City communities. Clean land is good for the health of New Yorkers, and new buildings provide space for housing and enables growth of businesses, creating jobs and building our economy. Congratulations for achieving this important milestone,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
“The City of New York has put significant effort into working with site owners and developers to remediate their land and achieve redevelopment goals. OER has been a responsive partner in the implementation of improvements to make the process for clean-up and accessing clean soil more predictable, successful, and cost-effective,” said John H. Banks, President of the Real Estate Board of New York.
Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, said, “Now more than ever, our city must lead the way on the environment. The Office of Environmental Remediation’s Voluntary Cleanup remediation program, the only municipal environmental remediation program in the nation, helps make our city cleaner and less polluted. This newly-completed remediated lot will be redeveloped with affordable housing and help produce new jobs, which brings benefits for our environment as well as our economy. Thank you to OER for implementing this important program.”
“We enjoyed working with OER in the NYC Voluntary Cleanup Program to make this property safe and were impressed with their willingness to work hard to find ways to help us. OER’s programs helped save us $600,000 in state taxes and fees for the cleanup and provided grant funding that helped make this project work. We would recommend this program to anyone trying to revitalize contaminated land in NYC,” said Mike McCarthy, Director of Alembic’s New York office.
“Remediating 500 properties over one-and-a-half-years across all five boroughs of NYC is a tremendous accomplishment unprecedented at the municipal level anywhere in the United States,” said Mimi S. Raygorodetsky, President of the NYC Brownfield Partnership. “Returning this land to productive use has transformed many neighborhoods across the city.”