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August 30, 2018

Navigating NYC Cleanups is Key to Capitalizing on Opportunities

By Lisa Sauer


If you’ve ever worked in, lived in, or even visited New York City the amount of buildings and business is astounding. When every building has added as many stories as they can and every piece of clean land has been bought up, what options do new developers have? With increased competition for a smaller supply of potential redevelopment sites in Manhattan, the economics of heading to the boroughs and cleaning up contaminated sites makes more sense than ever.  Something to consider with these properties is that most have been repurposed more than once. As a result, there is a greater potential for historical environmental issues to surface during due diligence. Soil and groundwater contamination, as well as the possibility for vapor intrusion are common issues resulting from historical manufacturing, petroleum storage or dry-cleaning operations.

Assessing the risk is an important part of any real estate transaction but potential environmental issues don’t need to be a deal breaker, even in a place as daunting as New York City. To redevelop or repurpose successfully, you may have to navigate NYC’s Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) process or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Rules and Regulations.

The New York City Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) is a team of scientists and engineers responsible for creating and evaluating municipal programs that aim to cleanup and develop underutilized land in New York City. The OER operates approximately 30 programs, most notably the New York City Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), which is the nation’s only locally run land cleanup program. The OER has been responsible for the cleanup and remediation of over 400 properties on roughly 110 acres of land in NYC.

OER’s Voluntary Cleanup Program

The OER’s Voluntary Cleanup Program is meant for properties with light to moderate levels of contamination. The benefit of enrolling in this program is that you have a responsive and predictable regulatory process that will result in an efficient remedial process that works with your development plan. The VCP also provides government environmental liability protection, which lowers development risks and provides assurance that the city or state government will not take any further action to compel additional remediation.  In addition, the VCP plan has grants to offset some clean-up costs, waivers for certain government taxes and fees for cleanup, and low or no-cost soil recycling.

NYC Brownfield Incentive Grant (BIG) program

Additionally, our clients have been able to leverage the NYC Brownfield Incentive Grant (BIG) Program, which offers four categories of grants:

  1. Grants available for work at any site eligible for the NYC Voluntary Cleanup Program (Qualifying Brownfields Properties);
  2. Larger grants for community-supported projects (Preferred Community Development Projects such as affordable housing and community facilities);
  3. Bonus grants that increase the total grant award to Qualifying Brownfield Properties and Preferred Community Projects; and
  4. Grants that consist of pre-development funds made available to non-profit community planners.

Partner’s team can provide insights to help investors and developers decide which program(s) best fit their project’s business goals, while minimizing regulatory obstacles and unnecessary remedial costs.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or for help with your specific project.

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