NEW YORK CITY-The Bloomberg administration on Monday launched aprogram to award grants intended to help offset the costs ofstudying and beginning to clean up brownfield sites. It will makemore than $9 million in small grants available to community-basedorganizations over the next several years, the administrationsays.

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Known as the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation’sBrownfield Incentive Grant program, the initiative is said to bethe first in a series of new programs targeted at environmentallycontaminated sites. Each of those programs “will help landownersand developers clean up contaminated properties and bring them backinto productive use,” Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said in aspeech before the New York City Brownfield Partnership.

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The BIG program will be administered by the Office ofEnvironmental Remediation, established by Mayor Michael Bloombergtwo years ago to implement the brownfield goals of PlaNYC.Bloomberg had unveiled the PlanNYC series of environmentalinitiatives on Earth Day in 2007.

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According to the OER, among the principles guiding PlaNYC wasthat the city needed to act independently to accelerate itsbrownfield cleanup and redevelopment goals and prepare for itsinfrastructure needs over the next several decades. PlaNYC thusidentified 11 major brownfield initiatives to put New York City ina position to achieve these goals.

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“Historically, brownfields have been managed exclusively bystates,” says Andrea Kretchmer, chair of the board of directors ofthe Brownfield Partnership, in a statement. “It is great to see NewYork City become the first city to take an advanced leadership rolein this important issue.”

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In a client advisory last month, law firm Carter Ledyard &Milburn LLP noted that the OER had finalized regulations creating anew local brownfield cleanup program. “Owners of seriouslycontaminated and undeveloped sites may still want to take advantageof the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program because of its extensivestate tax credits,” wrote attorneys Christopher Rizzo and ColeenFazio. “The state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program also offers strongerliability protection than the city’s program because such liabilityreleases are specifically authorized by state statute. But the cityand state are reportedly working on an agreement to provide somerecognition of the program by the New York State Department ofEnvironmental Conservation, which should honor the city’s liabilityreleases.”

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.