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Cleaning Up Toxic Brownfields - Upscale NY Gets VIP Treatment

PHOTO: Brownfields -- toxic waste-filled empty lots -- are being cleaned up around New York State, but, a new (EANY) report say communities that need cleanup and redevelopment the most, are missing out on valuable tax credits. Courtesy Wikipedia.org
PHOTO: Brownfields -- toxic waste-filled empty lots -- are being cleaned up around New York State, but, a new (EANY) report say communities that need cleanup and redevelopment the most, are missing out on valuable tax credits. Courtesy Wikipedia.org
November 18, 2013

NEW YORK - A new report says a billion-dollar-plus toxic cleanup program is not reaching neighborhoods that need it most - and now is the perfect time to fix it. Andrew Postiglione, a fiscal policy associate with Environmental Advocates of New York, said plenty of cleanup has been happening in high-property-value areas in Manhattan, but the program needs to be fixed so more cleanup and redevelopment happens in struggling communities upstate.

"The brownfields tax credit is a very expensive program. It's over $1 billion to clean up only 131 sites" he explained. "This program is also off-target; it's not going to the communities that need public dollars the most."

The tax credit program is due to sunset in 2015. Postiglione said they are calling on Gov. Cuomo to extend the program and redirect more tax credits to low-income communities. They have suggested extending the credits for 10 years, because thousands of toxic sites still need cleanup and redevelopment.

In addition to communities around Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, Postiglione said, there are plenty of former industrial sites, gas stations and dry cleaners in the Bronx and Queens that are missing out on cleanup and redevelopment credits.

"We're finding that areas with high poverty, high unemployment and high ethnic populations are not receiving tax credits as much as some other areas, such as New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley, that often have a much easier time in attracting developers," he said.

Now is the perfect time to fix it, he added, because Cuomo could include the tax credit changes in the budget that he and his staff are currently preparing.

"It affects revenue for the state, because these are refundable tax credits," he said. "This is a great way to both change this program, so that it's addressing communities in need, and also to kind of get our fiscal house in order."

Postiglione would like to see the credits provided in two steps: a first phase that shows eligibility for cleanup, and a second that proves the need for redevelopment credits.

The report is available at www.eany.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY