From Gotham Gazette:
On the Monday before Earth Day 2011, at a well publicized press event, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other high-ranking city officials broke ground on a market-rate housing development in south Williamsburg. New luxury rentals in Williamsburg are hardly news these days, but this one is unprecedented. Its developer received funding from the country's first city-funded brownfield program, brought to you by PlaNYC 2030.
Back in 2007, PlaNYC 2030 estimated that there were more than 7,000 acres of brownfields, or vacant or underutilized sites that are likely contaminated with toxic chemicals (such as old gas stations, factories and dry cleaners) across the city's five boroughs. Not only are these sites eyesores, but because developers are reluctant to take them on, they hamstring neighborhood revitalization.
Until now, the city has relied on federal and state funding for brownfield development. But PlaNYC called for the city to establish its own brownfield program, and it set a goal of redeveloping all 7,000 acres by 2030. According to the PlaNYC 2030 update, released last month, the city will distribute $10 million over the next few years to help developers pay for brownfield redevelopment, especially in low-income areas.
However, as brownfield programs in other parts of the country come to fruition, some question how much they actually serve low-income communities in the long-term. An independent study conducted in 2010, for instance, found widespread gentrification and displacement in conjunction with brownfield projects across six of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's ten regions. Will the city be able to build a better brownfield program?