On May 11, 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill establishing a local brownfields cleanup program and codifying the legal basis for a City Office of Environmental Remediation (OER). The bill (Intro. No. 21-A), which passed unanimously on April 22, 2009, is aimed at facilitating remediation of contaminated sites in the City that are not covered by New York State’s Brownfields Cleanup Program (BCP).
According to a New York City Council Environmental Protection Committee report, as many as 7,600 acres in the City may be contaminated, posing serious public health risks and blocking sites from development that could put them back on city tax rolls. OER was created in June 2008 by the Bloomberg Administration. The law modifies the City Charter to codify the status of OER, located within both the Mayor’s Office of Operations and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Under the law, the director of OER is charged with developing and administering the local brownfields cleanup program and promulgating rules for applications, fees, reporting, and participation. Cleaning up all contaminated land in the city is one of the 10 main goals of PlaNYC.
The bill was the product of collaboration between the City Council, the Bloomberg Administration, and advocates including New Partners for Community Revitalization and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. Eligibility requirements in the BCP exclude many City brownfields sites from participation in the state program because they are contaminated by an off-site source or contaminated with fill material.
As part of the City cleanup plan, the law includes a process for educating and engaging communities where brownfield development is most needed, as well as funding for community-based organizations to explore possible brownfields opportunities.