State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein are sponsoring legislation requiring the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to alert community boards of brownfield site cleanups.
Avella and Braunstein were joined by Community Board 7 chairman Gene Kelty and district manager Marilyn Bitterman in Whitestone last week in front of just such a site on 6th Road. The board has held several committee meetings on potential development at the large site, but was never aware that the land was part of a brownfield cleanup.
“The site behind us, which has been a long-standing issue, turned out to be a brownfield site, and yet the community board, which had been meeting on this site for years, never knew,” said Avella. “Not to know that a state agency has a declared a site a brownfield is a significant lack of information and it affects their planning process.”
A brownfield site is a piece of property that contains potential hazardous waste of contaminants, often from a prior industrial use, that could complicate redevelopment.
Currently, DEC is required to notify adjacent property owners, nearby schools and local newspapers when a piece of land is designated a brownfield, but not the local community board.
“We're a distribution center, we get a lot of stuff out, and we like to send it out to the civic groups and keep them in the loop,” said Kelty. “The idea is to inform everybody the best we can.”
According to Avella, the legislation has already made its way through a Senate committee and could come up for a vote soon. And other than a slight change in the language of the bill, Avella said DEC appears to be on board as well.
“This is a no-brainer piece of legislation,” said Braunstein. “I know if any community board in the City of New York is given this tool to know what's going on, they'll be out there to make sure that everything is going on appropriately.”