City fast-tracks contaminated site cleanup

The city is working to have a vacant property at 1600 Pelham Parkway South cleaned up and ready for redevelopment.

On Thursday, August 5, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Pete Grannis signed into action the first city-run program to encourage and oversee the cleanup and redevelopment of properties, known as brownfields, which previous owners have abandoned with toxic issues.

The Pelham Parkway property, where a new apartment building will be constructed, is one of the first projects to take advantage of the city’s Brownfields Cleanup Program.

“Our goal is to reclaim these areas for opens spaces and job creation,” Bloomberg said about the overall program. “The program will lead to the cleanup of long-blighted eye-sores that bring down neighborhoods and property values.”

The city program is a partnership with the state Brownfield Program and offers oversight and partial funding for construction projects on the blighted properties, which are typically abandoned for years on end.

While the state’s Brownfield Program handles properties that have seen extensive contamination, the city’s program will deal with lands that have mild to moderate environmental problems, and will offer grants between $60,000 and $100,000 to qualifying developers. City officials expect there are around 2,500 mild or moderate brownfield properties around the city that could qualify for assistance through the program.

As part of the brownfield cleanup process, the city will set the environmental standards for the level of remediation on the contaminated properties, and will work with the public in developing plans for removing and containing any pollutants found on the sites.

Because cleanups can cost up several million, the grants are seed money to encourage developers to utilize the properties.

“It’s an enticement. It gets the ball rolling,” said Dan Walsh, director of the city’s Office of Environmental Remediation, which runs the brownfield program. “Parts of the Pelham Parkway site haven’t been used for more than 80 years.

MJM Construction is building a seven-story apartment complex on the site, which will house more than 90 families. The complex, which will be called the Pelham Parkway Towers, is set to be completed by 2012.

According to company officials, contamination on the site is from construction and demolition materials used as fill to bring the property to street grade. MJM officials said they are hoping to meet environmental standards to qualify for a U.S. Green Building Council certified “LEED Gold” ranking.

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