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Letter: New York making progress with brownfields

Avis, seen in 2001 in Hempstead, was

Avis, seen in 2001 in Hempstead, was reclaimed through the state’s brownfields program and today is the site of The Gallery at Westbury Plaza. Credit: Newsday / Dick Kraus

We are writing in response to your June 25 editorial "State must do better to clean up toxic sites." As indicated in a recent study by real estate expert Barry F. Hersh of New York University, the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program is distinctly different from the program of 2003 to 2008, when the brownfield statute was amended.

The study shows that:

-- Sites admitted into the program since 2008 are generally smaller, more geographically diverse, more likely to be located in low income areas, and more likely to have industrial or affordable housing uses.

-- The post-2008 cleanup projects are, at least to date, significantly less expensive to the state treasury than those admitted before 2008.

-- A much greater percentage of tax credits for post-2008 projects have been earned based on site cleanup expenses rather than development costs.

-- The about $1 billion of program tax credits has stimulated about $8 billion of direct investment and total economic activity of about $15.5 billion.

We agree that the program could be improved further. However, it is not a statute that is broken and desperately needs fixing. It is operating relatively well, but could use some changes to make it even more effective in combating the blight of brownfields.

Deborah Shapiro and David J. Freeman, Manhattan

Editor's note: The writers represent the New York City Brownfield Partnership, a nonprofit advocacy group.