Suffolk County Finally Putting Land Bank to Good Use

Environmental Law

 

The Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation (“SCLBC”) had not undertaken any activities pursuant to its mission since its creation in March 2012, until now. The mission of the SCLBC is to take control and redevelop vacant and abandoned properties, many of which are environmentally contaminated.

The SCLBC, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”), is assessing four eastern Long Island brownfield sites in an effort to remediate the contamination at the properties and return them to the tax rolls. Suffolk County is taking advantage of the USEPA’s Targeted Brownfields Assessment (“TBA”) program which assists eligible entities in minimizing uncertainty of contamination at brownfield sites. Through the TBA program, the USEPA contracts directly with environmental professionals to conduct environmental assessment activities to address the eligible entity’s needs.

 The four sites selected are: 70 Moffitt Boulevard in Bay Shore, in tax arrears since 2006; 95 Eads Street in West Babylon, in tax arrears since 1998; 1600 5th Avenue in Bay Shore, in tax arrears since 1996; and 156 Grant Avenue in Islip, in tax arrears since 1991.

In a press release announcing this collaboration, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone stated, “[t]his partnership allows us to take an important first step to redevelop abandoned and polluted brownfield properties that are blights on our local communities. We will continue to explore both private and public opportunities to clean-up and remediate dilapidated properties in our neighborhoods and the Land Bank will form the backbone of these efforts.”

Pursuant to the TBA program, these four properties will be assessed by a USEPA contractor, and the assessment will include a historical investigation and a preliminary site inspection to determine whether environmental contamination exists. Since contamination almost certainly exists at these selected properties, a more in-depth Phase II Environmental Site Assessment will be conducted. The Phase II will include the sampling of soil and groundwater to determine the location and extent of the environmental contamination.

Suffolk County, not satisfied with redeveloping only these four properties, has announced its intention to apply for a $1.2 million grant from the New York State Attorney General Land Bank Community Revitalization fund. With 133 properties within Suffolk County considered potential brownfield redevelopment sites, this additional funding would allow the SCLBC to support more environmental assessments with the USEPA TBA program, and begin transferring these sites to the land bank.

 Suffolk County and the SCLBC are finally acting on its mission set forth over a year ago, to assess and redevelop environmentally contaminated properties and return these properties to the tax roll. The potential here is huge, and not just from an environmental or a financial perspective, but for overall community improvement and growth. The redevelopment of these blighted properties could be a rising tide that will lift all boats. But alas, nothing in the environmental sector happens immediately. We must continue to monitor the SCLBC and see what progress is made in the coming year. But it is hard not to be optimistic about the future benefits of the land bank and its collaboration with the USEPA.

For more information on the use of municipal land banks and brownfield redevelopment, please contact Miriam Villani and Jason Kaplan.

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