The state is set to begin notifying community boards when cleanups of contaminated land are planned in their areas.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a bill that would make the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) responsible for alerting community boards of brownfield site cleanups.
Quoting Public Law, the DEC defines a brownfield as “any real property, the redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a contaminant.” Brownfields can include industrial sites or abandoned gas stations with hazardous waste or petroleum.
The DEC currently notifies adjacent property owners, nearby schools and local newspapers in the event of a cleanup. There is a 30-day public comment period after a cleanup request is made.
Under the new law, residents who attend their community board’s monthly meetings will be given more time to develop a comment before scheduled public hearings.
State Senator Tony Avella, who sponsored the bill, said the advanced warning is needed because significant environmental brownfield cleanup projects often lead to large developments that can affect locals.
“Community boards are our first line of defense in protecting our quality of life,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, who introduced the law.
The cleanup of the Waterpointe-Whitestone brownfield site sparked the legislation, lawmakers said. Community Board 7, which represents the area, said it was never informed of the initial cleanup application.
“Providing board members with information about brownfield sites will ensure that the community has eyes and ears on the ground to make certain that all remediation is done appropriately,” Braunstein said.