Group pushes for brownfield tax credit reforms


An updated Environmental Advocates of New York analysis of the state's brownfield redevelopment tax credit program says that since 2003, the program has cost in excess of $1.1 billion, but only 131 sites have been cleaned up. And of those 131 sites, only 82 projects claimed tax credits through 2012.

The program is costly, but that isn't the primary issue that concerns EANY. During a conference call yesterday, Andrew Postiglione, the organization's fiscal policy associate, said that the program is "off target." The credits are going to projects in areas that aren't struggling to attract developers, he said.

Many of the projects receiving the credits are located in areas with unemployment rates of less than 10 percent, the analysis says, and that have small percentages of families living in poverty. And less than one-third of the projects receiving the credits are located in predominantly black and/or Latino neighborhoods, it says.

And that's a problem, since poorer neighborhoods often have higher concentrations of brownfields. And many developers aren't as interested in taking on projects in those neighborhoods.

The state's brownfields tax credit program expires in 2015, and state officials have already started talking about renewing it. But Postiglione and EANY say a few changes could make the program more effective.

EANY says that the state brownfield cleanup program should be decoupled from the tax credits. When developers complete site cleanups through the program, the state Department of Environmental Conservation essentially certifies the work and releases the developers from future liability for the contamination. They also are automatically eligible for the credits, if they choose to claim them. Postiglione said that the certification alone makes the property more marketable.

And the organization says the tax credits should be directed toward communities in need of incentives to attract developers. The program should be renewed for 10 years and the credits should be awarded on certain criteria, including whether a project is located in a disadvantaged neighborhood and whether a property's cleanup costs exceed its value.