Bollwage Tells Senate Panel; “Brownfields Reuse Is Number One Way To Stop Sprawl”
Elizabeth (NJ) Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, told a Senate panel reviewing the status of the nation’s Superfund law that “brownfields reuse is the number one issue to stop sprawl.”
Bollwage, a co-chair of the Conference’s Brownfields Task Force, delivered his remarks March 21 in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Control and Risk Assessment (for Bollwage’s full statement, see Top Issues section of www.usmayors.org)
He told the panel members that “the nation’s mayors believe that the time has come for bipartisan action on brownfields and, where possible, selected Superfund reforms.” Bollwage also emphasized that “we need a bipartisan approach” to enacting Superfund reforms to facilitate the recycling of brownfield properties, noting that in his state of New Jersey, “we implemented a bipartisan effort.”
Citing the priority issues for cities in redeveloping these sites, he noted that “we need to assess these properties,” pointing out that cities and other local areas want funds to assist their efforts. He also emphasized that cities need “access to grant money to help cleanup these sites.” He explained that there are many “brownfield properties that today have negative value” where the infusion of public money is essential to getting these sites cleaned up.
In discussing the status of the nation’s Superfund law, Bollwage said, “None of us anticipated how Superfund’s liability regime would further fuel the phenomenon we now call brownfields. Superfund sent a very strong signal that contamination of our land would not be tolerated. But it also thoroughly frightened innocent parties, like developers and others who would like to reuse or, as we say, recycle our land.”
Conference Survey Findings
He also talked about the mayors’ efforts to learn more about the scope of the brownfields problems nationally, citing the results of the Conference’s recently-released national survey, A National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment – Volume III (see USCM Reports at www.usmayors.org ).
Bollwage citing the
report’s findings on the obstacles to brownfields redevelopment, noted that
the top three have remained constant over the last three years. “The number
one obstacle was the need for cleanup funds; the second most common impediment
issue was dealing with the issue of liability; and third is the need for more
environmental assessments to determine the type and extent of the
contamination,” he said.
Bollwage noted a study finding that 118 cities estimated they could support an additional 5.8 million people without adding appreciably to their infrastructure. “When we think about sprawl, this data suggests that brownfields redevelopment and incentives to encourage in-fill development can help with this issue,” he said.
Touting his City of Elizabeth’s considerable success in redeveloping brownfields, Bollwage talked about the Jersey Gardens Mall that opened last year. “This is the largest outlet mall on the East Coast and it is located on the site of a 170-acre municipal landfill that had been closed since 1972. There are now more than 200 stores, providing more than 3,000 jobs. This site alone will generate about $6.5 million annually in revenue for the City,” he said.