NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Rules In N.Y. Stifle Redevelopment

April 12, 1999

While advocates of deregulation have long contended that environmental regulations impose burdens on the economy, black and Hispanic Democrats in New York's inner-cities are coming to the same conclusion. They are beginning to listen to developers who say they would transform abandoned industrial sites into attractive commercial properties were it not for the state's stringent environmental rules.

  • "To see these properties languish when we have such needs in our community makes you question the principles that we have operated under with regard to environmental protection," says Jeffrion L. Aubry, a prominent black Democratic Assemblyman from Queens.
  • The main element in the state's efforts to clean up hazardous waste sites, the Superfund program, is running out of money, and a budding alliance involving minority politicians, business leaders and civic leaders are pushing to overhaul its rules and standards as part of any final agreement to refinance it.
  • Businesses argue that strict cleanup standards for so- called "brownfields" -- polluted former industrial properties -- are not necessary when the land would be used for factories instead of homes.
  • They contend that thousands of industrial tracts have been shunned by developers because of concerns over legal liability -- with the result that there is no cleanup at all.

Redeveloping brownfields is particularly attractive to minority residents of urban areas and their leaders -- who are beginning to reassess the rules. Officials estimate that in New York City alone there are more than 6,500 brownfields.

The issue is expected to be one of the most hotly contested environmental matters that the state's Governor and Legislature take up this year, observers predict.

Source: Raymond Hernandez, "G.O.P. Finds Urban Allies in Its Bid to Ease Environmental Rules," New York Times, April 11, 1999.


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