New Jersey expands Community Collaborative Initiative to help revitalize brownfield neighborhoods after winning $3 million

On May 6, 2020, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced that it will receive an $800,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) brownfields grant. The NJEDA can use this funding to capitalize a revolving loan fund or to provide subaward grants to communities, developers, and nonprofits carrying out cleanup and redevelopment activities at brownfield sites.

EPA also awarded grants to the cities of Camden and Jersey City and the nonprofit Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. In total, the Agency provided nearly $2.1 million to support brownfield remediation in New Jersey. These were among the 156 EPA brownfield grants recently awarded, as documented elsewhere in this issue.

The EPA Brownfields program has helped New Jersey’s communities by transforming once-vacant properties into beacons of hope, especially for many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez.

Vacant or contaminated land may not feel or look like a community asset waiting to happen, but with the right knowledge, skills, vision, and investment, these properties offer local governments and neighborhoods some of the best opportunities to transform their futures. Through the Brownfields program, we can reverse blight and replace it with regeneration – and with even one property’s reuse, we can spur community-wide revitalization,” he added.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy identified brownfield remediation and redevelopment as an important component of smart planning that will allow New Jersey to meet its goals for economic growth, minimize the environmental impacts posed by former industrial properties, and help communities become more sustainable and resilient.

To facilitate brownfields redevelopment, Governor Murphy has proposed a new set of programs, including a remediation and redevelopment tax credit, as well as an enhanced brownfields loan program through the NJEDA.

Supporting communities as they work to clean up and revitalize contaminated properties is crucial for creating vibrant cities and neighborhoods and stimulating economic growth,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan.

EPA RLF funding will allow us to provide more comprehensive and effective support for communities and organizations working to return contaminated properties to productive use. This is always valuable, but it will have a particularly significant impact now, when resources are stretched thin everywhere due to COVID-19,” he continued.

In addition to these proposed programs, in March 2019 the NJEDA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) entered into an MOU to expand the Community Collaborative Initiative (CCI), a program that embeds NJDEP staff in targeted communities to help them navigate complex environmental stressors and set a pathway for successful remediation and redevelopment. The CCI currently operates in twelve communities around New Jersey: Bayonne, Camden, Perth Amboy, Trenton, Bridgeton, Jersey City, Millville, Newark, Paterson, Paulsboro, Salem City, and Vineland.

While the EPA RLF grant will be used to provide low-interest loans and sub-grants to support brownfield cleanup and redevelopment throughout the state, the NJEDA’s RLF program will target the twelve CCI communities, which have high instances of brownfields, poverty, health disparities, and need for revitalization.

Funds will go toward revitalizing vacant and abandoned properties to provide community assets such as housing, recreation and open space, health facilities, and commerce opportunities. As borrowers repay these loans, the fund will re-lend that money to other borrowers, providing an ongoing source of capital for community improvement projects.

Economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.

This grant award will spark community revitalization, strengthening our communities and our ecosystems at the same time. New Jersey’s Community Collaborative Initiative, which started in Camden, is a valuable example of how funding redevelopment creates economic activity and I’m pleased that the DEP and NJEDA can replicate that model in cities throughout the state,” she concluded.

In addition to the $800,000 grant to the NJEDA, EPA also awarded $500,000 Brownfields Cleanup Grants to the Cities of Camden and Jersey City to support the cleanup and revitalization of the Borden Chemical manufacturing facility in Camden and the Mill Creek industrial site in Jersey City.

The Agency also awarded $299,451 to Cooper’s Ferry Partnership Inc. to identify sites for assessment in the North Camden neighborhood, assess those sites for hazardous substances, complete cleanup and reuse plans, and carry out community outreach activities.

Photo of Newark, New Jersey brownfield courtesy of Environmental Justice in the Ironbound.

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