Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Developers make their case on brownfields program

Posted By on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 10:50 AM

When Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his 2014-15 budget earlier this year, he said he wanted the Legislature to renew and reform the state's brownfield tax credit program.

The program, which provides tax credits to developers who clean up and reuse contaminated properties, is set to expire in 2015. Neither environmental groups nor developers want to see that happen. But Cuomo's plan calls for some changes in eligibility criteria. Under his proposal, the projects would target areas of higher needs, affordable housing projects, and priority economic development projects.

Some statewide environmental groups praised the changes. The credits were initially passed to encourage clean-up and reuse of contaminated properties in distressed communities, they said, and they haven't fulfilled that goal. Too often, the credits are going to projects in thriving real estate markets. (Environmental Advocates of New York released an analysis of the state 's brownfield tax credit program in November.)

But developers and some of their consultants are starting to dig in their heels. Yesterday, a coalition of developers, consultants, and state business policy groups released a study of the economic benefits of the brownfield program. The press release announcing the study says that the way New York's program is set up, with developers receiving the credits after the site clean-up and construction work is completed, is working. And it says that New York's program should be a national model.

While developers completed 142 brownfield projects, the report analyzed 96 projects for which substantial information was available. Among the economic benefits cited by the report:
  • The 96 projects were responsible for $7 billion in investment,15,000 permanent jobs, and 42,300 construction jobs;
  • Of the 142 completed projects, 43 percent are in officially designated zones with high poverty and unemployment;
  • The tax credit program helped draw four new manufacturers to the state and enabled two corporate headquarters projects;
  • In total, the program helped 15 manufacturers locate or expand in upstate, which created 1,200 jobs and retained 1,300 jobs.

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