NEW MONEY FOR BROWNFIELD OPPORTUNITY AREAS
NPCR has been following the BOA program from its inception, and we know that it works. (See NPCR's Albany Times Union Op-Ed, published on the morning of the Governor's State of the State). As the only Statewide program in the country that drives community-based revitalization in poorer neighborhoods burdened with brownfields, the BOA program has provided hope and real economic uplift across the State. And now Governor Cuomo has endorsed the program by providing new BOA funding for the first time since he took office.
In his January 13th budget announcement, there was important news for low-income communities struggling with revitalization: the Governor’s decision to begin funding Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) grants after a three year hiatus. Both houses of the legislature agreed with the decision and the budget passed with the new funding - $2 million for 2016. The BOA grants program will now be part of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), a logical funding source for a program designed to get environmental contamination cleaned up and communities rebuilt after decades of post-industrial blight.
There was more good news for the same communities that the BOA program was designed to help: increased spending on municipal parks and waterfront revitalization, and funding for a new environmental justice initiative, to be developed with input from the EJ community.
All of these programs are in addition to a large infrastructure investment the Governor has proposed for downstate, and new competitive grants for upstate "downtown" revitalization.
This is all good news, but more needs to be done. The BOA program is burdened with duplicative steps and long delays in funding; it needs to be streamlined. There is also a need for a pre-development funding cycle once planning completed, to help communities begin to implement their plans and work with private investors. Senator Avella and Assemblymember Brindisi have reintroduced A.7970/S.5341 to streamline and strengthen the BOA program. We will need your help to get it passed.
It must also be said that the $2 million to be made available for BOA grants, though very welcome after years of no funding, is not nearly enough to match both need and readiness to move communities through the BOA process, or to provide for the brownfield assessments that are key to moving forward with development. We will be talking to the Governor and Legislative leaders about increasing this amount in 2017.
NPCR heartily thanks all of you who have written to the Governor and your legislators about the importance of the BOA program. Please keep those communications going!