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Gillibrand wants faster cleanup of brownfield sites

Ryan Delaney

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is looking to raise the amount of money that can go to cleaning up former industrial sites in a move she says will spark for redevelopment.

On Monday she crossed upstate New York promoting the Brownfields Utilization Investment and Local Development Act, or BUILD Act.

Most former industrial sites are contaminated with solvents or metals that leaked into the ground. They're known as brownfields and require remediation before they can be redeveloped.

While Gillibrand, a Democrat, says the measure has bipartisan support in the Senate, a House of Representatives committee recently voted to cut grant funding for such cleanup.

She wants to raise the funding cap and allow remediation projects to win multiple grants. A similar program expired in 2006.

Gillibrand was joined by Rep. Dan Maffei, D-DeWitt, and local lawmakers at the Syracuse Community Health Center on the city's south side. The center is looking to expand onto neighboring lots that are brownfields.

The senator says increasing brownfield redevelopment will increase economic development in former industrial areas.

"These are the kinds of smart investments that we can make in our communities all across New York to attract new businesses and create new jobs; transforming our former industrial areas into places for New Yorkers to work, play, and raise a family," she said.

About a week ago, the House Appropriations Committee passed an environmental spending plan that would cut funding for brownfield grants.

Maffei acknowledged the Gillibrand proposal will face a tough fight in the GOP-controlled House despite some bipartisan support.

"We need to make lemons into lemonade, if you will," he said. "We need to make these brownfields green again. Green both in terms of the natural land and green in terms of the dollars they’ll bring to central New York."