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  • 15 Apr 2021 11:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BCONE board member takes ownership of brownfield tax credit closures for clients; firm ascends to become nationally recognized, go-to shop for brownfield tax credit consulting   

    By Steve Dwyer 

    How does a young brownfield industry practitioner climb so far up to the mountaintop -- and do it so quickly? 

    At 33 years old, Melina Ambrosino, Executive Vice President of Newton, Mass.-based Cherrytree Group LLC, will let you in on a little secret: be a sponge and become an expert. And, that dynamic process starts by surrounding yourself with great people. 

    The ritual started with the influence from her parents. “I come from a family that owns a small successful business. My parents started their own HVAC [heating ventilation and air conditioning] company out of our basement,” she says. In time, a strong work ethic enveloped her as well, inspired by the family work ethos. It extended into college and post-grad law school, and continues to this day in both her duties at Cherrytree and as a recent member of the BCONE board of directors, a post she secured in January 2020. 

    Wise beyond her years, Ambrosino says: “My strongest qualities are connecting with people.” 

    After Ambrosino graduated from college, she dove head-long into pursuing a law degree with a specialty in real estate transaction law. 

    When it came time to think about starting a career in the family business or choosing her own path, she selected the latter. “I answered a Craigslist ad for an administrative assistant position for Warren [Cherrytree president Warren Kirshenbaum]. It was a quick interview -- maybe 30 minutes. Afterwards, I wasn’t sure how it went.”

    But the session lasted so quickly because Kirshenbaum already saw enough, and in 2011 Ambrosino secured the job as the President’s executive assistant, while also chasing a law degree by attending law school at night. 

    Back in 2011, Ambrosino assisted Kirshenbaum on various tax credit work. “He once asked me to help him on a brownfield deal, and it [the tax credit process for brownfields] started to click for me. I became a sponge. Sitting right outside Warren’s office allowed me to be within earshot of his business calls. I was nosy and I really like [the brownfield industry and the financial part of it.] 

    In 2013, Ambrosino realized she had arrived at a crossroads: continue with law school or stay at Cherrytree with an expanded role. “(Warren) told me that ‘there’s something about you that can’t be taught.’ So I opted not to become a lawyer but used my post-graduate college experience to study tax law.”

    Things started to take off for Ambrosino incrementally. For several years, she attended an array of workshops and seminars dealing with tax credit strategies applied to brownfield sites. “It was at this time that we were expanding the organization toward tax credits other than the brownfields tax credit, such as the historic tax credit and the renewable energy tax credit,” she said. “I was confident I could bring in new [brownfield developer] business within our core areas of expertise being renewable energy, historic preservation and low-income and affordable housing. I had been learning that this industry had been dominated not only by long-timers but there were not a lot of women representing it.”

    By 2016, Cherrytree hired Jacob Vezga as its Tax Credit Manager, and Kirshenbaum handed Ambrosino oversight of the brownfield redevelopment side of business. “Warren would get new business inquiries for brownfield tax credits and pass them directly to me and Jake.”

    Wait, there’s more: a financial services consulting firm that once provided guidance for brownfield redevelopment financing deals measured in the “hundred-thousands” was on an upward trajectory for far more: Cherrytree, in 2018, closed $25 million in client financing via tax incentives/credits. And, the small financial services consultant soon became recognized as the top firm to partner with when it involves the tricky strategies of brownfield tax credit allocations and smaller historic rehabilitation and renewable energy projects. 

    “I became an expert -- we worked so hard and did numerous deals. I think the thing about what we do here, our mission, is to advocate for the small, populist developer first and foremost -- the art facility or the non-profit group. We [at Cherrytree] will never lose our souls, will always be transparent and clients will always know the trust factor is there.” 

    Industry of Change

    U.S. EPA encourages brownfields developers to learn about and take advantage of the variety of financial and technical assistance resources available to support a brownfield project—to enhance their ability to craft a financing package that leverages numerous sources of funding available from a variety of sources.

    Taking advantage of federal, state and local tax incentives and credits allows a brownfield developer to use resources normally spent to pay taxes for other purposes. This can help site redevelopers save the cash needed to address contamination issues. The extra cash flow resulting from a tax break also can improve a project’s appeal to lenders.

    What Ambrosino keeps top of mind is the fact that in the brownfield industry there’s a lot of fluidity and constant change with tax credit regs and policies. “When state tax credit provisions change, I change with them -- I adapt. One of the secrets I learned is to surround yourself with great people. So here I am [at 33 years old] very confident [in operating in this business environment].”

    To foster success within a complex piece of the puzzle, “my strongest qualities in the context of business development is connecting with people. Covid meant that I couldn’t attend live events. In August 2020, Warren and I needed to figure out what would be the best way for us to overcome the hurdles that the pandemic had thrown our way and keep business running strong.” 

    So Cherrytree pivoted toward solar. In 2020, the firm closed $8 million in renewable energy deals that were actually processed during the last couple months of 2020, a prolific performance. In one decade’s time, Cherrytree has secured and placed state and federal tax credit for developer clients totaling $100 million—all done with a four-person shop. And, this client base has been spread across the U.S. 

    “I think that were able to do it—expand our portfolio—by stepping out of our comfort zone to make it happen. We call it Cherrytree 2.0, and the evolution was led by a new unique platform that Warren created to establish a niche [in federal tax credits across the three specialized areas of end use]. We became successful because nobody else was touching [smaller federal tax credit deals].” 

    She also became fluent in areas where she had no past experience, such as an affinity for environmental consulting and engineering—just so she could learn and expedite the process for clients. “I had to learn engineering language,” Ambrosino says.   

    One blind spot of many developers in this space is the unawareness of their eligibility for state and federal tax credits, which just heaps extra financial stress on their project budgets—perhaps even killing their chances for success. 

    Prior to the pandemic, Cherrytree, under Ambrosino’s watch, hosted a series of workshops on the way tax credits can defray costs. “We provided great tools for them to be successful—educating people in this industry about the fact that there are incentives out there: some are unaware of the way it works.”

    The work that Ambrosino does isn’t grounded in reacting to developers and their project fortunes, but the firm is proactive about becoming very fluent in the tax credit marketplace, both in Massachusetts and nationally where they literally scout for a particular developer who might be ideal to pursue a particular project—matchmaking, if you will. 

    Ambrosino sums it up this way: “Tax credits to some developers is almost like witchcraft: they do not realize what they have in front of them to assist in capitalizing their projects. Our job is educating them about what is available.”  

    On the historic preservation project front, Cherrytree practices what it preaches: At its own headquarter location in Newton, they applied and did the ground work to secure the available tax credits for what is an older legacy building. “My dad owns Total Temperature Control in Wakefield, Mass., and he actually helped to work on the renovation that was required.” 

    These days, Ambrosino is settling into her role as one of 15 BCONE board members. About how it came to pass, she says” I called Sue [Boyle], and she sold me on it—to be a part of the organization. I submitted an application to be nominated for the board and was voted in during the January 2020 meeting: I have been involved in the Mass. Expansion Committee, and the NSCW conference in June.”

    To advance the fortunes of BCONE as well as those at Cherrytree, Ambrosino says that getting involved with developers who advocate for projects in urban opportunity zones (OZ) is a very compelling way to turn around blighted, abandoned and dilapidated parcels of property and, in turn, be eligible for double benefits. “In our industry, there are always problems where it’s mandatory to find creative solutions to bring areas back to life—ones that have become eyesores. You can make a space great, and spark job growth across many areas—hospitality, residential such as luxury condos, schoolhouse renovations for affordable apartments.” 

    She is also very attuned to the community support that is so “vital to make projects go forward—we can’t do it without them.” On the effort to find cohesion with local public-private partnerships, she calls it “similar to putting together a puzzle.”

    Yes, this young professional who fancies herself a “sponge” is sure to find new and creative ways to champion the brownfield redevelopment cause throughout the Northeast and beyond. She has time on her side. 

    About Cherrytree Group

    The Cherrytree Group is a Massachusetts based consultant, tax credit broker, and syndicator that specializes in Brownfields Tax Credits, Renewable Energy Tax Credits, Solar Energy Credits, and Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. 

    Cherrytree offers its clients a full service “turn-key” real estate solution by delivering consulting, syndicator or brokerage, arbitrage services and back-end support services utilizing in-house experts. Ambrosino focuses on operational oversight, including employee management, marketing, business development and client relations, while dedicating herself to understanding fundamentals of these tax credit incentive programs so that she can expand the Cherrytree Group's clientele base and help the business expand organically.

    She serves as the first point of contact for LSPs, developers, and real estate professionals, assisting them in determining their tax credit eligibility and helping to structure their projects accordingly. Melina has a BA from Suffolk University and is a resident of Wakefield, Mass.

  • 06 Apr 2021 2:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For the 2020 Touchstone Award, the Society of Women Environmental Professionals of Greater Philadelphia took a virtual walk down memory lane. The past 10 Touchstone Award recipients were contacted to see what they’ve been busy with since they were honored. BCONE's Executive Director, Sue Boyle (2010 Touchstone Award Winner) is at 0:50 into the video, and BCONE Member Marion Young (2012 Touchstone Award Winner) can be viewed at 3:10 in the video. Please click here to watch the video now:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CcJIS7aKX6oEH1RR4CctONGQVr2TxEKm/view

  • 24 Mar 2021 2:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BCONE’s March 4, 2021 Virtual Webinar

    By Beverly Entin, BCONE

    Do you have a redevelopment project and need assistance to help fill the financial funding gap? If so, New Jersey’s  new Brownfield Loan Program might be able to help, but you’ll need to hurry since applications to the New Jersey Economic Development Agency (NJEDA) must be filed by April 13, 2021.

    We hope you didn’t miss our informative program on the Brownfield Loan Program and Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program Act on March 4th. We were honored to have Elizabeth Limbrick and Paul Ceppi as speakers from the NJEDA, the agency responsible for implementing these programs.

    Attendees learned about the availability of loans amounting from $100,000 to $5 million dollars for certain projects. This is a competitive application process based on various scoring criteria. You can find guidance on what you need to develop a successful application directly at www.NJEDA.com/BFLoans.

    We also learned about fifteen (15) new programs that are being developed under the Economic Recovery Act. Programs focus on tax incentives, financing and grant programs with the goal of building a stronger economy in New Jersey. Public comments are currently being accepted on the draft regulations which provides you with an opportunity to provide your input on the proposed process.

    BCONE would like to thank our speakers Elizabeth Limbrick and Paul Ceppi for sharing their insight and knowledge with our attendees. We’d also like to thank our moderators Alan Miller from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) as well as Dennis Toft and Rob Crespi who are both from Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi (CSG). A special thank you to our event sponsors, Peak Environmental and CSG.

    We welcome you to share your comments, thoughts and views at BCONE’s events throughout the year. Please remember to check our website for updated announcements,  webinars, conferences, opportunities to network (e.g.,  hikes, tours, wine tastings), and to support the Charlie Bartsch Scholarship Fund. 

  • 24 Mar 2021 2:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Beverly Entin

    Life in New Jersey has been impacted by extreme weather over the course of the past few years. We’ve dealt with record high and low temperatures, major blizzards, hurricanes, tornados and more. How do you deal with impacts on communities, ecosystems, governance, public understanding, economics and other factors?

    The Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) brought together a panel of experts to help us delve into the issues that affect us all. All of the panelists agreed that things are ‘heating up in New Jersey’. However, we also heard about disagreements on the best science for developing policies, the need to provide towns with the necessary tools and resources for success, discussions on how to address vulnerable, high risk communities, and the need for definitive guidance so the State of New Jersey and local communities can make long-term decisions which will result in economically stable communities.

    Dave Rosenblatt, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP’s) State Chief Resilience Officer, presented highlights from NJDEP’s Climate Change Resilience Strategy. This strategy is based on Rutgers University’s June 30, 202 NJ Scientific Report on Climate Change which predicts sea level rising by 5.1 feet by 2100. The Rutgers’ report lead to interesting discussions on the validity of developing long-term plans based on a single study which will have a significant economic impact on businesses and communities. 

    Mike Cerra, Executive Director, League of Municipalities, reminded us that local municipalities have the difficult challenge of balancing residential and commercial issues along with property rights. At the same time these municipalities are dealing with limited budgets and struggling to keep property taxes low.

    Ray Cantor, Vice President Government Affairs, New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), discussed the NJBIA’s concerns with the guidance provided by the NJDEP. NJBIA has had their own Climate Change study performed which they have recently shared with NJDEP & Rutgers. NJBIA believes the Rutgers report is not using the best science and overstating the future climate change effects, though they recognize climate change is occurring. To ensure a thriving economy, decisions on planning and how best to use limited economic resources need to be made based on accurate scientific data.

    Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Futures, highlighted the fact that all of our panelists agree that the climate is changing and will have an impact on our communities. Our panelists also agree on the goal to reduce harm to our communities with policies that are as cost effective as possible. The big questions is “How?"

    Under new Municipal Land Use Laws, municipalities will need to perform a Vulnerability Assessment and develop a Resiliency Plan that will be incorporated in the community’s Master Plan. Municipalities will need definitive guidance and assistance to develop these plans. 

    Rick Shoyer, President, BCONE, discussed Brownfield Redevelopment objectives and benefits. We need to shift our focus to resilient building designs that are sustainable, economical and can withstand natural and manmade disasters. We also need to consider how global manufacturing and industry practices impact our environment in New Jersey.

    Moderator Joanne Vos, Maraziti Falcon, LLP, kept the discussion going by challenging the panelists with difficult questions and issues. We were reminded of the stark reality that it may not be economically feasible to fix all of the destruction from climate change with engineering. 

    Our seashores, boardwalks, and communities may look different in the years to come. Joanne Vos asked the panelist, “will my daughter be able to pull the handle on a slot machine in Atlantic City?"  We don’t really know the answer to that question.

    Though no final decisions were made, open dialogue sharing different perspectives and viewpoints is the key to making progress. BCONE thanks our panelists and attendees, and we look for many more conversations in the future as we all agree Climate Change is occurring and we have the same goal.

    As Dave Rosenblatt reminded us at the start of today’s presentation with a quote from Ernest Hemingway “The Earth is a fine place worth fighting for.” 

    We welcome you to share your comments, thoughts and views at BCONE’s events throughout the year. Please remember to check our website for updated announcements webinars, conferences, opportunities to network (eg. hikes, tours, wine tastings), and to support the Charlie Bartsch Scholarship Fund. 

  • 17 Mar 2021 11:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mr. Rick Shoyer guest gave a lecture on February 27, on the topic of soil investigations, specifically the NJ guidance for site investigation, remedial investigation, and remedial action verification sampling for soil. Mr. Shoyer is a Senior Project Consultant for Advanced GeoServices, a Montrose Environmental Group company based in Robbinsville, NJ. He is a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and an N-2 licensed operator in the State of New Jersey. Mr. Shoyer’s experience includes working on brownfields, PFAS projects and PFAS research. He currently serves as President of Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE.) BCONE’s mission is to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and best practices on the benefits of brownfield remediation, resilience, and sustainable redevelopment; and to work with public, private, and regulatory stakeholders in our region to facilitate economic activity and growth. Mr. Shoyer was appointed as the BCONE representative on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protections’ (NJDEP) Site Remediation.

  • 17 Mar 2021 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dr. Robert Blauvelt (top, right) guest lectured on the topic of Phase II sampling methodologies on February 20. Dr. Blauvelt is a geologist with more than 30 years of experience in the investigation, remediation and redevelopment of industrial and commercial properties. Over the course of his career, he has assisted clients in complex, multi-site due diligence assessments, regulatory compliance audits and litigation/expert witness services. This remedial and redevelopment (brownfield) work has been done within the context of a variety of regulatory programs including CERCLA (RI/FS), RCRA (RFI/CMS), NJDEP (SRP), NYSDEC DERR, MA MCP and OEPA VAP. Dr. Blauvelt also has led cleanup projects involving in situ and ex situ management of soil impacted with petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents. His remediation experience runs the gamut from the development of enhanced bioremediation/natural attenuation to providing technical support in the design and installation of multi-level air sparge, soil vapor extraction and treatment systems. Dr. Blauvelt has a M.S. and B.S. in Geology from Rutgers University, as well as a Ph.D. from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

    Ms. Sandra Gaurin (right, bottom) guest lectured on the topic of Phase II data evaluation on March 6. She is Director of Client Services, Risk Management and has more than 20 years of experience simultaneously managing multiple projects with a focus on loss control services and environmental claims support. Her responsibilities with Gallagher Bassett Technical Services Division include the coordination of teams of experts to provide technical support for complex environmental issues and claims. Ms. Gaurin has been involved in expert witness report preparation in support of litigation for nationwide insurance carriers, and also coordinates and performs risk management and due diligence support to nationwide real estate investors, including local office staff coordination, budget and deadline management as well as interface with clients. Ms. Gaurin has also managed projects for commercial/industrial as well as municipal/state clients involving site investigation and remediation activities such as underground storage tank removal, impacted soil excavation and disposal, groundwater and soil vapor investigation and remediation, and in-situ bioremediation treatment.

    She also maintains reporting compliance for industrial/warehousing facilities, including Tier II reporting, hazardous waste reporting, homeland security assessments, SPCC, and SWPP. Ms. Gaurin earned a Master of Science from the Industrial Biology School, France and a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University Paris 6. She is a LEED Accredited Professional and holds many certification and licenses, including Environmental Risk Management (ERM) License, 40-hour OSHA HAZWOPER, 30-hour OSHA Construction Safety Training, and EPA Hazardous Waste Management Training.

  • 17 Mar 2021 11:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Angelo Lampousis, in The Assessor (Twitter: @lampousis)

    EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) has its own unique history in New York State. On March 20th, 2021, we expect to welcome representatives of successful EWDJT grantees, including Ms Raphaella Savaides, training coordinator at The Fortune Society, Mr. Paul McFadden, manager of workforce development for the City of Rochester, and Ms Angela M. Iocolano, Sr. Director, Quality & Evaluation, PathStone Corporation, Rochester, NY. Michael Senew will represent the Hazardous Materials Training and Research Institute (HMTRI).

    The panel will be moderated by Ms Schenine Mitchell, Brownfields Program Coordinator, Land Chemicals and Redevelopment Division, Land and Redevelopment Programs Branch, Brownfields Section, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2. The context for the EWDJT panel at CCNY is the course Phase II environmental site assessments (EAS 33400) offered this year in conjunction with the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE). The “assessors” of the future, our own CCNY students enrolled in this course, will get the opportunity to interface again with BCONE members as well as the general public, since this is an open event. For information on how to access the event please contact Maria Cogliando at mcoglia000@citymail.cuny.edu.

  • 11 Mar 2021 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    UCONN judge harbors ‘a lot of hope for the next generation of brownfield professionals’ 

    By Steve Dwyer, Maria Coler, and Beverly Entin 

    The future of brownfield reclamation and development appears to be in good shape. Each year, the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast’s (BCONE) Charlie Bartsch Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to the best and brightest students working toward obtaining degrees in brownfield related disciplines.

    In December 2020, two of the six teams from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) presented extraordinary presentations and won scholarships totaling $4,000 (8 recipients at $500/scholarship). The first team, which developed an United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Community Wide Brownfields Assessment Grant, included Logan Williams, Chadwick Schroeder and Calvin Palmer. The second winning team prepared an USEPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant and included Kamila Zygadlo, Ciarra Mckenzie, Ava Michelangelo, Mary Pizzuto and Max Starke.

    Fatima Nagui of Brooklyn, NY attends the City College of New York (CCNY) and was the recipient of the Bartsch award. The Bartsch award was established in recognition of Charlie Bartsch, the dynamic, talented and well-loved brownfields industry practitioner—and advocate—who left us all too soon in 2017.

    Scholarship Projects

    During the 2020 fall semester, UCONN students were assigned to several Connecticut towns to prepare grant applications and assist the local private-public partnership in establishing a vision for brownfield urban redevelopment. The USEPA brownfield grant application is an arduous process. It consists of a 50-page document that must be actionable and practical to implement, says scholarship judge Mark Lewis of the Connecticut  Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) and a member of BCONE’s Board of Directors, adding that USEPA wants grant applications to be so compelling that they could make anyone judging them “cry” due to their power and influence.

    The students at UCONN who participated in the program were part of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering’s Connecticut Brownfield Initiative program. The program was overseen by Dr. Nefeli Bompoti  and Dr. Marisa Chrysochoou.

    Team Williams-Schroeder-Palmer worked with the town of Stratford to develop a proposal for an USEPA Community Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant. The team of students “identified several brownfield sites in the town in need of environmental site investigation,” says Dr. Bompoti. “The students conducted analysis of the community’s needs based on demographic indicators and financial data. They also developed a proposed plan and budget to conduct the environmental assessment activities.”

    Team Zygadlo-Mckenzie-Michelangelo-Pizzuto-Starke worked with St. Luke’s Development Corp., a non-profit located in New Haven, to develop an USEPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant. The team reviewed technical documents, including previous site investigations and remedial plans to develop the proposal narrative.

    The Winning Scholarship Teams

    All six teams from UCONN worked hard over the course of the Fall semester and made solid presentations. According to Mark Lewis, “All six presentations were uniformly excellent.” When not volunteering as a judge, Mark Lewis works as the Brownfield Coordinator for the CTDEEP and is a longtime member of  BCONE’s Board. Lewis, along with fellow judges Don Friday and Sarah Trombetta were impressed by the presentations, which were conducted via Zoom conferencing. Each presentation took about 20 minutes.

    “They all did a great job putting together grant applications [that were tied to the Connecticut towns in which student teams were assigned to work]. These were undergraduate students who had the poise to give excellent presentations,” says Lewis. 

    Having to present their projects remotely due to COVID-19 made the presentations even more impressive, says Lewis. “The winning teams were able to deal with [any technical issues] without missing a beat. In any field, to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is hard. But the winning teams demonstrated to me their ability to convey what they know in an understandable way.”

    Lewis says he, Friday and Trombetta “went away with a lot of hope for the next generation of brownfield professionals who are coming up to take our place.” 

    CCNY Bartsch Awardee

    Bartsch Award Winner Fatima Nagui participated in the Phase I course at CCNY. She enjoyed the technical reporting methods that provide great insight into the contamination that exists within various properties. Angelo Lampousis, Ph.D. is a lecturer and undergraduate advisor for Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at CCNY as well as a BCONE Board member. Lampousis lauded Nagui’s work and professionalism. “It was the commute between home and elementary school that Fatima would ask her Dad about the brackish-looking Gowanus Canal that they passed by daily. Her Dad was surprised that she was aware of the history of the Gowanus Canal and the city’s lack of action that had allowed for such a toxic body of water to exist,” says Lampousis.

    Professor Lampousis believes that it was that commute to and from school that “served as an inspiration for Fatima’s interest in environmental conservation, and later, environmental engineering. Environmental conservation does its part in educating people about the impacts of society on the environment; however, she likes to take a more practical approach.”

    “Fatima plans to work hard by studying the problems that exist today and learning how to create solutions,” Professor Lampousis says. “She is committing herself towards a career in environmental engineering where she believes she will be able to engineer new and innovative techniques and solutions to resolve the harmful impact that humanity has had on the planet."

    Scholarship Funding Mechanism 

    Maria Coler, chair of the BCONE Scholarship Committee believes that brownfields are “the building blocks of green cities.” Coler, a Licensed Site Remediation Professional and CEO and founder of Hydrotechnology Consultants Inc., located in Jersey City, N.J., joined the scholarship committee in 2020. 

    Similar to professionals like Mark Lewis, Coler feels the urgency to “seed the next generation of brownfield practitioners across various disciplines, from ecology to geology. We need to acquaint students with the industry and why it’s an important part of building a sustainable world,” she says. 

    Coler did not personally know Charlie Bartsch, but has learned from his colleagues the extent to which he spearheaded the brownfield industry and promoted brownfields as a mechanism to achieve urban renewal and environmental justice.  Coler is motivated by the degree to which Charlie was loved and admired and strives to organize fundraising events that would be near and dear to his heart.

    To that end and in his honor, she formed BCONE’s hiking and book clubs and organizes tastings and cultural outings.

    Coler says that as an entrepreneur she must keep in focus the “why” of what she does—and she strives to “ground new practitioners with the same foundational purpose.”  Reminding those of their purpose is the aim of the book club--to raise the consciousness of a generation of practitioners by learning about iconic environmentalists and activists.  The book club has tackled Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (documenting the adverse environmental effects of indiscriminate pesticide use) and Richard S. Newman’s “Love Canal-A Toxic History From Colonial Times to the Present (a story about heroic citizen activists in Niagara Falls, NY). Next on the list is Dan Fagin’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Tom’s River.” 

    Coler says that that these iconic books reveal the “arc of history and how scientists and citizen activists were able to move the needle forward [on progress]. I don’t want to just give money to students, I also want to get them really excited about why becoming a practitioner is a rewarding—and important—career.”

    Students Had Vision 

    Mark Lewis says that he was amazed that “all the students [involved in the scholarship program] seemed to understand what the towns they were assigned to needed. The students had empathy with residents of their assigned town and really began to care for the towns. They shared the town’s vision for success and economic redevelopment.” 

    During the Spring of 2021, it will be revealed if the grant applications prepared by BCONE’s scholarship winners are selected by USEPA for grant funding. 

    Students spent significant time with local mayors and First Selectmen, and many didn’t know a lot about the local communities they were assigned to at the start of their project. “The students learn over the course of the semester what these towns face, and this allows them to distill it all down into a compelling grant application. The students also face the additional challenge of presenting their grant application to the scholarship committee” says Lewis.    

    The BCONE Charlie Bartsch Memorial Scholarship Program has, in the past, served as a bellwether for USEPA’s grant selection—ultimately seeing the agency selecting the same communities to secure grant funding as the teams that were awarded BCONE scholarships. 

    In essence, this validates the power of the BCONE scholarship program and our impressive Scholarship and Bartsch award winners. 

  • 17 Feb 2021 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Maria Cogliando, The Assessor

    Colleen Kokas, Executive Vice President at Commercial Development Company, delivered the first guest lecture on the history of brownfields on February 6, 2021, to 25 graduate and undergraduate CUNY students who are enrolled in EAS 33400 (a course on Phase II environmental site assessments).

    Colleen has over 30 years of experience in the remediation of contaminated sites, including project management, cleanup negotiations, funding, liability protection, cost recovery, brownfield redevelopment and sustainability. Before joining Environmental Liability Transfer, the largest purchaser of brownfield sites in North America, Colleen worked at NJ Department of Environmental Protection, where she managed a variety of programs.

    Most notably, Colleen managed the Site Remediation’s financial incentive programs and its brownfield redevelopment program. She was subsequently selected to help establish NJDEP’s Sustainability and Green Energy Office advancing policies that would allow for the installation of solar energy on brownfields and other contaminated sites.

    Colleen also served as NJDEP’s representative on the board of the NJ Economic Development Authority, and as Director of Water Resources Coordination overseeing the critical path necessary for the issuance of water-related permits.

    Currently, Colleen serves as Executive Vice President at ELT, where she works closely with government agencies, property owners, and environmental attorneys to create new business opportunities in contaminated property acquisition. Colleen is a co-founder of the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast, and was the first person chosen for its prestigious Brownfield Person of the Year award.

    She has recently authored several articles on the redevelopment of contaminated sites; these writings focus on the acquisition and redevelopment of Superfund sites, interagency cooperation, and the transformation of power plants into hubs to support offshore wind. Colleen received a B.S. in Geology and master’s degree in Public Administration from Rutgers University. Colleen is a co-founder and board member of the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of brownfields, and to connecting and educating professionals in the brownfield community. She also serves on the NJ Business and Industry Association Energy and Environmental Policy Committee.

    In 2020, Colleen was appointed by the USEPA Administrator to serve on its Environmental Finance Advisory Board. Colleen also served as USEPA Region 2 representative to the Brownfield Task Force under the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Organization (ASTSWMO), a national advisory committee to USEPA focused on improving waste programs. Additionally, Colleen served on the National Brownfield Association Advisory Board, where she provided a state government perspective on legislative, regulatory, and technical advancements for brownfields on the national level.

  • 17 Feb 2021 11:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Maria Cogliando, The Assessor

    The first joint event between the City College of New York (CCNY) and the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) was a ”Hot Topics” session held on April 23, 2019. It was moderated by Sue Boyle of GEI Consultants, who serves as the executive director of BCONE, the New York City Brownfield Partnership (NYCBP), and the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association (LSRPA). Topics covered included perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the use of fill at redevelopment sites and its movement within the region, opportunity zones, and updates on other brownfield incentives offered in the northeastern U.S.

    Since that first interaction, BCONE continued the collaboration by offering guest lectures for the Phase I (fall 2020) and Phase II (spring 2021) Environmental Site Assessment courses. The first two speakers presented virtually on February 6, 2021, on the history of brownfields to a class of 25 CCNY students. Students will also be automatically enrolled at no additional cost in the 40-hour OSHA HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard) certification program, which applies to employees who are engaged in clean-up operations that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

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