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  • 06 Oct 2021 2:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Binghamton University Libraries Grant:   A Springboard to Accelerative Sustainability Education & Practice

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Editor’s Note: BCONE’s Executive Director was part of an invigorating discussion this summer with Jen Embree, Neyda Gilman, and Carrie Blabac-Myers, Development Officer for the Binghamton University Libraries. Librarians were not a group that BCONE had ever considered as brownfield remediation and redevelopment allies, but this summer’s discussion  generated ideas for possible future projects including  additional learning and teaching opportunities for students seeking environmental careers.

    Learn more about Embree and Gilman in the article, below,  as well as in this this piece from Binghamton University:

    https://libnews.binghamton.edu/connections/2021/08/24/alumni-connections/ 

    At Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y., two subject librarians are quickly becoming sustainability evangelists in their daily involvement with faculty, staff and students—all via new tools and measures that came about after the university libraries received a primary grant from the American Library Association. The grant, which was announced last fall, provides additional resources and motivation for the libraries to expand sustainability-related work that had already started to some degree.

    Neyda Gilman and Jen Embree, both subject librarians at Binghamton, are setting a course to carry out sustainability best practices at the university, and are eager to see how the grant from last fall will make inroads into that effort.

    Efforts along the sustainability spectrum are curbing carbon emissions, water efficiency, waste reduction, biodiversity, sustainable building design, wind and solar energy, crop rotation, geothermal practices and fostering an assurance of more green spaces in the urban infill.

    From a brownfield environmental remediation perspective, professionals are always seeking ways to implement better and more efficient green and sustainable cleanup strategies.  

    Both Gilman and Embree do not have “official” sustainability education or training; but, both have long been strong proponents for sustainable practices. With this grant, the university libraries program can set out to accelerate broad practices and in turn receive university-level buy-in. 

    Multi-faceted components

    The primary goal of the ALA grant is to “help libraries engage their communities in programs and conversations that address the climate crisis.”

    At Binghamton, the distinction of the ALA grant—something that adds clarity and relevance—is the fact that the university serves as only one of five academic libraries in the U.S. to receive it, as all 20 other recipients are U.S.-based local public libraries. (Binghamton U. is the lone academic library in New York State to receive the full grant.) 

    Among the resources that Binghamton University can now implement on the road to preaching sustainable living is an expanding DVD library offering access to several climate related films. Most of these will be used for streaming events.

    Some themes include, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change,” “Decoding the Weather Machine” and “Chasing Ice.” Some sustainability-related events and activities will be available throughout campus, and the grant will see an advancement of the Binghamton University Seed Library, says Gilman. 

    The Seed Library, located in the Science Library on main campus, allows individuals to “borrow” seeds to grow with the intention of harvesting and returning seeds at the end of the season. Seed libraries have multiple benefits, including:

    • Promoting biodiversity, preserving genetic diversity;
    • Providing community members with seeds to grow healthy food to supplement their diet;
    • Supporting local seed-savers and gardeners; and
    • Encouraging increased engagement between the library and the community.

    Anyone can come into the Binghamton University Science Library to access the Seed Library. Individuals can take seeds of each type of plant to grow, with seeds pre-divided into envelopes for ease. The university is providing tutorials on how to harvest seeds as well as have various events surrounding the topic. 

    The Mission Expands

    The actual grant sum for Binghamton Libraries is modest—$1,000—but it’s about more than the funds: One key intangible outgrowth of the grant is that the university will receive ongoing support from the ALA in its efforts, says Gilman. “The financial aspect helps us get started, but the grant equates to program prestige [via the ALA sanctioning it as such] and helps us market this program better,” says Gilman, who is assistant head of sustainability and STEM engagement, and has been at Binghamton University for five years.

    Gilman says that while she doesn’t possess “formal” training in sustainability practices, she says practicing it has been “a personal calling for decades. I am very confident in the knowledge I have accumulated around sustainability practices.”

    Prior to receiving the grant, Gilman says “sustainability was never part of our job description, so the grant came at a good time as we can now make it part of our job description,” says Gilman, who is the subject librarian supporting nursing and pharmaceutical schools at the university: It is in this role that the staff and faculty of these areas of learning can tap Gilman as the go-to resources as they further their research and study.

    Embree serves as the sustainability hub coordinator, and has been with the university for three years. She is the subject librarian for biology, psychology and comparative literature, just to name three areas of education. A UCONN graduate, Embree has taken multiple classes in the sustainability field, and is now poised to use the grant to power up her knowledge through practice.

    “The grant also serves as a way for Neyda and me to move forward in more of a team approach. You can do more—and it made us focus our energy better. We now also have an official Sustainability Hub,” she says. 

    What lies ahead in 2021 and into 2022 for the libraries program is to disseminate the many tenets grounded in sustainable lifestyles, “sharing what is happening on campus, spreading it and getting people involved to learn. There are many people with an interest in sustainability that lack an easy way to obtain the knowledge and the tools. We have several platforms for them to obtain this knowledge now,” says Gilman. 

    “What we want to accomplish is to maintain a sustainability culture among students and faculty—not just in the study curriculum but it’s a lifestyle thing. That is what we are trying to accomplish,” says Embree. 

    Question for our Readers:  There must be additional professions which BCONE should add to its lists of  allies. Who and what are we missing?  Let us know of other amazing people you have encountered so BCONE can get to know them better.

  • 10 Aug 2021 1:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Three BCONE members are making their mark -- and in a hurry. They’ve progressed from membership to committee chairs and/or board members in short order, and are now tasked with recruiting, and appealing to, younger industry professionals within a fledgling BCONE mentorship committee.

    The threesome include: Alexa Fiumarelli, environmental scientist, Boswell Engineering, South Hackensack, N.J.; Almariet Palm-Roberts, project geologist, HRP, Farmington, Conn.; and Melina Ambrosino, executive vice president, Newton, Mass.-based Cherrytree Group LLC.

        

    During the summer, the three women were busy establishing a working blueprint for this new BCONE committee that is founded on the premise of advocating for and mentoring young professionals—ones who might already be BCONE members and ones who might be interested in joining the organization.

    The beauty of this newly formed committee is that all three members have diversified industry experience across three Northeast states—Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts. 

    As part of the mentoring committee vision, the trio is branching out engage with students at colleges and universities—mentoring would-be brownfield professionals. The committee, which might ultimately be billed as the “Developing Emerging Leaders,” is designed to “find and network with young, emerging leaders and determine ways for them to flourish,” says Fiumarelli, who has accumulated experience as an industrial hygienist responsible for performing air monitoring of formaldehyde gas, carbon dioxide, and oxygen on various construction sites. 

    Alexa has accumulated project management/supervision experience where she provides solutions around air management, while working independently,  traveling to different locations throughout New Jersey to provide health and safety surveillance. Focusing on earning a Master’s degree from Rutgers in public health, she says one mentoring advantage that she and her colleagues are able to offer as young professionals is the ability to relate to young professional and students well. 

    “We’re more in touch with younger people—we’ve recently walked in their shoes. I recently wrote a short definition of what a mentor is and the word that first came to mind is ‘trust.’ I told one of my ‘mentees’ at William Paterson University [Wayne, N.J., where she volunteers as a mentor] that I am your connection for life. I can help lift you up and you can also help lift me up as well—it works both ways.”

    When she joined BCONE, Fiumarelli was eager to dive right into committee involvement, and was a member of the Scholarship committee. She ultimately thought there was a more optimal committee assignment that would align best with her skill sets. The soon-to-be created mentoring committee was ideal.

    Diverse Backgrounds 

    All three  mentoring committee co-chairs have eclectic backgrounds, which adds a broad perspective to the effort. Ambrosino is a tax credit manager overseeing the brownfield redevelopment side of business, while Roberts is a project geologist for HRP Associates, where she works to minimize environmental risks associated with client projects, all to help them reach intended business goals.

    Fiumarelli, who had formerly been with Whitman Co., an engineering firm in Cranberry, N.J., recently joined Boswell as an industrial hygiene/environmental scientist. “My experience with brownfields historically has been processing OSHA complaints, solar jobs, LSRP due diligence, Phase I and Phase II site investigation, and more,” she explains. 

    Palm-Roberts, who has been a BCONE member for two years and is in her second year on the board, has been working with the Connecticut expansion committee, and is now eager to branch out with a second committee assignment, mentoring. 

    Speaking about the theme of emerging leaders, Palm-Roberts, who is a UCONN grad, says that college graduates entering the work force “need guidance to make them aware of their options, and it’s a tricky thing where you have to try and match your specific skill set with various positions,” she says. “Seeing their future in this industry can be unclear to newly minted professionals, who can become discouraged. It’s for this reason they need a support system to facilitate for them. It can be intimidating talking to people in their field: I know I was intimidated at one time, So, the three of us think that we can work to be that ‘bridge.’ ”

    Palm-Roberts states that the term, “it’s who you know,” is often the way young people climb the ladder quickly. But the Catch-22 is getting the foot through the door initially. “How do you get to know the important people in your field? Cold calling is difficult, so as this committee is formed, we can serve as that conduit, to allow young professionals to formulate these bonds organically. Plus, having a forum such as social events that we’ll sponsor will be really useful.”

    In fact, Palm-Roberts likes the idea of scheduling dinners, community service and happy hour events, including virtual events if the impacts of the pandemic continue to keep people away from attending live events. “The more regularly we can host events, the more your base grows. I think we’ll start out deciding if events should be monthly or quarterly. The key is to get people involved and committed—and it’s tricky getting people committed to something.” 

    Alexa Fiumarelli, meantime, says one objective of the team will be its close collaboration with the BCONE Scholarship committee, where perhaps the college students who are being mentored might be identified as eligible candidates for the BCONE annual Charlie Bartsch Memorial Scholarship. 

    “Going forward, the three of us will be in communication regularly,” she says. “We want to get social media going too, with an emphasis on Facebook and LinkedIn to scout for and communicate with young professionals. There’s a lot to look forward to!” 

  • 26 Jul 2021 1:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Long-time collaborators -- AEG-NYP, AHMP-NJ, BCONE, LSRPA and NJSWEP -- were back together at the summer networking event, watching the Trenton Thunder vs. Syracuse Mets game of July 22, 2021, and catching up after 16 months of all virtual meetings and networking events. Seventy-five people from the NJ-NY-PA region, and from all sectors of the remediation and redevelopment worlds were there, spending a perfect summer night enjoying baseball, beverages, fireworks and festivity. Thanks to the event sponsors: AWT, Mount Group, and SGS. Thanks also to the raffle sponsor, Hill Environmental/SET. The winner of the random drawing, John Iannotti, with the full agreement of sponsor Greg Hill, donated the cash prize to fund scholarships for the next generation of remediation professionals.  

    Check the summer and fall schedules of all of the participating organizations for future in-person events. There are a few on the books already.


  • 21 Jul 2021 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    And by virtue, secure 2021 Charlie Bartsch scholarship 

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Once again, BCONE is recognizing budding excellence within the brownfield remediation and environmental space. In short, youth is being served…and in a few years, youth will return the favor and serve right back. Many new industry recruits will assume the torch in order to keep brownfield practice alive and well. 

    The vehicle for this talent recognition is the Charlie Bartsch Memorial Scholarship that’s handed out annually to students who exhibit excellence in engineering and environmental course work at various colleges and universities in the BCONE geographic footprint. 

    This year, the spotlight shines on Lafayette College, Easton, PA, where BCONE named Hannah Cook and Leigh Jacobsen as scholarship recipients. They had participated in course work overseen by Arthur D. Kney, Ph.D., professor of environmental engineering at Lafayette College. 

    Image: From left to right - Hannah Cook, Leigh Jacobsen, Dr. Arthur Kney, Leslie Tintle and Maria Coler

    Maria Coler, BCONE’s Scholarship Chair, reviewed student projects along with Leslie Tintle, a Project Geologist at  Sanborn Head & Associates, Inc. and a graduate of Lafayette College as they determined the winning Cook-Jacobsen team.  

    According to Coler, LSRP, CEO and founder of Hydrotechnology Consultants Inc., Jersey City, NJ., she and Tintle reviewed three Phase I Environmental Site Assessments before the BCONE Scholarship Committee made its final decision to award Cook and Jacobsen, which she called “excellent work.”

    “Phase I ESAs, when performed correctly, require a detailed analysis of several data streams. Mastering the analysis of each data stream is not an easy task. Learning how to cross-reference data streams and critically analyze the information takes years. It appears that [Professor Kney’s] students are off to an excellent start. While all of the Phase I ESAs were excellent, the Phase I’s for the Armory and Gas Station [of which the Cook-Jacobsen team worked on] stood out.” 

    The teams were required to evaluate complex histories and off-site impacts, with each team excelling in different aspects of analysis. Like anyone would expect from students still building an affinity for mastering Phase I ESA’s, Coler says: “there were lessons to learn. The Armory team attempted to use analogous sites to overcome their data gap regarding potential sources of hazardous waste. I think it would have been informative if they more thoroughly researched armories in general and then cited the specific sites to back up their general research.”

    Cook says she is eager to continue to learn and master brownfields in a holistic manner. She has accepted a full-time offer as an engineer in Washington, D.C. with Clark Construction, a company with which she has interned the past two summers. “My plan is to pursue either the Site Superintendent or Project Manager career path to help facilitate the delivery of renovation and new construction projects.” 

    Asked what her career aspirations are in the brownfield industry, Hannah says that “knowing some of the potential contaminants that cause a site to be classified as a brownfield, I believe that I’ll be better prepared to protect the crews on site, mitigate future issues, and also point out signs of previous contamination.”

    In speaking about their motivation to pursue brownfields, students that BCONE has engaged with in the past have indicated an interest triggered by what they experienced in their local communities along the way of blight, abandoned properties and dilapidation—all projecting a community in a negative fashion. 

    Along those lines, Hannah enrolled in Professor Kney’s “Introduction to Environmental Engineering'” class as a sophomore. Throughout the course, Dr. Kney proved to be “passionate about the material and mitigating threats to society and the environment that I could not help but begin to develop my own passion for these issues. In my senior year, I elected to take “Environmental Site Assessment,” which truly opened my eyes to the environmental injustice many disadvantaged communities face.”

    “To be able to take this knowledge forward and attempt to put it to use benefitting any community in which I may work is rewarding in itself,” she adds. 

    Jacobsen, of Stamford, Conn., says that while taking Lafayette’s Environmental Site Assessment Capstone, she learned much about preliminary site investigations for potential environmental conditions. “I learned how to identify recognized environmental conditions and write a professional Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in accordance with ASTM E1527 standards.” 

    Selecting the Old Easton Armory to perform a Phase I, Leigh and Hannah “were intrigued” by its rich history. While the site is currently listed as an office building, it operated as an Armory for the Pennsylvania National Guard from the early 1900s until the mid-1980s. “The previous operations of the site made the site investigation interesting because we were tasked with examining the threat of a release of military storage contaminants,” says Leigh.  

    “My first exposure to environmental engineering and site development was through an interest in an abandoned site in my hometown of Stamford. The site was situated on a 15-acre plot of commercial and industrial land that was home to gas stations, automobile shops and dry cleaners,” she explains.  

    Mill River, which ran through the site, was walled with concrete for years, blocking off the area from the rest of the city. The presence of a river “amplified the concerns related to exposure pathways and contamination,” says Leigh. “When I was younger, I would walk past the site and wonder if it could be rehabilitated and developed into something greater. Eventually, there were plans to turn this old industrial site into a thriving urban park, named Mill River Park. I eagerly applied to work as an intern at Mill River prior to my junior year of high school when the park was at its ending stages of development.”

    It was in this duty that Leigh was able to see the transformation of an abandoned site into an urban greenspace, witnessing firsthand the impact the site cleanup had on the neighborhood. She says that people now take walks on the trails, sit by the river and enjoy outdoor concerts at a park that previously was not safe for residential development. 

    “Living in Stamford and working on this park made me aware of all the environmental problems that are right in my hometown, but also gave me hope as to what contaminated sites could become,” she says. 

    Reflecting on her experience at Mill River Park, Leigh believes that this was what really motivated her to work in the civil and environmental engineering industry, showing her the importance of developing healthy and safe communities and encouraged her to enter into the field at Lafayette. 

    Additionally, while at Lafayette, she took a “great liking” to the Environmental Engineering class and was able to secure an internship with Langan in their environmental department. “At Langan, I helped write Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, participated in site walks, and assisted with groundwater and soil sampling activities for Phase II Site Investigations,” says Leigh. “I enjoyed the work I did with Langan, and wanted to gain more knowledge of the environmental engineering field. This motivated me to request to enroll in Professor Kney’s capstone class as a junior.” 

    Professor Kney states: “It certainly has been a challenging semester. Having support from organizations like BCONE and  ASTM certainly added value to the course by helping students connect their education to the jobs/academic future they’re preparing for. I believe working together with industry partners provides students the opportunity to see their future as well as jumpstart their career,” he says.

    Coler provided the team with some constructive criticism to their work by stating: “More evaluation of the dry cleaner as a potential offsite source of contamination and the mention of the site as a potential manufacturing facility was warranted. Also, the odd odor on the stained wood floor was a hint to evaluate the wood itself as a potential source as a result of it likely being treated with a hazardous chemical.”

    These are indeed points that future pros like Cook and Jacobsen will take to heart and roll with. “I am ultimately unsure of exactly what I would like to pursue as a career. I have found that I have many different interests in addition to civil engineering and I am working to find a field that helps combine these interests. I do know, however, that I would like to pursue a field related to sustainable site development, whether that be on the remediation or design side. My ultimate goal is to have a positive impact on whatever community I end up working in and I am encouraged to see where my career path with lead me.”

  • 20 Jul 2021 10:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Three time's a charm, CCNY Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor secures coveted job training grant

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Dogged determination paid off handsomely this spring for Angelo Lampousis and his team at The City College of New York (CCNY) in Manhattan. 

    The BCONE board member and Ph.D., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences lecturer at CCNY, was thrilled to learn that his department had been one of three New York City entities (among 18 applying organizations) to receive a coveted grant for environmental job training—handed out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Job training and workforce development are an important part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance economic opportunities and address environmental justice issues in underserved communities.

    In addition to grants awarded to CCNY, grants were allotted to St. Nick’s Alliance of Brooklyn and The HOPE Program Inc. of Brooklyn and the Bronx. All three awardees received an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant (EWDJT) of or close to $200,000 for programs to create a skilled workforce in communities where brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.

    “We applied for this grant three times, and the fourth time we secured the funding,” says Lampousis, before departing for Athens, Greece in mid-June for a working vacation. “This [being denied grant] is typical as far as I know—you might fail but it provides time to improve your narrative and state your case. Mainly, you have to have resilience to keep trying. And we did improve our grant writing skills, honed them to make it more compelling—and we took advantage of review programs with folks in New York and other states who assist those who are seeking grants after failing.”

    The grant money has a two-prong purpose: It assists non-CCNY-students who need to complete continuing education (CE) in order to find work within the engineering and environmental fields—and have chosen CCNY to complete the CE course work that might consist of a couple days of either training or re-training. Grant money benefits CCNY engineering and environmental students who are dedicated to establishing a career in brownfield remediation. 

    BCONE can have a role in the job training grant, because after the first two years of student class work, students must then progress to real-world job placement. That’s where BCONE and its public- and private-sector members enter the picture, says Lampousis. “BCONE  will try to facilitate student job placement through member companies. I see BCONE’s contribution and role as significant during this third-year cycle,” says Lampousis.    

    If At First You Don’t Succeed….

    EPA’s brownfields job training grant program enables organizations to transform the lives of New Yorkers by providing individuals the opportunity “to gain meaningful long-term employment and a livable wage in an environmental field,” said Walter Mugdan, acting EPA Regional Administrator. “These three grantees do critical work to bring good paying jobs to communities across New York City that also help make them safer and healthier places to live and work.”

    Rather than filling local jobs with contractors from distant cities, the organizations offer residents of communities historically affected by pollution, economic disinvestment and contaminated brownfields properties an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work in their communities.

    Lampousis and CCNY is intent on following this model. But, securing the grant has not been easy. Speaking about the grant scoring process, Lampousis says a criteria is established by EPA based on a 100-point scale, with several officials grading grant essays. “We once registered an 84 of 100, but was not enough [to be awarded the job training grant],” he says, adding the grant narratives must be compelling about the way the money will be directed to enhance the growth of local communities served. 

    Over time, several of the organization that have secured an EWDJT grant have stepped up to guide organization that fell short—providing input on how they can improve their process and garner the grant the next time, says Lampousis.   

    He referred to a “leverage process” that can help secure grants. In this context, resources can come from external partners. In the case of CCNY, Lampousis says one organization affiliated with the college issues commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). So, individuals taking a CE course can use it to secure a CDL—and in turn land jobs in the transportation area of brownfield remediation. 

    Indeed, Lampousis says that there are a lot of people who rely on CE training without going for a college degree, and the CCNY job training grant allows local, non-student residents to approach CCNY to complete CE courses quickly.  

    “South Bronx residents will be able to get the CE credits now and then start working. The local income will go up. Plus, people don’t have to pay for the CE courses, which is typically not free [elsewhere]. It can cost $800 if they do it on their own. We can offer far more CE courses—and do it for those who only need perhaps one or two days of training to move forward with their environmental or engineering job pursuit,” he says. 

    The EPA job training grant will also help Lampousis in his effort to deliver and enhance his geosciences and engineering course, which consists of 14-week semesters—all done to prepare students to enter the workforce in these two fields, preferably as brownfield practitioners.

    After having to offer the courses, “Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments,” in a remote environment due to COVID-19, Lampousis is eager to return to a live classroom setting at CCNY this fall. 

    Debuting in 2011, the courses were provided a bump in 2020 with a host of professional guest lecturers—many of them Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast members. The BCONE members were eager to volunteer their time and provide students with a snapshot and real-world advice about what it takes to be a brownfield professional. The course is typically held on Saturdays (10 am to 12 30 pm). 

    “With BCONE’s participation, we can then integrate many brownfield professionals into the mix, which I find is vital because our course is squarely focused on professional growth,” says Lampousis. 

    The course encompasses the entire process of environmental due diligence related to commercial real estate transactions and site characterization that ultimately leads to remedial evaluation and mitigation required for redevelopment of former industrial properties impacted with typical brownfield contaminants. 

    “I am confident that this 2021-2024 EWDJT grant, the first of its kind for CCNY, will critically strengthen the continuing education component on campus and leave a lasting legacy on professional training for years to come. Overall, for CCNY with its record of being an upward mobility machine, the EWDJT grant will help propel ever more low-income residents of the South Bronx and beyond into the middle class, while at the same time addressing ongoing environmental justice concerns.”

    EPA Job Training Grant Program Mark 23 Years 

    Since 1998, EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grant program has awarded more than 335 grants. With these grants, 18,541 individuals have been trained and 13,751 have been placed in careers related to land remediation and environmental health and safety, with an average hourly wage of over $14.

    CCNY’s three-year $200,000 grant is designed to create a skilled workforce in communities where brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.

    Working in conjunction with the Office of Continuing and Professional Studies on campus, CCNY’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences will run the EWDJT program for up to 60 participants from the South Bronx starting this fall. 

    Training will cover the first two years, with job placement the primary focus of the third year—and BCONE’s will have a role in furthering that cause. Graduates will earn certification in various environmental fields, including:

    •    Hazardous waste operations and emergency response; 

    •    Environmental sampling and analysis; and 

    •    Other environmental health and safety training.

    Although it targets South Bronx residents, interested individuals from the five boroughs are welcome to apply for the program. Participants should be able to commit to attend the entire training. There is no age limit.

  • 06 Jul 2021 12:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Brownfields, wine, good discussion-a webinar trifecta. Hopefully you didn’t miss it.  On the off chance you did, here’s the recap.  

    Participants and speakers from PA, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MO, and Washington DC, shared views and asked questions on the changes they have observed in the current world of brownfield remediation, investment and redevelopment. Liz Gabor, formerly of Goldenberg Development (now with Link Logistics), Mary Ann Grena Manley of 15E Communications and Randall Jostes of Environmental Liability Transfer shared their insights in what they are observing and experiencing first-hand. Some of those observations are outlined below.  If you were unable to attend this event and would like access to the recording for a fee,  contact sboyle@geiconsultants.com and BCONE will make the arrangements with you. 

    Remediation

    For those of you who work in PA, you know how impactful Act 2 has been on getting brownfields put back into reuse. A second-round of Act 2 sites are being re-opened as areas that were initially capped, and are now undergoing development transformation with the ever-growing demand for land for e-commerce. Keith D’Ambrosio, VP of Whitestone Associates commented, “A good portion of our brownfield work is directly connected to sites that are being redeveloped for multifamily residential, self-storage and industrial end uses.  The multifamily development is not what I would have expected.”  

    Investment

    What if you are a corporation with legacy brownfields – are you proactively developing a strategy to address them? After all, asset managers are looking for responsible corporate citizens in the areas of Environment, Social and Government (ESG) to place their investment funds.  An in-depth presentation on ESG ensued, as many participants were not familiar with this initiative. The Environment and Social pieces of ESG probably have the most obvious connection to brownfields.  The manner in which corporations deal with their environmental impacts is a topic of discussion today in most board rooms. Additionally, stronger actions taken in the area of Environmental Justice and conversion/closure of polluting industries suggest that organizations are using a social lens in their decision-making. The stronger focus on environmental and social action is demonstrated by government entities as well. “The State of Delaware has invested significant public dollars into remediating brownfields for both economic and environmental benefit,” stated Marian Young, President of BrightFields.   “We have conducted much more ecological restoration lately, to the benefit of many.”

    Redevelopment

    We know anecdotally that brownfields are a win all around, but do you know how much of a win?  A current transformation of a former steel mill in Claymont, DE, has already dedicated $70M in investments in a new transit center that will be the catalyst for an overall estimated $450M transit-oriented reuse of the site, resulting in over 2000 new jobs and an annual output of $110M from economic activity.  Managing the risk in a real estate transaction of a contaminated site (to ensure success) is an important piece of brownfield redevelopment.  “We are seeing a trend toward sellers making environmental insurance mandatory, rather than discretionary as we’ve experienced in the past,” noted Paul Scian, Risk Analyst at Great American Insurance Group.  

    Liability

    The foundations of successful brownfield projects are a predictable remediation process, a reliable funding source for orphan sites and liability protections for purchasers.  When these are jeopardized, there can be heightened reluctance for brownfield redevelopers to invest in brownfield sites.  A recent case in point, as described by Neil Yoskin, partner, Cullen & Dykman LLP, involved a circumstance in which  a  developer was sued by NJDEP for response costs incurred by the agency to address groundwater contamination even though DEP had issued an NFA to the developer and the original responsible party more than 20 years ago with knowledge of the groundwater condition.   Something like that can be a real deterrent to attracting a vertical developer after a responsible party  has remediated  a site and an RAO has been issued.  

    This deep discussion of brownfield trends concluded with a wine tasting, hosted by John Cifelli, General Manager of Unionville Vineyard, an awarding winning winery in Ringoes, NJ.  Attendees sipped Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, an atypical Riesling, Revolutionary Red (blend) and Cabernet Sauvignon and learned about New Jersey’s robust wine industry.  

    One speaker’s observation sums up the event in grabbing the audiences’ attention.  “There were the same number of participants at the end of the program as there were from the initial program kickoff.” One can only describe that as successful in meeting its goal to inform, educate and connect the various sectors of brownfield professionals.   

  • 19 May 2021 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BCONE is excited to team with ICMA (visit their website at https://icma.org) as the newly-selected Technical Assistance to Brownfields Communities (TAB) provider for USEPA Region 4.  Together, we will be assisting communities in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi to overcome obstacles to improving community livability, economic opportunity, and environmental quality posed by brownfields. Our multidisciplinary team of seasoned professionals brings decades of experience working to turn these liabilities in to assets, and they are eager to get to it in Region 4. 

    The ICMA and BCONE TAB team will be providing direct technical assistance, creating peer to peer networking opportunities, and helping local communities expand their capacity and prepare for opportunities.  These are BCONE’s core skills and it is an honor to provide these services to EPA Region 4 communities.  BCONE and ICMA are pleased to join the ranks of the other TAB (click here for more) providers around the country.  We look forward to continuing our long and collaborative relationships with NJIT, UCONN, and CCLR and strengthening our relationships with West Virginia University and Kansas State University.   

    Here is the list of  the U.S. EPA selected organizations and the regions they will serve with the  $11 million in funding to provide training and technical assistance to communities across the country under the Assistance to TAB Program.  The grant recipients are:

    • The University of Connecticut will provide assistance in EPA’s Region 1.
    • The New Jersey Institute of Technology will provide assistance in EPA’s Region 2.
    • The West Virginia University Research Corporation will provide assistance in EPA’s Region 3.
    • The International City/County Management Association  will provide assistance in EPA’s Region 4.
    • The Kansas State University will provide assistance in EPA’s Regions 5-8. The university will also coordinate with the other selected recipients on nationally led efforts and tools.
    • The Center for Creative Land Recycling will provide assistance in EPA’s Regions 9 and 10.
  • 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. 

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