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  • 02 Dec 2020 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BCONE raises scholarship funds pre-Thanksgiving with a tutored hard cider tasting

    Fifteen folks from CT, NC, NJ, NY, PA, TN and WV joined the pre-Thanksgiving virtual cider tasting Zoom organized by BCONE’s Maria Coler and led by Adam Goddu of Eden Specialty Ciders of VT. We toasted (with Eden Dry Heritage Cider Brut Nature) the power of regionalism—BCONE’s strength—and the power of the internet to create exciting virtual experiences. Maria started the event with the wonderful video that she and her team assembled on Charlie Bartsch, the namesake of BCONE’s scholarship fund. Those assembled had a very generous tasting kit to sample while listening to Adam tell us about the over 50 varieties of apples that fall into 4 broad categories: sharps, sweets, bittersharps and bittersweets. We also learned about the making of ice cider while sampling it.

    All BCONE members and friends can enjoy the beverages and assist the scholarship fund by going to www.edenciders.com: they will donate 10% of every order and take $5 off shipping if you order between now and December 31, 2020, using BCONE10 as the special code. BCONE will also offer a special prize to supplement the order of the first member who correctly identifies the nation-of-origin of the original apple. Send your answer to sboyle@geiconsultants.com and tell us what you ordered!

    Many thanks to Maria Coler, the chair of BCONE’s scholarship committee. She keeps creating innovative and fun ways to fund scholarships for students in CT, NJ, NY, and PA. Watch for the book club notice, notices of upcoming hikes, and future food and beverage tastings to broaden your horizons, meet new people from the northeastern US, all while you assist with an excellent cause.

  • 02 Dec 2020 3:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    James D. Snook, BCONE Board Member, summarizes it for you.

    Speakers:

    • Olivia Glenn: NJDEP Deputy Commissioner, Environmental Justice and Equity
    • Kim Gaddy: Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action
    • Catherine M. Ward: Co-Chair, Environmental, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP

    NJSWEP, LSRPA, and BCONE presented a webinar and virtual panel discussion attended by over 60 people.  It included expert insights from three noteworthy women in environmental justice.  NJDEP’s Olivia Glenn began the webinar with insights into the department’s regulatory changes that will impact different aspects of environmental justice.  The S232 Environmental Justice Law (EJ Law) adopted by New Jersey in June 2020 requires NJDEP to evaluate environmental and public health stressors of certain facilities on overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications.  The EJ Law is the nation’s strongest measure to protect overburdened communities from pollutants; it may become a template for environmental justice laws throughout the USA. 

    Olivia Glenn explained that New Jersey’s 2020 Global Warming Response Act was written to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from their 2006 levels by 2050.  A triple bottom line is the goal, where protection of vulnerable communities against the effects of climate change will reach toward one aspect of environmental justice.  

    Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action explained how she created an organization in Newark’s South Ward to establish an approach against environmental degradation. She provided insights into how to engage and support the residents as active participants.  She explained how the EJ Law should help to provide more equal protection for vulnerable residents from hazards through greater transparency by providing an opportunity to deny permit that do not consider environmental justice.  

    Catherine Ward provided an in-depth evaluation of the EJ Law in regards to its potential affect on the regulated community.  She explained the impact of zoning in a strong home rule state, which NJ is.  Industry location in compliance with local zoning and many communities’ discouragement of  affordable housing through their zoning ordinances created many of the problems that the EJ law has to tackle.  How does the state-wide  EJ law work with the framework of each municipality’s  current zoning regulations? There will some initial unpredictability of applying the minimum standards of the law to different situations.  The regulated community and some other stakeholders prefer as much  predictability as possible.  Catherine explained that sustainability is a guiding principle, in efforts to provide a clear goal for application of the EJ Law. Sustainability can be applied by progressive companies that can apply economic vitality with healthy communities and a resilient environment.  

  • 03 Nov 2020 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The latest edition of Commerce Magazine includes a special environmental report that features BCONE's President, Rick Shoyer. The topic of the report identified how COVID-19 has changed protocols, but the work and projects continue across the Garden State.





    You can read the article at the following link: https://view.joomag.com/commerce-2020-11-dig/0739552001603999694?short&

  • 16 Oct 2020 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you missed the first Coronavirus Experiences webinar,  held jointly by BCONE and the NYCBP in September and entitled Back to the Burbs? Back to the Office?, please sign up for the 2nd part of the series being held on October 23, 2020 from 10am to 12:00 p, entitled Is Your Building Safe? This webinar series will continue into 2021 to cover the growing number of topics of interest to our professions.

    The speakers at the September and October webinars have created a list of recent articles on the topics.  The Reading List is below.  Feel free to contribute to the list. If you’ve written a recent article on the topic or if you’ve read something of interest, send the link to sboyle@geiconsultants.com and we’ll keep growing the Reading List. 

    https://www.crainsnewyork.com/residential-real-estate/looking-big-return-your-home-try-east-new-york-study-says?utm_source=real-estate-friday&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20201002&utm_content=article2-headline

    A CrowdRx expert in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems did not find a single arraignment court in the city that was safe to be in, the report states: https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/ny-nyc-courthouses-crowdrx-report-unsafe-conditions-coronavirus-20201001-avpvzs435jd6xkxiuvq4z5cii4-story.html  Never heard of CrowdRx. They might become one of our potential speakers? 

    And check out this piece on what some landlords are doing to make their buildings safe: https://www.nreionline.com/office/three-office-landlords-discuss-technologies-they-ve-implemented-protect-tenants-covid-19 

    Excerpt: “Silverstein Properties has also upgraded its ventilation systems in offices to MER-15 or 16, which is similar to what hospitals use to prevent the spread of infection and refers to the number of times recirculating air is filtered. The system also adds in fresh air from outdoors. Kerret says that an even higher ventilation standard, MER-16 or 18, has been adapted for elevators, making them safe for more than a few people at a time, as long as everyone is wearing a mask. According to the CDC, to become infected with the coronavirus, it takes time for exposure to 1,000 airborn particles. Elevators at Silverstein’s WTC properties travel at 1,600 feet per minute, so with MER-16 to 18 ventilation—similar to ventilation in operating rooms—mask-wearing passengers are unlikely to become infected as they will reach their floors within about a minute.”

    KBS has “deployed technology to help tenants make a seamless, safe transition back to the office as government mandates are lifted. This includes UV light, which kills viruses and bacteria, in HVAC systems and on surfaces in common areas, as well as touchless amenities and devices in shared spaces and high-traffic areas.”

    https://www.us.jll.com/en/trends-and-insights/workplace/landlords-race-to-improve-air-quality-in-buildings

    https://www.propmodo.com/what-building-operators-need-to-know-about-covid-19-and-air-filtration/

    https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/four-considerations-architects-will-need-to-make-when-designing-post-covid-homes

    https://nyrej.com/architects-and-engineers-help-schools-envision-safe-designs-for-covid-era

    https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/9/28/21492252/cross-bronx-expressway-covid-19-environmental-justice-nyc

    Home Sales Surge In Brooklyn:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/realestate/brooklyn-real-estate-sales.html

    Vermont COVID Transplants:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/26/us/coronavirus-vermont-transplants.html

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-16/the-truth-about-american-migration-during-covid

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/26/escape-country-covid-exodus-britain-cities-pandemic-urban-green-space

    Finance and Investment

    Converting Malls Into Distribution Centers

    Addressing the challenges of commercial property conversions.

    Sep 21, 2020

    Sponsored by Frank P. Crivello

    Simon Property Group, Inc., the largest shopping mall operator in the United States, has entered into talks with Amazon about converting unused shopping mall space into distribution centers (DCs), according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal. With the retail sector expected to lose up to 25,000 stores in 2020, the Amazon news is only one small part of larger discussion about converting unused commercial spaces into much-needed industrial real estate. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused retail stores and offices to shut their doors, an e-commerce boom has left the U.S. logistics sector scrambling for access to additional distribution and cold storage space.

    On the surface, converting malls into DCs and warehouses seems like a great idea. Malls are conveniently located near population centers and tend to have spacious ceilings that should be well-suited to racking and material handling systems. As with any commercial property conversion, however, turning shopping mall units into DCs will not happen without overcoming some challenges.

    Zoning

    Shopping malls aren’t usually zoned for industrial use. Industrial facilities are loud and bring in a significant amount of heavy truck traffic. Zoning restrictions will vary widely at the state and local level depending on the mall’s geographic location. Convincing a planning board or city council to modify the land use permissions for a large commercial area such as a shopping mall may not be easy—especially if that mall is surrounded by residential properties. For some areas, the promise of jobs and economic stimulation may be enough to sway the decision-makers, but it’s likely that many areas will not be willing to rezone.

    Sharing

    While multi-tenant logistics facilities are nothing new, it’s rare for a distribution center to share a facility with retail tenants. The discussions between Amazon and Simon Property Group seem to be focused on occupying abandoned J.C. Penney and Sears stores. If the rest of the mall remains occupied by dozens or more retailers, new processes and planning will be required to mitigate the risk of negative business impacts.

    Here are some examples of potential problems that property owners would need to account for:

    • A steady flow of large delivery vehicles and semi-trucks might make commercial shoppers nervous and deter them from visiting other stores in the mall complex.
    • An industrial facility may have dozens or hundreds of employees on a single shift. Retailers in the mall would want owners to ensure those workers don’t monopolize preferential parking, while the DC tenant may prefer their employees to park close by.
    • While mall security focuses on loss prevention and customer safety, security at a distribution center has different needs.

    While none of these issues are necessarily deal-breakers, it’s important that commercial property owners, existing retail tenants, and new industrial tenants address concerns up front to establish good business relationships.

    Renovations

    Though any new retail tenant in a mall would need to renovate the space to some degree, the level of renovation required to convert a former clothing retailer or electronics store into a functional distribution center would be more extreme. For example, concrete floors in retail stores may only be 3” to 4” thick while a warehouse may need to be 6” or more.  Parking lots and driveways also have the same potential issue; asphalt for a retail parking lot is not as thick as needed for constant heavy truck access. There may also be limitations to the type of equipment the industrial operator would be able to use. For example, installing conveyors or other permanent material handling systems may not be feasible. Fortunately, recent advances in picking robotics and wearable technologies might make it possible to implement automation without permanent installations. If the mall only has a single loading dock area for all tenants to share, a distribution center would likely monopolize that area with its stream of inbound and outbound shipments, so additional docks would need to be added.

    Benefits

    While there are certainly challenges, operating a DC out of a mall does have some benefits:

    • The employees from the distribution center are likely to shop at stores in the mall on breaks and before and after work, which will be a boon to struggling businesses.
    • Most malls are conveniently located within minutes of major highways and already have large, accessible parking lots. This should facilitate easy access for inbound and outbound truck drivers.
    • If the mall has lost some of its large anchor tenants, it’s likely that the community will benefit from the jobs provided by a distribution center.

    About Phoenix Investors

    Founded by Frank P. Crivello in 1994, Phoenix Investors and its affiliates (collectively “Phoenix”) are a leader in the acquisition, development, renovation, and repositioning of industrial facilities throughout the United States. Utilizing a disciplined investment approach and successful partnerships with institutional capital sources, corporations, and public stakeholders, Phoenix has developed a proven track record of generating superior risk-adjusted returns, while providing cost-efficient lease rates for its growing portfolio of national tenants. Its efforts inspire and drive the transformation and reinvigoration of the economic engines in the communities it serves, currently encompassing over 30 million square feet. Phoenix continues to be defined by thoughtful relationships, sophisticated investment tools, cost-efficient solutions, and a reputation for success.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/realestate/brooklyn-real-estate-sales.html?referringSource=articleShare

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/renters-flock-to-suburbia-upending-decadelong-urbanization-trend-11602581401

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/realestate/new-york-city-real-estate-return.html

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/nyregion/nyc-moving-coronavirus.html

    https://www.nber.org/papers/w27930

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/12/climate/home-sales-florida.html?action=click&amp;module=News&amp;pgtype=Homepage 

    From Peter Meyer, Ph.D. U of Louisville:

    The U.S. housing market, which has been a bright spot in the pandemic-battered economy, is running out of fuel.

    With buyers eager to take advantage of low mortgage rates, the inventory of homes to buy is scarce. That’s driving up prices and threatening to derail the boom by pushing homeownership out of reach for many Americans.

    For homebuilders, the huge demand for housing is an opportunity to crank up construction and solve the inventory crisis. Instead, some are deliberately slowing things down as they grapple with supply shortages, surging lumber costs and intense competition for labor and land.

    “It’s smart business,” said Gene Myers, chief executive of Thrive Home Builders in Denver. “But that means continued shortages and higher prices.”

    After the Covid-19 lockdowns in March brought sky-high unemployment, most builders expected a crash. What they got was a brief pause followed by a crush of buyers armed with the lowest interest rates on record and a burning desire for more space in the suburbs.

    Inventory shortage

    There was pent-up demand for housing when the pandemic hit, after a decade when builders mostly focused on the higher end of the market, constructing fewer, more expensive homes. Recently, they’d shifted focus to cheaper properties for the massive millennial generation now aging into homeownership.

    But with higher costs eating into profit margins, builders might once again chase the wealthy who want bigger homes with large yards and home offices. That comes as the inventory shortage has gotten even more acute.

    The supply of existing homes, shrinking for years, is at an all-time low. At August’s sales pace, it would take a little more than three months to run out of new homes for sale, the lowest level on record, according to government data dating back to 1963. That’s down from almost six months in February.

    Sales of existing homes jumped 10.5% in August compared with a year earlier, outpacing new home sales for the first time since 2015, according to Redfin. That came as fewer new homes were listed for sale.

    New home construction this year will hold steady at just under 900,000, about the same pace as in 2019, according to a projection by the National Association of Home Builders. For 2021, the industry group forecasts that starts will increase slightly but will be held back by the cost and availability of building materials.

    Lumber spike

    The trouble for builders is that vacant land takes about two years to be developed, a process slowed by local government regulations. Meanwhile, lumber prices are expected to add $16,000 to the cost of a typical house, according to the NAHB.

    They’ve risen because producers idled saw mills in the U.S. and Canada in March and still face timber shortages resulting from a beetle infestation and wildfires, said Joshua Zaret, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

    Homebuilders aren’t the only ones bidding up the price of wood. Quarantined families have been especially busy remodeling during the pandemic. This summer’s hurricanes and wildfires will also add to demand once the insurance checks start coming in.

    Slowing sales

    Builders can keep raising prices to stay ahead of costs, to a point, said John Burns, an Irvine-based real estate consultant. But some are raising them by as much as 2% a month, he said.

    “If that went on for two or three years, we’d be very concerned about affordability,” Burns said. “Every time prices go up, it’s great for homeowners and bad for the renter who aspires to be a homeowner.”

    Stocks of homebuilders have climbed in recent months as orders for new homes surge. The looming issue is that the demand for housing is outstripping supply at a time when construction has gotten more expensive.

    Lennar, the biggest builder by revenue, said it’s intentionally limiting sales to homes already under construction to avoid buying lumber at today’s high prices. The company says it’s trying to be patient, betting it can continue to hike prices to help offset the higher costs.

    “Sales could have been stronger with a singular focus on volume,” Stuart Miller, the company’s chairman, said on an Sept. 15 earnings call. “It is challenging at best to materially ramp production in this labor-constrained market, and it’s even more challenging to replace entitled land.”

    Wood shortage

    Alan Gerbus, a second-generation Cincinnati custom builder, is already in the hole on a house before he’s even started. He submitted a contract to his buyer in late June for an $800,000 house but his costs just for wood products jumped $25,000 by the time it was signed 40 days later.

    “The lumber supplier said he can’t honor that price,” Gerbus said. “I’m praying for the lumber prices to start falling by the time I’m ready for delivery.”

    Even if builders wanted to plow ahead, it’s hard to get wood these days. Robert Pool, co-owner of Main Street Lumber, a family business in Denison, Texas, that sells products to builders, said he had to turn down some new customers early in the lumber supply crisis because he wanted to be sure he’d have wood for his existing customers.

    Pool’s price for oriented strand board, widely used for roofs and siding, more than doubled to $24 a sheet in March, he said.

    “It hurts when you have to tell somebody no,” he said.

  • 28 Sep 2020 11:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Back to the Burbs? Back to the Office? Geographic and Other Shifts from Our Coronavirus Experiences

    On September 23, 2020 the NYCBP and BCONE jointly offered a timely and exciting panel discussion on geographic and other shifts related to COVID’s impact on brownfield redevelopment. Panelists included Charles Howland, Esq. of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP,  Larry Schnapf, Esq. of Schnapf LLC.  Peter Coy, the Economics Editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, and Peter B. Meyer, Professor Emeritus of Urban Policy and Economics, U. of Louisville.  The event was moderated by Ezgi Karayel of vEKtor Consultaints; Ms. Karayel is the Vice President of the NYCBP Board and her firm was an event sponsor for the panel along with  Alpha Analytical.  

    The panelists provided the audience of over 40 people from  the Bos-Wash corridor with their insights on  the changing allure of urban vs. suburban vs. rural areas for workers, investment, redevelopment, and residential preferences. Attendees included all the sectors that make for successful brownfield projects:  environmental consultants, technology providers, attorneys, state and local government officials, academics, developers, economists, lenders,  and environmental organizations. Topics included the potential to convert underutilized malls (sometimes called greyfields) into various uses, including distribution centers; the impact on the ever-present need for affordable housing; office building obsolescence;  conversion of a closed refinery into a distribution center and the reaction of the environmental justice organizations in the surrounding neighborhood; what type of neighborhoods people want; impacts on worker productivity as they continue to work from home; and whether offices are mechanically ready to sufficiently ventilate the spaces to prevent or minimize COVID.   The panelists traded links to the growing body of articles and surveys exploring  all of these topics; the Partnership and BCONE staff are attempting to compile  a reading list based on those links.

    The event concluded with agreement that the conversations will continue for BCONE and the NYC Brownfield Partnership because no one can predict at this point in time how the mix of brownfield project end-uses will change, what uses will win or lose, whether tax credits will be needed to finance the improved HVAC needs of office space as workers return, and other important topics.  All who attended  agreed that the perspectives from a broader group of speakers, such as laborers, the environmental justice community, and mechanical engineers, are needed for upcoming discussions.   NYCBP and BCONE are excited to start planning an event series for 2021.

    The September23rd event and the sessions being planned for 2021  exemplify BCONE’s  and the NYC Brownfield Partnership’s  synergy: because these changes are impacting the entirety of metropolitan areas across the country, the exchange of information from multiple states and from New York City and its suburbs allows us to recognize the importance of real estate markets that cross state and municipal borders and practitioners who work in many different types of locations.

    Go to the Upcoming Events page for the latest events and other information.

  • 08 Sep 2020 1:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Saturday, August 29, 2020, was the first day of class for CCNY graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in “Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.”  The course, created by BCONE Board Member Angelo Lampousis, Ph.D.  of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences,  is being taught by Maria Cogliando In conjunction with BCONE.  Robert Blauvelt, LSRP of GEI Consultants was the first guest lecturer to introduce the course and the Phase 1 process from a practitioner’s perspective.  Students will be preparing Phase 1s as part of the course assignments and BCONE is awarding a scholarship at the end of the semester for the student who prepared the highest ranked document. Our members will be lecturing throughout the semester in accordance with BCONE’s mission to provide diversified educational resources to the public, universities and colleges, communities, and the private sector.

  • 08 Sep 2020 1:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On August 27, 2020, from 3:30-5:00pm,  BCONE Board Member Melina Ambrosino organized and spoke at our session entitled “Developing Planning: Utilizing Incentives.”

    Melina , Executive Vice President of  Cherrytree Group, LLC was joined by Warren Kirshenbaum, President of Cherrytree Group and Alan Knauf, Esq., Partner of  Knauf Shaw, LLP.  The panel  provided the audience of over 40 people from across the northeastern section of the USA with information on the advantage of various brownfield incentives in Massachusetts and New York State. Featured were the  New York Brownfields Tax Credit program, an update on the newly release working draft regulations of the Massachusetts Brownfields Tax Credit program and insight on the industry hot topic, Opportunity Zones. 

    The August 27 panel exemplified  BCONE’s  our educational mission:  due to its  regional composition, the exchange of information from multiple states allows us  to recognize the importance of real estate markets that cross state borders and practitioners who work in many states (such as New York State and Massachusetts).  Questions focused on whether PFAS and other emerging contaminants may result in reopeners in NYS (probably), whether brownfield projects are being developed on current or former landfills, and whether the costs of settling claims from downgradient parties can be applied to brownfield accounting for tax credits.

    In addition to our speakers, BCONE thanks our Annual Sponsor, SESI Consulting Engineers, who introduced participants to their environmental, geotechnical and site civil work in the tri-state area. Special kudos to Ms. Ambrosino  for jumping on this event so quickly and preparing a really terrific MA/NYS event, which is such a great accomplishment for a new BCONE committee. 

    Go to the BCONE website at Events for the list of upcoming September events.

  • 17 Aug 2020 9:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Part 2 - By Steve Dwyer

    An active participant on Montrose Environmental’s Emerging Contaminants Team (MECT), 2020 BCONE President Rich Shoyer’s experiences focus on a variety of treatment technologies, including advanced oxidation, for the remediation of emerging contaminants. The current focus has been with per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), 1,4-Dioxane, and 1,23-Trichlorpropane.  

    Shoyer, long time BCONE member and champion of BCONE’s biggest event, the annual NSCW, joined the BCONE Board in 2020 after serving on the Advisory Council for over seven years.  Shoyer  provides environmental technical assistance to a city in New York State whose drinking water supply has been impacted by PFAS. Specific experience has included characterization of surface water supplies; GAC, anion exchange resins and advanced oxidation PFAS removal performance effectiveness; and fate and transport assessments of source releases.  

    He has also performed extensive research on the various aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs), one major contributor of PFAS being released into the environment, and alternative fluorine free foams (FFFs). Shoyer has presented at various forums on PFAS and other emerging contaminants.

    Q: Can you discuss the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) conversation and how it impacts/will impact BCONE? 

    A: Public opinion is driving PFAS regulation: the opinion is that PFAS at any level is harmful to humans and the environment. The federal government is not moving fast enough to establish MCLs, and so the states are individually making their own standards. The emphasis was on two specific PFAS compounds—PFOA and PFOS for drinking water. States are expanding limits for more PFAS substances and to additional media soils, sediment, groundwater and surface water. It seems like each state that proposes new standards tries to outdo the state before them with more compounds and lower standards. There over 3,000 PFAS compounds, and though they all have in common this extremely strong chemical bond between carbon and fluorine, they are, in fact, very complex and different substances within the PFAS group. The complexity of these compounds, the uniqueness, the ever-changing standards and addition of new PFAS substances being regulated has affected brownfield redevelopment of suspected sites.  

    Insurance coverage that once may have provided coverage for PFAS as unknowns is often excluded. However, some positives with PFAS is that they are not volatile, so vapor mitigation is not an issue and they, for the most part, do not adhere to soils and sediment. The focus is generally on water bodies, groundwater and drinking water sources.

    We had a great panel discussion at BCONE’s NSCW virtual conference, held July 21 and 22, 20220. The panel was Legal and Technical Impacts of New PFAS Sampling Methodologies on Older Data and Site Remediation, and it specifically targeted brownfields and PFAS. We’ll be releasing information from that panel and all other NSCW 2020 panels to our membership in the upcoming weeks.

    Q: Can you discuss the BCONE “report card” around the ongoing investment in renewable energy projects, starting with the emerging community solar project opportunity and others? 

    A: BCONE supports sustainable and resilient development (and redevelopment). Community solar projects can fall into this category. We encourage community solar projects to expand into the urban areas, economically distressed areas, and low-income housing, etc., where these businesses and residence can take advantage economically of the solar programs.

    Q: Can you talk about the balance needed between renewables and fossil fuels? 

    A: Technology advancements and economic affordability are key ingredients for renewable energy investments to be truly resilient and sustainable. A true realistic balance is needed, but that may not be completely in-line with more vociferous public opinions. We are blessed with many abundant energy sources (solar, wind, natural gas, petroleum and nuclear, hydroelectric, and more) and we should use them wisely.  

    The infrastructure to generate, store and transport the energy power to the consumer is a major engineering challenge and cost consideration. The infrastructure required to store and transmit power generated from wind and solar needs to be routed through many ecologically sensitive areas (shore lines, marshes, wetlands, pinelands)—the same areas that many environmental activists are arguing other utility corridors should not disturb. The energy system needs to accommodate peak demands. Reliable alternative backup systems need to be in place for when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Solar panels have a life expectancy of less than 25 to 30 years, and many of the solar panels installed today will need to be replaced by 2050. You now may be surprised that I have a large solar system on my home.

    Q: What is the overall state of the renewable investment process and how it’s been championed over past 5 years?

    A: I have heard opinions from both sides applauding and criticizing the long and short terms pros and cons of the programs.  At times government needs to steer and incentivize the public, private industries and technology to make improvements that will be a long-term benefit for all.  These are dialogues we are having with BCONE Board and Advisory Council members and plan to have with our membership down the road.

  • 10 Aug 2020 1:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Part 1 - By Steve Dwyer

    At the start of 2020, Rick Shoyer III assumed the role as president of the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE). He  has been a BCONE member for over seven years.  No sooner did he take the reins that the association -- along with the entire world -- was hurled into an unprecedented crisis with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Months later, Shoyer -- along with the BCONE board and the membership -- is assessing the impacts of the COVID-19 era and trying to determine how it will continue to affect BCONE going forward. This would include the way workshops and live networking might have to yield to a greater reliance on remote conferencing, and how it would be embraced by members. 

    The investigation and remediation expert who’s classified as a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and N-2 Industrial Operator in the State of New Jersey, received his BS in Engineering from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., in 1982, and has spent the past 35-plus years investigating and remediating organic and inorganic substances both in-situ and ex-situ.

    Following is a question and answer session with the 2020 BCONE President, who says he’s eager to build on the organization’s long and sustained accomplishment record in several ways, including potentially expanding the BCONE footprint geographically to engage with more practitioners. 

    Within the aegis of LSRP in NJ, Shoyer hopes to continue on a mission to make the New Jersey permitting process even more streamlined than it has become—one solution being to more acutely streamline the self-reporting and self-approval process. CT and MA, two other states in the BCONE footprint, have similar but more mature licensed professional programs.

    Q: As president of BCONE, what is the three- to five-year vision you have outlined pertaining to the organization as a whole, as well as some necessary steps to push the needle forward on efficient operations—and championing brownfield redevelopment across the BCONE footprint? 

    A: The organization has been established over a long period of time with a great history that covers a broad spectrum geographically. We are looking to build on these accomplishments, perhaps expanding geographically, to engage more holistically with activities, say, across western Pennsylvania and regions of New England. The nucleus of BCONE has been New Jersey, New York City, the Philadelphia, PA greater metro area, southern New York state and Connecticut. One mission is to see several BCONE member states—take Delaware for example—independently sponsor more programs, workshops and other events in the future.  We strive to be a resource on policies, procedures and programs that affect sustainable and resilient redevelopment of blighted areas at the individual state level and share the success across our regional area.       

    Q: How has the LSRP program evolved over the past eight to 10 years, in your estimation? And, what can be done to streamline the process across timeframes, cost containment, capital generation assurance, compliance and more? 

    A: We still have bottlenecks with, let’s say, permitting issues. BCONE and other organizations are providing input to the Department, which is looking into revamping the permitting process to better emphasize self-reporting and self-approvals—to separate the less complicated permits (sites) from the more complicated ones—all in all to better streamline this process. Some of the issues are regional in scope and scale across the state.

    Q: Were there any so-called “unlikely” outcomes that manifested from the LSRP program’s implementation over the years. 

    A: One of the biggest positives that came of out of the program was it put my competitors on a different platform, it provided a different reason to work together for the common good. I am able to share ideas with many talented competitors on a professional level, and that’s been refreshing. So the entire environmental professional community improves through shared knowledge, professionally we all become better and more consistent.  

    There’s also been more quality dialogue with state regulatory and legislative officials, more of a mission to find common ground. We still have issues to move along within the concept of timing for the Department to request additional investigations (samples). Is the additional sample necessary to demonstrate the remedy is actually protective of human health and the environment? Thankfully, in the majority of cases taking an additional soil or groundwater sample has not changed a remedy outcome. It has only led to adding costs or delaying closures. But as the program has matured, and LSRP’s and regulators share expectation and concerns, it has helped lessen the ‘micro-management’ of environmental work.

    Because BCONE is a regional organization, the NJ LSRP program has been able to learn from the MA and CT programs.  We are in regular communication with the professional organizations in those states and regularly exchange information. 

    Q: In the months following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, how has the BCONE operating vision been re-focused, re-calibrated during a “new normal” phase where priorities will be inevitably shifting? 

    A: Developers build in the urban infill for a number of reasons, with one being leveraging the walkability of cities through project visions. How will this change now and in the future? The close quarters of cities has become a potential health concern. One attraction for many was the small shops and restaurants with housing above. Did/will these small boutiques and restaurants survive?  If not, the desire to live in a neighborhood with empty shops and store fronts decreases dramatically. The question is, what percentage of millennials and Gen X,Y and Z will still opt to live in the city [perhaps leaving due to higher rents and more open space of suburb/exurbs]? It is shifts like these that are certain to be disruptors. If you look at a TOD-oriented project, it’s very much tied to the concept of promoting ‘walkable cities.’ But the other essential component is the public transportation piece, which is a backbone of these projects. Will once ‘power-users’ of public transportation establish a level of confidence and trust in rising trains and busses again, from a health and safety standpoint?   

    Q: Following up on repercussions of the COVID-19, can you talk about how things might change in the context of BCONE-sponsored events and workshops?  

    A: The main draw was live conferences, the personal interactions that are important in business and all relationships. The drawback on these are travel time and expenses, so they generally are well attended locally, and difficult to reach across a larger regional coverage that BCONE has.   Now due to travel restrictions, conferences will have to be remote—and for how long? But as an unexpected positive development, I think [the pandemic] we might see more robust attendances in the virtual world and across more BCONE member states, who might not have been inclined to travel to, say, New Jersey or New York for an event. But they can now participate in a virtual workshop, saving time and travel expenses. This allows BCONE to truly reach across a larger geographic territory.

    Q: How do you see conducting business in a virtual world being accepted holistically? 

    A: Polling our vendors and exhibitors they are 180-degrees apart. You have ones who depend on live events, like to interact with business associates face to face—this new virtual world might be harder for them to adapt to. On the other hand, we have member companies who thrive in a virtual conference or workshop setting. The advances in technology has evolved over the last few years, making this virtual platform much easier to pull off. If the pandemic had occurred 10 years ago, this would have been a huge challenge to pull off.

    Q: We can’t seem to shed questions about the pandemic and the different ways it impacts BCONE members. How about the way business is progressing in their engagement with state, county and local governments? 

    A: Looking at permitting and municipal approvals, I think that for a number of our members permit reviews and approvals have actually gone smoother, with faster turnaround times because municipal staffs have had fewer meetings. As a result, they have been able to push through permitting approvals. I’ve been very pleased with the responses from members on that subject. I’m sure there are others that have the opposite experience.

    Q: How about the impact on project financing, securing capital?  

    A: On the capital financing front, there’s a notion that a percentage of projects might have been halted due to loans being put on hold. I see it more as projects possibly being delayed—or modified—for other extenuating reasons. A developer might now be weighing whether the ambitious mixed use residential/commercial project is now economically feasible. The small business got hit hard with the pandemic and store closings.  No one wants to live above empty store fronts.  There’s a synergy between the commercial footprint and the residential component of a development. That co-relationship will now be put more to the test.

  • 05 May 2020 1:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer

    In the brownfield redevelopment industry, everything is filled with uncertainty, as a new normal produces a sweeping impact on industries, bar none. 

    How much more, or less, is the brownfield industry impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the challenges and even opportunities? Remediation teams and developers might have begun donating personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, to their local health professionals. 

    Broadly, what the brownfield landscape resembles in a year or two from now, the toll it takes, is a question not easily quantifiable or readily answered. 

    Many disparate components of this industry are fair game. One that comes to mind is community/urban garden projects—ones either in the works or up and running. Urban garden projects are a brownfield redevelopment strategy that’s an attractive pursuit for the bandwidth it carries to stimulate economic, environmental and social change. 

    It’s a model that can become a permanent fixture in a metro area or viewed as an interim brownfield, where it serves as a placeholder for a yet-to-be-determined end uses. 

    Urban gardens bring communities together, as volunteers and even paid workers tend to gardens seasonally. Urban gardens are a great vehicle for triggering youth work programs.  The endgame is compelling: Jobs are created but more so it’s about establishing a viable food source for urban “food deserts.” 

    The environmental aspects of urban gardens help reduce the carbon footprint, while the economics payoffs see food grown, harvested and sold or donated. On the social plane, these projects bring people together and foster community pride.

    That last point is a sticky one, particularly under what’s certain to be new and far more stringent guideline governing these efforts. Urban gardens on brownfield are often bustling with volunteers throughout the day.    

    It will be interesting to see if urban garden projects continue moving forward—within new ground rules that place a limit on the number of people that can be onsite at any given time. 

    Along the lines of urban garden initiatives, New York City had been in the process of orchestrating two urban redevelopment concepts that fold in community gardens as a component of the blueprint. 

    A Lot At Stake 

    In an announcement made in 2019 by Gov. Cuomo, the state awarded development rights and construction funding for four housing projects that will collectively create more than 2,700 affordable-supportive residential units. Herkimer Gardens in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is one of the projects that has been ticketed to receive funding and approvals from the Governor’s $1.4 billion “Vital Brooklyn” housing initiative.

    Designed by Urban Architectural Initiative, the building was to be constructed to Passive House Standards, incorporating solar-voltaic shades and a green roof. Interior components were to include 118 affordable homes, on-site urgent care facilities, a wellness center with physical therapy equipment, a food access assistance center, community and recreation space and computer lounge. Outdoor amenities include a terrace on the second floor and another on the seventh floor with an urban farm. According to information from the developer of the property, Federation of Organizations, the total project was estimated to cost $55 million with an anticipated completion date in spring 2022.

    It’s been estimated that the Big Apple boasts more than 450 community gardens, most all a fixture of city living. There was a time they bordered on extinction. In the late 1990s, city officials, seeking revenue, planned to auction off vacant lots—including more than a hundred community gardens—to the highest bidder.

    That was before a local gardeners coalition mobilized to protect the land. There were rallies, lawsuits, and at one point, a restraining order to block a scheduled auction. Speaking to the New York Times from a bench in one Harlem garden in 1997, a gardener named Mary Emma Harris was resolute: “I'm not going to dig up those plants. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”

    These days, every borough hosts at least one urban farm;   ones of renown include GrowNYC (21,000-square-foot urban garden that’s filled with vegetable beds made from recycled materials), the Battery Urban Farm (one acre in the 25-acre Battery Park dedicated to growing more than 100 types of vegetables, with all food harvested by NYC students and donated to school cafeterias and food pantries), and Riverpark (located in the Alexandria Center, it uses 7,000 milk crates as grow beds and grows more than 100 types of vegetables).

    In New Jersey, many are also championing the concept, including Rutgers University's School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. The New Jersey urban garden movement has come a long way. 

    Speaking recently to NJ.com, one urban grower who first started farming in Newark in 2012 recalled land as a “drug den, overgrown with weeds. Over time, the effort saw the transformation of a 6,000 square-foot plot into what’s known as the “People’s Garden,” growing squash, eggplant, Swiss chard, zucchini and a variety of herbs.

    The transformation wasn’t easy. The principals installed a cistern to capture rainwater off the property next door. They also learned the hard way that they couldn’t create a compost bin without attracting wild animals from Branch Brook Park.

    “We had to start adapting to the environment that we’re in,” according to the Newark Community Food System. “You work with what you have and you create creative ways to produce food.”

    Newark Community Food Systems Urban Farms has evolved, and so too has Newark’s Beth Israel Medical Center, which opened its hydroponic Beth Greenhouse in 2016, and continues to sell produce at affordable rates at an indoor farmer’s market. 

    AeroFarms also opened a 69,000 square foot vertical farm, the largest in the world, inside a converted steel factory in Newark. The Greater Newark Conservancy runs a massive farm on Hawthorne Avenue, renting planter beds to interested residents, according to NJ.com.  

    Let’s hope urban and community gardens on former brownfields can weather the COVID-19 storm and remain vibrant. Each month, expect to see similar coverage from the BCONE digital platform that takes closer examinations of what the “new normal” might resemble, based on interaction with various public and private brownfield stakeholders across industry disciplines—from developer to remediation experts.

    Because there will be vulnerabilities lurking, and those prepared with a new vision have a better shot at weathering this storm. 

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