Friday, March 28, 2008

Brownfields Redevelpment: Reflecting the Downstate Perspective

Given the changes in the State Legislature since reapportionment of the Senate in the 1960s, policies have been made which reflect the Downstate perspective. This perspective has led to Upstate's decline while Downstate prospers.

An example is the Brownfields' law which is the subject of a Times Union editorial today. The law was intended to encourage clean-up and redevelopment of contaminated sites (brownfields) throughout the state. A billion dollars in state tax credits has been piled up through this program, but almost all of it for down state projects.

It's easy to see why. The program all but invites developers to build in expensive areas, while spending the least amount of money on cleaning up brownfield sites and as much as possible on the projects themselves. . . .

For example, if a developer spends, say, $1 million to clean up a brownfield site and then builds a $300 million office tower on it, the tax credit is based on $301 million. Thus, the less spent on cleanup, the more tax credit available for the project itself.
As the editorial points out, most of the redevelopment has occurred in Manhattan where land is in demand, land prices are high, and redevelopment would have occurred anyway.
Upstate? Who would pay to clean up, say, Utica's Harbor Point for redevelopment, when "greenfields" (virgin land) is just a "stone's throw" away in New Hartford up taxpayer-financed State Route 840 where County and Town governments are tripping over each other offering subsidies of their own?

A remake of the Brownfields law is in the works, but it looks like it is designed more to save the state treasury than encourage reuse of Upstate's brownfields. Of course ! That Downstate perspective creates a blind spot.

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