Sen. Lautenberg co-sponsors bill to increase funding for brownfield sites
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has co-sponsored a bipartisan bill with senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) to modernize and improve key elements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program. The senators are all members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the Brownfields Program. Since 2002, the program has funded the rehabilitation of abandoned and polluted properties to increase safety and attract new businesses to communities.
Brownfields sites are properties affected by the presence of environmental contamination such as hazardous waste or other pollution. These properties are often former industrial sites where contamination presents a health hazard. Even when brownfields do not pose a threat to human health, the mere perception of contamination can discourage redevelopment.
The Brownfields Program provides funding to clean up any contamination and prepare the site for redevelopment.
It is estimated that New Jersey has approximately 10,000 brownfield sites. As recently as 2010, “more than a third of the acreage” in Jersey City was identified as either a known or potential brownfield site, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. (EPA).
Since the inception of the Brownfields Program, EPA has provided approximately $1.5 billion in grants, which have leveraged $19.2 billion in additional investment. As a result, the Brownfields Program has assessed more than 20,000 properties and created more than 86,000 jobs nationwide.
Within the past five years, Jersey City has received $1 million in clean up grants from the Brownfields Program. This money has been used to remediate the site that is now being turned into Berry Lane Park and clean up additional sites on Ocean Avenue and Dwight Avenue.
Despite these successes, the EPA estimates there are still 450,000 brownfields sites across the United States.
The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013, which was introduced this week, would improve the existing grant process by increasing the dollar limit for cleanup grants and expanding grant eligibility for certain publicly owned sites and non-profit organizations. The bill would authorize the EPA to make multi-purpose grants, which provide greater certainty for long-term project financing. In addition, the legislation identifies opportunities for waterfront properties and brownfield sites appropriate for clean energy development, allows grant recipients to collect administrative costs, and provides technical assistance to small, rural, and disadvantaged communities. States would also be eligible for additional targeted funding. Finally, the bill would reauthorize the program at current levels through FY 2016.
The legislation is supported by the National Brownfields Coalition, which includes the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.
Jersey City settles lawsuit against recycling plant
For residents living near the Reliable Paper Recycling plant at 1 Caven Point Ave., there is good news and bad news.
The good news is that Jersey City has settled a lawsuit with the company which will require Reliable to end the production and sales of mulch. According to residents in the Lafayette neighborhood, the company’s mulch-making operations have for years emitted a foul chemical stench into the air which has made it impossible for them to sit outdoors or open the windows of their homes.
The bad news is Reliable’s mulch production won’t end for another 18 months.
The settlement stems from a December 2010 civil lawsuit the city filed against Reliable Recycling in Hudson County Superior Court, arguing the company was a “nuisance” to the community. At that time, the city’s objective was to force Reliable to cut the size of its open-air mulch piles, which were 30 feet tall.
Members of the Lafayette Neighborhood Action Committee and other local residents living to the west of Reliable Recycling have complained about foul odors connected to the company’s production of mulch for at least the past eight years. At City Council meetings and in letters of complaint to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) residents said the facility spewed nauseating, chemical odors into their neighborhood’s air – and, even through closed windows into their homes. Residents said the odors made living in their neighborhood almost impossible.
Subsequently, Reliable was on several occasions cited and fined by the DEP for air pollution and other violations.
Under a settlement agreement announced by the administration of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, Reliable will immediately reduce the amount of mulch it produces, stores, and sells at its facility. The company will also fund monthly inspections of its plant by a city-approved, independent expert, who will monitor Reliable Recycling’s compliance with the settlement, and report any noxious odors to the DEP.
The plant is to be closed permanently in a year and a half.
“We had to act to protect our residents’ right to clean air,” Healy said in a prepared press statement. “We can’t thank the Ward F residents who got involved here enough. They stood up for their rights, brought their concerns to City Hall, and trusted and worked with us to achieve this important settlement.”
Not all residents are applauding the settlement, however.
“Eighteen months is way too long to wait,” said Garfield Avenue resident and activist RJ Harper, who has often been critical of the administration’s environmental policies in Ward F. “I called and complained for more than six months about Reliable in 2011 and was regularly visited by city health inspectors about the various Reliable pollution and smells. Mayor Healy can’t really take any credit for with this settlement. It was the local residents that pushed the city to finally do something about the on-going problem. Now, according to the settlement, we still have to deal with it for more a year and a half.”
“This settlement is about as good as we could have gotten in court and eliminates any litigation risk that existed,” Jersey City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis said in a prepared statement.
Council makes FEMA flood map plea to state legislature
The Jersey City Council has passed a resolution asking the state legislature to reconsider Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps. The city wants the legislature to recognize that new flood maps and building recommendations from FEMA are incompatible with planning and development in urban communities like Jersey City.
FEMA is in the process of revising flood maps and construction recommendations for the Jersey City-Hoboken region.
According to a FEMA spokesman, these flood maps and building advisories were already in the works prior to Hurricane Sandy, which devastated Hudson County and parts of New York last fall, but were released in draft form early so that cities in the area can begin to protect themselves from similar storms in the future.
These maps and guidelines have yet to be finalized and adopted by the agency. If approved in their current draft, city planners and local officials say they will radically change building recommendations in urban communities. City planners fear the new recommendations will be significantly different from existing residential and commercial development
Liberty Humane calls on all party animals
This week, on March 21 from 5 to 8 p.m., the Liberty Humane Society will host a comedy show fundraiser at HopsScotch.
The event will be hosted by Tracy Marhal and comedians Joanne Filan, Jermaine Fowler, Meghan Hanley, Lori Sommer, and Gray Vider. For the event, HopsScotch will donate 20 percent of the food and beverage tab, and TD Ameritrade will match up to $1,000.
For more information, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be the Match
On Saturday, March 16, and Sunday, March 17, Newport Centre Mall will host Be the Match, an event on to recruit potential bone marrow and blood stem cell donors for the national Be The Match Registry. The registry drive will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on both days in the Center Court.
The two-day event is organized by volunteers from the South Asian Marrow Association of Recruiters (SAMAR), a nonprofit based in Queens, N.Y., that strives to educate and recruit potential bone marrow and blood stem cell donors from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds for the Be the Match Registry.
Be the Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit that connects patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma as well as sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or stem cell transplant. It also maintains the national Be the Match Registry, the world’s largest listing of potential marrow donors and donated umbilical cord blood units.
According to the National Marrow Donor Program, more than 10,000 men, women and children are searching the Be the Match Registry on any given day for a donor match. In response to that need, SAMAR conducts marrow registry events across the nation. During its two-day drive at Newport Centre, the organization’s volunteers hope to add scores of new names to the national registry and increase the potential of locating a donor match for waiting patients, including 33-year-old Raman Sadwal, a New Jersey husband and father of two young sons who recently was diagnosed with acute leukemia.
Adults between the ages of 18 and 44 and from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are in greatest demand and encouraged to attend the weekend registry drive. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, transplant patients who receive marrow from younger donors tend to have better outcomes, and patients in need of a marrow transplant are more likely to find a match from a person of the same racial or ethnic heritage. Participants should bring personal identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, and prepare to give a swab of cheek cells to be tissue-typed. Volunteers from SAMAR will be available to assist with the process and answer questions.
Spring back with Creative Grove
Uta Brauser and the folks at Creative Grove will return this week on Friday, March 22. From 3 to 9 p.m. The popular outdoor market has been on hiatus since Hurricane Sandy. But this week Grove Plaza will once again play host to artists, food vendors, the “outdoor lounge,” and deejayed music. As always, Brauser and Creative Grove invite residents to “celebrate the community outdoors, meet your neighbors, and share ideas.” Now that you’ve sprung forward, spring back…to life!
For more information, visit www.creativegrove.org.
Hoboken pizza store employee missing since March 6
Police are searching for Marco Bruno Garcia, 34, from North Bergen. A missing person poster is hanging in Mario’s Pizza on Eighth Street in Hoboken, where Garcia works.
North Bergen Police Sgt. Bronson Justino said Wednesday that before he disappeared, Garcia had been discussing with his family that he wanted to go back to Mexico, where he is from. However, Justino said that no one from his family in Mexico has heard from him.
“Now they’re trying to figure out where he is, because he left his cell phone, his passport and another type of ID,” said Justino. “It didn’t look like he packed up and left.”
Garcia was last seen on March 6.
Anyone with information about Garcia’s whereabouts is asked to contact the North Bergen Police Department at (201) 392-2100.
Hudson County CASA hosting wine tasting on March 22
Hudson County CASA (court appointed special advocates), an organization in which volunteers help provide advocacy and legal assistance to nearly 1,000 foster children throughout Hudson County, will host a wine tasting in the atrium of Jersey City’s Harborside Financial Center on March 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The fundraiser is being thrown with the help of The Wine Library of Springfield, which has hand-chosen a diverse group of 90 wines for tasting. Food and dessert will also be provided. In addition to the tasting, there will be a cork pull, a silent auction and free parking. All proceeds will go toward Hudson County CASA.
Tickets currently cost $75, and will be sold for $85 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit www.hudsoncountycasa.org or call (201) 795-9855.