A Natural Way to Green Brownfields

With more than 11,000 acres of brownfield sites in New York City sitting underused due to contamination, officials there want to get things cleaned up and reused. Urban designer Kaja Kühl offers this field guide to small-scale bioremediation to help.

"In May of 2009, Mayor Bloomberg signed the New York City Brownfield and Community Revitalization Act, a milestone in the City's commitment to cleaning up brownfields for productive reuse in accordance with PlaNYC. Citing the scarcity of land in New York City and the anticipated influx of one million new residents by 2030, PlaNYC identified the importance of cleanup and redevelopment of properties that are abandoned and underutilized due to the presence or perceived presence of contamination. As part of this effort, the City has created the Office of Environmental Remediation, which oversees the environmental review of brownfield sites and offers assistance to property owners on the path to a Green Property Certification and potential redevelopment.

50% of all vacant properties in the city are smaller than 2,500sf and individually owned. 80% are smaller than 5,000sf. Remediation, typically in the form of excavation of the contaminated soil, is costly, despite programs, assistance and grants now available. As a result, these small properties lie vacant for years, underutilized and toxic, their value further diminished by the appearance of abandonment and potential contamination."

The guide offers tips on how property owners can use simple and natural methods to clean up their contaminated sites.

Full Story: From Brownfields to Greenfields: A Field Guide to Phytoremediation

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