Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Brownfield Renewal Person of the Year Award

The 2013 Brownfield Renewal Person of the Year Award went to Daniel Walsh, Director of the Mayor's Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) in New York City.

Dr. Walsh is an outspoken advocate for municipal governance of remedial action programs by US cities which is a role traditionally played by state government. His efforts have contributed to local economic development, public health protection and community development goals.

He established the New York City Voluntary Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), the nation's first municipally-run brownfield cleanup program. The NYC BCP was launched in 2011 and has become one of the most prolific cleanup programs in the country. In its first 32 months of operation, OER has approved cleanup plans for more than 160 brownfield projects, enabling over $4.5 billion in new development of more than 13 million square feet of building space-40% of which is job-producing retail, commercial and office space—and producing over 4,500 permanent new jobs and 13,400 construction jobs, and generating more than $1.5 billion in new, long-term tax revenue for city and state government.

Working closely with local stakeholders, Walsh has established a series of progressive brownfield programs. The NYC Clean Soil Bank, believed to be the nation's first municipal clean soil exchange program, allows excess clean soil excavated for development purposes from beneath remediated brownfield sites to be delivered-with no transfer fees—to city construction sites and brownfield projects that need clean backfill. This program has enabled transfer of over 60,000 tons of soil in its first 6 months of operation and has saved brownfield developers and city government over $4 million in soil purchase and disposal costs. The New York City Green Property Certification was established to formally recognize the safety of land remediated in the NYC BCP.

To improve quality of cleanup plans and shorten approval times, Walsh also established TurboTraining, an intensive training program that has certified 177 environmental professionals since its launch in 2012.

Brownfields usually cluster in low-income neighborhoods and Walsh believes strongly that cities should work at the grass-roots level with community-based organizations to develop and implement brownfield plans.

To help citizens learn more about brownfield investigation and cleanup, OER produced four videos in the Cleaning Up NYC series. A series of new programs are now being developed including a program to provide city residents enrolled in workforce development programs with technical training opportunities on local brownfield cleanup projects.

Walsh has long sought to unlock the potential of the environmental industry to perform community service in NYC. In 2008, he founded the NYC Brownfield Partnership, an association of more than 60 environmental businesses and community based organizations dedicated to delivering community services. The Partnership is thriving and now operates a variety of programs including pro bono community environmental counseling, college scholarships and internships, and an annual brownfield award program.

Walsh and his team of scientists and engineers were also very much involved in cleanup efforts after Hurricane Sandy which was part of a broader hurricane debris recycling effort that earned the United Nation’s 2013 Green Star Award.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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