April 12, 2013
On April 9, 2013, the New York City Council unanimously approved a proposal to redevelop the historic Pier 57 within Hudson River Park, at the foot of West 15th Street in Manhattan. This followed approval by the City Planning Commission in March, and the environmental review of the project by the Hudson River Park Trust (“HRPT”) and other agencies, through the preparation of an environmental impact statement (“EIS”). SPR is serving as HRPT’s environmental counsel for the Pier 57 redevelopment, continuing the Firm’s representation of Hudson River Park since its establishment in the 1990s.
Pier 57, which was constructed in the early 1950s and comprises three underwater caissons, a head house and a pier shed, is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It has been vacant since the 1990s. Developer Youngwoo & Associates proposes to lease the Pier from HRPT in order to redevelop it with an urban marketplace (using repurposed shipping containers for small food- and design-oriented retail businesses), restaurants, a large rooftop open space, and public circulation space around the perimeter of the pier. The project may also include cultural space, an educational facility, and a marina.
SPR principals David Paget and Elizabeth Knauer have been advising HRPT regarding all environmental aspects of the project, including preparation of the EIS, consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office, and obtaining environmental permits for work that will be needed within the Hudson River. This representation is the latest example of the firm’s longstanding work on major New York City waterfront developments, dating back to the South Street Seaport and Battery Park City projects and continuing with more recent projects such as Queens West, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the redevelopment of the Battery Maritime Building and Pier A in lower Manhattan, the Whole Foods store and Domino Sugar Refinery redevelopment in Brooklyn, and the proposed expansion of the New York Container Terminal in Staten Island.
March 14, 2013
Crains New York Business reports that two bills related to recovery from Superstorm Sandy were passed unanimously by the New York City Council on March 13, 2013.
One bill creates additional City oversight over the physical elevation of homes, in an effort to prevent home collapse or construction accidents associated with subpar construction work. According to the press release announcing this bill, the legislation requires that:
- Construction plans clearly state whether a project will involve home elevation work;
- Contractors give 48 hours’ notice to the Department of Buildings before elevating a home, which will give the Department the opportunity to monitor the work;
- Home elevation work be done under the supervision of an approved special inspector; and
- The Department of Consumer Affairs provide education to the public regarding the types of work home improvement contractors can do, and the licenses and permits needed by such contractors to do different kinds of work, including home elevation work.
The other bill waives fees for various City applications, permits, and inspections associated with the repair or reconstruction of Sandy-damaged property used by small businesses.
For more information about this legislation and other Sandy recovery measures, please contact Michael Bogin or Steven Barshov.
January 2, 2013
On December 28, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its Proposed Remedial Action Plan (“Proposed Plan”) for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, calling for up to $500 million in sampling, dredging, and other remedial activities over the next seven years. The Proposed Plan, which is currently open for public comment and is expected to be finalized in late 2013, is based upon more than two years of intensive environmental investigation at the 1.8 mile-long, Brooklyn Superfund site.
After analyzing a range of remedial options, EPA proposed dredging approximately 588,000 cubic yards of soft sediment that has accumulated in the Canal, stabilizing pockets of coal tar contamination in the native sediment below prevent their upward migration, and installing a multi-layer cap to avoid recontamination of the Canal from the native sediment. EPA envisions the off-site treatment and beneficial re-use of the dredged sediment (e.g., as landfill cover), although it is also evaluating the possibility of a Confined Disposal Facility (“CDF”) where treated sediment could be disposed in areas surrounding the Canal.
In addition to dredging and capping, EPA’s preferred remedy includes a variety of measures designed to control ongoing sources of contamination. Three former manufactured gas plants responsible for much of the historic contamination in the Canal are currently being remediated by National Grid under oversight of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, with measures in place to prevent the continued migration of soil or groundwater contamination. In order to prevent the overflow of untreated sewage during storm events, EPA has called for the construction of large retention tanks that would capture and hold releases from two Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) outfalls until the sewage could be pumped to a treatment plan, at a cost of approximately $78 million. New York City (which is responsible for the CSO controls) has opposed the Gowanus Superfund listing and voiced concerns about the regulation of CSOs through the Superfund program. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”), on the other hand, voiced support for EPA’s CSO performance goals in a recent letter to EPA and “concur[ed] with the alternative recommended” in the Proposed Plan.
EPA anticipates that the finalization of its Proposed Plan and development of a more specific Remedial Design will take two years, followed by five years of remediation at total cost of $466.7-$503.7 million. While EPA is expected to expend the funds needed in the near term, the agency will seek to recoup those costs and secure remedial funding commitments from potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”) who are or previously were located in the vicinity of the Canal. EPA has notified 31 companies and other government entities it believes to be PRPs, although their ultimate liability and equitable share of the cleanup costs (if any) has yet to be determined.
EPA is accepting public comment on its Proposed Plan through March 28, 2013. For more information on the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, contact Daniel Riesel or David Yudelson.
Update: A prior version of this post misidentified the author of a letter to EPA, which was sent by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, not the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
October 24, 2012
On October 19th, the Municipal Art Society and the New York City Landmarks Commission (LPC) published an in-depth guide (“Guide”) to increasing the energy efficiency of historic rowhouses in New York City by employing measures such as the installation of rooftop solar panels. The guide provides resources for rowhouse owners seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings in ways consistent with the special regulatory requirements applicable to historic buildings.
Increasing the energy efficiency of historic buildings is an important component of decreasing the overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of New York City and meeting PlaNYC’s goal of a 30% reduction in such emissions by 2030. Presently, over 75% of the city’s GHG emissions come from buildings, and over 50% of the city’s building stock consists of buildings constructed before 1940.
Generally, any exterior change to a designated historic building, such a landmarked building or a building in a New York City historic district, is subject to the approval of the LPC, even if a permit from the Department of Buildings is not required. The Guide provides useful details on a variety of measures to improve energy efficiency with minimal architectural impact, such as weatherizing buildings, using energy-efficient heating and lighting controls, and installing basement and roof insulation.
The Guide also discusses the installation of solar panels on historic buildings, a project with the potential for a significant aesthetic effect. However, the Guide notes that most solar panel installations for flat or low-slope roofs, such as those often found on historic rowhouses, are approved by the LPC at the staff level, without need for a public hearing before the full commission. Hopefully this recent publication will encourage LPC staff to streamline the approval process for solar installations that meet applicable guidelines.
October 17, 2012
On October 10, 2012, the Lightstone Group (“Lightstone”) received conditional approval from Community Board 6 for its proposal to construct 700 apartments, community facilities, commercial space and a waterfront front esplanade along the Gowanus Canal. Sive, Paget & Riesel is serving as environmental counsel for Lightstone’s redevelopment project, which will occupy two city blocks to the west of the Canal.
The key environmental issues were the environmental remediation of the Site, the Site’s relationship to the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, reconstruction of the historic bulkhead, planning for projected sea level rise, and the avoidance of significant adverse impacts on combined sewer overflows into the Canal.
David Yudelson, a partner at Sive Paget & Riesel, has been working cooperatively with federal, state and local agencies to address these issues. In addition, Mr. Yudelson has been working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) on an agreement to dovetail the proposed redevelopment with the forthcoming Gowanus Canal Superfund remedy, which EPA is anticipated to propose over the coming months.
Mr. Yudelson and Sive, Paget & Riesel have been representing a number of prospective purchasers, owners, developers respecting these issues on other properties on the Gowanus Canal since 1996, including Gowanus Green, Toll Brothers, Woodenbridge LLC, Whole Foods, and MCIZ. The Firm is also representing potentially responsible parties with respect to the Superfund cleanup of the Canal. For further information, please contact David Yudelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-295-6449.
August 9, 2012
Governor Cuomo has signed into law new legislation designed to protect New York State’s seagrass beds. The law requires the Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) to designate seagrass management areas and to regulate marine and coastal activities that threaten those areas, although it is uncertain whether the Seagrass Protection Act will result in requirements for a new “seagrass permit.”
Seagrass beds provide habitat and food for fish, shellfish and waterfowl, and help to stabilize bottom sediments, among other ecological benefits. A 2009 report from the New York State Seagrass Task Force found that seagrass acreage in the state had declined from an estimated 200,000 acres in 1930 to less than 22,000 acres in 2009, located primarily within the South Shore Estuary Reserve along the southern coast of Long Island. Seagrass beds are threatened by nutrient loading (excess nitrogen from fertilizer runoff that impairs water quality), persistent algal blooms, and fishing and shellfishing gear.
The new law, which will take effect in December 2012, instructs DEC to designate seagrass management areas and to develop management plans for those areas in consultation with local governments, recreational boating interests, fishermen, property owners and other affected stakeholders.
Seagrass habitat overlaps to some extent with tidal wetlands in New York (over which DEC has jurisdiction and regulates through its Tidal Wetlands Permit Program); however, existing laws and regulations do not give DEC the authority to specifically restrict activities that may negatively affect seagrass. The Seagrass Protection Act gives new jurisdiction to DEC to regulate activities both on land and in water, including the authority to adopt rules and regulations to regulate coastal and marine activities that threaten seagrass beds or seagrass restoration efforts.
Similar legislation was passed in 2010 and vetoed by Governor Paterson. The 2010 version of the act contained specific restrictions on the application of phosphorous-containing fertilizer in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that are not contained in the 2012 law.
For more information on the potential impact of the new law, please contact Michael Bogin or Chris Amato.
May 29, 2012
On May 20, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new wetlands strategy for New York City, building on the PlaNYC’s goals of improving water quality, increasing opportunities for recreation along waterways and waterfronts, and restoring natural environments along coastal areas.
The New York City Wetlands Strategy (“Wetlands Strategy”) had originally contemplated creating a local ordinance and establishing an enforcement regime on the local level to protect vulnerable wetlands from development and fill. However, given the relatively small amount of privately-owned wetlands in the City and the significant cost of establishing such a regulatory scheme, the City instead opted to pursue other avenues to protect wetlands.
Notable among the City’s initiatives is the plan to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revise state and federal mitigation guidance to take into account unique circumstances associated with New York City wetlands. The goal of these revisions will be to increase transparency for mitigation policies and provide guidance specific to New York City, where on-site mitigation is often not feasible. For example, the Wetlands Strategy suggests creative mitigation approaches suited to the City’s geography, such as debris removal and hazardous material remediation.
In tandem with proposed revisions to mitigation guidance, the Wetlands Strategy includes a proposal for a banking or “in-lieu of” fee mechanism to increase the flexibility of mitigation required for public projects. The in-lieu of fee system would allow permit applicants to designate an approved third party to undertake a mitigation project. In a banking system, credits are created where a public or private entity restores, enhances or preserves natural resources with the oversight of an inter-agency review team. These mitigation credits may then be used for projects within a given region or service area.
The Wetlands Strategy also includes initiatives to improve wetlands mapping and monitoring to determine the current extent of NYC wetlands and the potential and ongoing impact of sea level rise on these resources.
For more information on tidal and freshwater wetlands regulation and enforcement in New York, contact Michael Bogin or Maggie Macdonald.
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