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The Economic and Social Impacts of Brownfield Redevelopment - Social Impact of Redevelopment

CASE STUDY: STRUGGLE FOR NEIGHBORHOOD REDEVELOPMENT IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY

Almost every municipality in New Jersey contains at least one contaminated site as provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), that maintains a list of potential brownfield sites. The study conducted by Greenberg et al (2000) included landfills and agricultural sites, but removed single gasoline stations to capture the serious neighborhood impacts due to these sites. The study also focused on a special type of brownfield site – temporary obsolete abandoned derelict site (TOADS). These sites are known to complicate brownfield redevelopments because they include contaminated buildings and land that can potentially adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood through pollution of the local environment. Also, TOADS are not regulated nor secured, which lead to the occurence of illegal activities, including dumping and illegal drug sales, driving the already negative perception of the site even lower. Due to these illegal activities, these sites are perceived as non-livable and dangerous by the government and local residents“TOADS … can destroy neighborhoods, lowering property values in the surrounding community, affecting property transactions, and requiring local government to change zoning in the surrounding neighborhoods” (Greenberg et al 2000). Some cases of TOADS include partially abandoned neighborhoods populated with the poorest and most vulnerable people with limited access to services and opportunities. Additional financial resources are needed to reestablish these TOADS and keep them from ruining a neighborhood.

Demographic characteristics of the 450 municipalities, divided into four sets: (1) without brownfields, (2) with brownfields but no off-site impacts, (3) with limited off-site impacts, and (4) with major off-site impacts, are compared in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Demographic Characteristics of New Jersey Municipalities with and without Brownfields (Greenberg et al 2000).

case study new jersey table 1

 

Table 2 shows the striking differences due to socioeconomic status and race. Out of the 46 municipalities with TOADS, 15 municipalities (dubbed as major-impacts brownfields) consisted of the “poorest populations, the least expensive housing, and the lowest proportion of white residents” (Greenberg et al 2000). These 15 municipalities are also the most populated jurisdictions. On the other hand, the 303 municipalities without TOADS, are those with the “most affluent residents, the most expensive housing, and the highest proportion of white residents” (Greenberg et al 2000).

The study showed that major barriers to brownfields redevelopment are indeed fear of liability and lack of capital investment. Stigmatization of the site also negatively impact the investment of these brownfield sites. Brownfield sites with major economic and social impacts are typically associated with neighborhoods with high crime rates and unsafe living conditions.

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