New Resources Turn Brownfields Into Opportunities
Thursday, April 15, 2021 01:15 PM

By Dr. Colette Santasieri, Executive Director, NJ Brownfields Assistance Center @ NJIT

Many New Jersey communities contain legacy industrial and vacant commercial properties. Some of these sites have languished for years because of contamination or the perception of contamination.

While these brownfields plague our communities, the redevelopment of brownfields are unique opportunities - to catalyze economic development, improve environmental conditions, and create more socially equitable and resilient communities. But the process of remediating and redeveloping brownfields can be daunting.

Now, New Jersey’s municipalities and counties have a free resource to help them navigate the challenges posed by brownfields. Launched in early 2020 with seed funding from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the NJ Brownfields Assistance Center @ NJIT is the first-of-its-kind and only center that solely focuses on and serves New Jersey.

Most local governments do not have the in-house knowledge or expertise to advance brownfield sites through the planning, assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment processes. Many communities have either no, or limited resources, including funding. These challenges are compounded by weak real estate markets in many of our communities.

NJIT created the NJ Brownfields Assistance Center @ NJIT – to help communities overcome their brownfield hurdles and advance these properties towards the redevelopment finish line.

The Center’s multi-disciplinary team of planners, engineers, environmental scientists, and social scientists brings tools, strategies, resources, partnerships, subject matter experts, and education to brownfields-challenged communities to help transform these sites into community assets.

The Center educates and engages communities about brownfield issues, and it provides free “help desk” assistance and guidance to any county and municipal government. The Center partners with state agencies and the private sector to help advance the practice, build community capacity, and guide communities as they navigate the redevelopment process.

Since its launch, the Center has conducted Brownfields Blueprints Learning Labs for county and municipal elected officials and staff; created a resource center (; held several webinars on Brownfields Basics, Funding for Brownfields Redevelopments, and Environmental Justice; provided ‘plain language’ explanations of technical environmental investigation reports to local government officials; helped municipalities identify planning goals and priorities and then developed strategies for aligning brownfields sites with those goals; and much more.