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FYI: New rules meant to help cities use state grants to clean up property contaminated by industrial pollution may still not spur action on New York City’s 3,000 to 4,000 acres of “brownfields,” according to an Independent Budget Office report. In October, Albany passed a long-awaited bill making it easier for localities to claim state money set aside for clean ups—of $200 million budgeted in 1996, a whopping $175 million remains unused. The new law boosts the state’s share of clean-up costs, loosens rules that blocked partnerships with private developers, and relaxes liability for both government and subsequent private owners of the land. But, says IBO, several measures still limit its utility to the city: It favors sites that can be developed to create large numbers of jobs, but those in the city are relatively small plots; it requires cleaned ground water meet drinking water standards, even though the city’s drinking water comes primarily from upstate not local wells; the poverty benchmarks that qualify sites for tax credits are too high for most neighborhoods where the city’s brownfields are located. [12/4/03]

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