Education

Brownfields in New Jersey: New Opportunity in Mistakes of the Pas

dcbd9c56192c17579de2_Stanford-Drive-Berkeley-Hgts-NJ.jpg
Snyder Park Field Credits: Applied Landscape Technologies
e0ab20d9ab0833d09f1d_IMG_0332.JPG
The Kirkbride Building of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Credits: Luke Malanga
a17eabb7dc8c707ad0c8_harrison-commons1.png
Harrison Commons Credits: Smart Growth America
db81bab8a88abd2464d6_IMG_5591.jpg
Runners at Central Park of Morristown, part of the Greystone Park property Credits: Luke Malanga
db5a272db114fd3a0485_IMG_9486.jpg
Red Bull Arena  Credits: Luke Malanga
dcbd9c56192c17579de2_Stanford-Drive-Berkeley-Hgts-NJ.jpg

Chatham, NJ- New Jersey, “The Garden State,” is home to acres of parks, farmland and reservations. The Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge and Passaic River are examples of these pristine locations. However, New Jersey is also the most densely populated state in the U.S. with overflow from New York City leading to increasing development in New Jersey such as the enormous sports complexes in the meadowlands.

Situated in the metropolitan area, New Jersey struggles with the balance between industrial development and protecting its natural areas. One solution to this density issue in New Jersey to to look at remediating past mistakes. Former industrial or commercial sites affected by environmental contamination, known as "Brownfields," are perceived by environmental scientists as a huge issue. However, these Brownfields can and should be seen by developers and zoning committees as opportunities for rebuilding natural land.

One Brownfield success story in New Jersey is a prime example for how future remediation should be dictated. Snyder Field Park in Berkeley Heights was once an abandoned fuel depot. in 2003, Union County and Berkeley Heights Township cooperated to purchase the property for public use for a total of $13 million.

Sign Up for E-News

The park was constructed with funding from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, and a New Jersey Green Acres grant. Snyder Park occupies part of a 17-acre piece of land that formerly housed a plastics factory and a fuel depot. As a condition of the purchase, the previous owners (Shaw Plastics company, as well as Barry Oil Service and Duffy Fuels) cleaned up environmental hazards on the site at no cost to the public.

The Freeholder board voted in 2005 for the PMK Group of Cranford, which specializes in environmental services, to operate the remediation of the Snyder Avenue property in Berkeley Heights. The multi-use county park opened in 2010 after remediation of the soil to remove oil and other contaminates and the construction of a multi-sport turf field (with lighting and bleachers), baseball field, playground, walking trails and parking.

Union County Freeholder Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan, who signed the agreement to purchase the land in 2003, said, “This is one of the best projects we’ve ever done. It shows how a municipality and the county can work together. This was a fuel depot and plastics factory. It could have been high density housing….(look at) how much can be accomplished when we all work together.”

In a Union County press release, Union County Alliance president stated, “Brownfields have become critical resources in Union County. The (New Jersey Green Acre) grant award (helped) make it possible to reclaim land for economic development.”

New Jersey’s population density and overall lack of space for development has begun to spur desire for Brownfield remediation and redevelopment of old land. The remediation of these sites in the proper way allows for protecting local health and environment (including soil and water safety), opening up new usable land, and the economic benefit of using the land for development.

In the case of Snyder Field Park, the taxpayers had no significant increase in costs and the surrounding area was blessed with a state-of-the-art park and sports complex. Now, rather than a site with the threat of causing environmental and health risks, the park is home to club and youth soccer teams, baseball clinics and open public use.

Fifteen miles north of Snyder is another Brownfield with its fate still undecided. Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris Plains is home to a 673,700 square foot Kirkbride Building on 743 acres of land.

Originally opened on Aug. 17, 1876, the hospital was home to hundreds of patients and quickly grew to accommodate thousands suffering from PTSD, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. As de-institutionalization and drugs capable of relieving psychotic disorders become more prevalent, the hospital saw a huge decline in patients.

The state-run mental institution quickly deteriorated from a sanctuary meant to promote treatment and have a curative effect into an overcrowded and underfunded insane asylum. The decision to close Greystone came about in 2000 because of concerns for the aging buildings and due to negative press it was receiving.

Today, the entirety of the old Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital is abandoned and deteriorating. Morris County purchased approximately 300 acres of the Greystone Park Psychiatric Center property in 2001 for one dollar, with the stipulation that it would clean up asbestos and other environmental hazards on the site within its decaying buildings. When this land was sold, a law was also passed that Greystone land cannot be used for any purpose other than recreation and conservation, historic preservation or farmland preservation. 

Many have been fighting the demolition of the building due to its historic significance. The state, however, is also determined to demolish the building and turn it into recreational space to build upon Central Park of Morris County, which surrounds the hospital. The reason the government gave for tearing Greystone down was that anything else is “economically not feasible.” 

In addition, they claimed the building is “too far gone to save.” Before demolition begins, an environmental remediation process must be conducted, removing asbestos, lead paint and other hazardous material from the site.

 “The Christie administration is committed to converting the property to open space for the public to enjoy," Joseph Perone, communications director for state department of the treasury, said. "We discussed the (preservation) group’s concerns because we thought they were worth exploring. However, we concluded that the financial risk of preserving or rehabilitating the Kirkbride Building is insurmountable.”

Will Needham, the vice-president of Preserve Greystone quoted Winston Churchill saying, “ ’At first we shape our buildings, and thereafter, they shape us,’ What type of legacy are we leaving behind if we bulldoze all of our historic buildings?”

This question raises the importance of using this precious remediated land in the right way, whether that means preserving history, restoring park space, or creating residential or commercial spaces.

The process to turn Brownfields into “goldfields” is one that is taking shape throughout New Jersey. Harrison is home to one Brownfield success story, but also many other abandoned lots and factories that pose a threat to the local environment.

Red Bull Arena, home to Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, was built on land bought by the private company Red Bull GmbH that was a Hudson County Brownfield, housing abandoned warehouses.

“This area was a blighted, abandoned collection of warehouses on contaminated soil, which has been cleaned up," Erik Stover, former managing director of the New York Red Bulls, said. "The stadium is phase one, which will be followed by the building of useful housing and retail.”

Stover’s comment is insightful to the aspirations of Brownfield Remediation across New Jersey; improving one site with the hope of it sparking more remediation and development action. The stadium is a cornerstone for redevelopment in the cities of New Jersey, but also a vivid example of how Brownfield Remediation can improve the environment, economy, and city life.

New Jersey Monthly describes Harrison as the “latest hotbed for urban redevelopment” with “redevelopment plans to transform the Hudson County town’s blighted industrial section into a gentrified neighborhood.”

The warehouses that besiege the surroundings of the shiny arena are also representative of the work that still needs to be done. The success of turning Brownfields into recreational, residential, and commercial sites has been widely examined. However, it’s important to avoid past mistakes of continuing the cycle of destroying and repairing land through profligate development.

Instead, with these new projects, developers, city planners and environmental agencies must work together to redevelop land and create a better New Jersey. Brownfields should be seen as fields of dreams to repair mistakes of the past and create a more sustainable future.

Editor's note: Luke Malanga is a scholastic contributor to TAP into Chatham. He is about to complete his junior year at Chatham High School.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Basking Ridge

Basking Ridge Resident Among New Trustees for Friends of Historic Jacobus Vanderveer House

February 21, 2018

BEDMINSTER, NJ - Basking Ridge resident Sara D. Soden was among the four new trustees elected to serve on the board for The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House "living museum" that highlights the active role that the Somerset Hills played in the American Revolution.

The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House elected the new trustees and reappointed three ...

‘Reefer Madness’ Comes to Chatham Borough Council; Cannabis Advocates Make Pitch for Chatham Marijuana Shop

February 14, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - A group of pro-cannabis activists came to the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night and used the public commentary portion of the meeting to ask the council to support a marijuana dispensary in town.

The advocates, who say they have attended more than 80 town meetings to inform about the benefits of medical cannabis, mentioned the 1936 movie "Reefer ...

Guest Column: The Great "Wait" of the College Process

February 16, 2018

For all the high school seniors and their parents, we are in the stressful "waiting period".  We've just finished or are finishing applications to all the schools we might possibly want to attend next year and now sit and wait our fate after the $60-$80 non-refundable application fees to at least 8-13 schools and staring at some pretty ridiculous tuition fees.

Early ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, February 22

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Thu, February 22, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art , Bedminster,

Dan Bischoff: Critic As Artist

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, February 22, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster

Keepers of the Chroma: An Exhibition Regarding ...

Arts & Entertainment

Franklin: Sister2Sister Seeks Volunteers for 5K Run; Breast Cancer Health Summit and Screenings March 24

February 20, 2018

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ – Sister2Sister, a non-profit organization that supports minority and underserved breast cancer survivors, is getting an early start on planning its 5K Breast Cancer Run & Walk For Life with an organizational meeting Thursday, Feb. 22.

Those interested are invited to the organization’s headquarters at 1201 Hamilton St., Somerset for the 7 p.m.

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!