BRIDGEPORT, CT—In recognition of Earth Day, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch today toured three Bridgeport brownfields in various stages of revitalization. The tour followed a roundtable discussion with local businesses and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that examined the role governments can play in leveraging investment to help spur economic growth and create jobs. The City of Bridgeport has experienced great success with its brownfields program, but recent budget-cutting efforts in Washington have targeted many of the programs that are key to this effort.

“Budgeting is about priorities, and while we need to cut spending, we need to make sure we don’t do so at the expense of opportunities to create jobs. Just because the private market doesn’t find it independently profitable on the front end to clean up an existing toxic waste site doesn’t mean it’s not a smart thing to do,” said Himes. “The increased tax revenue and job creation opportunities that result in the long-term from a brownfield cleanup more than make up for the reduced interest on a loan, not to mention the public health benefits of removing toxins from our neighborhoods.”

Finch explained that many of Bridgeport’s most successful economic development projects would not have been possible without assistance from the EPA. The Arena at Harboryard, the Barnum Business Center where today’s meeting took place, and the new West End Industrial Park on the former site of Bryant Electric are all redeveloped brownfields. The city’s supply of clean, development-friendly sites is limited, but businesses need financing assistance and environmental guidance if they are going to take on the challenge of changing toxic waste sites into usable land.

“To bring jobs to Steelpointe, the former Carpenter Steel site and the new train station, we need even more vigorous support from federal and state agencies like EPA, and that is why today’s meeting is so important, ” said Mayor Finch. “We want to keep the momentum going, with sites that are ready to go so we can take advantage of the economic upswing to bring development income to the City.”

At the roundtable discussion, local businesses and developers that have participated in the brownfields revitalization process shared their experiences. Jan Cohen, owner of the Barnum Business Center and neighboring Barnum Lumber Company, explained the challenges he and the city experienced in their joint effort to clean up the former scrap metal yard. When Cohen purchased the property from the city, estimated cleanup costs ranged from $300,000 to $800,000. As the project progressed, crews discovered previously hidden hazardous waste, and the cost of complete decontamination soared to over $2.5 million. Because the EPA was able to provide loan financing for 80% of the remediation, the project continued. Now the toxins have been removed and the site is home to an industrial park with two completed buildings and two additional concrete slabs that are available for construction.

After touring the Barnum Business Center, the group visited two more brownfields for which EPA assistance has been secured. At Seaview Industrial Park, they saw private contractors at work building sidewalks and curbing on the site of a former dry cleaning and manufacturing facility. They ended their tour at Seaview Plaza, the location of a proposed 150,000 square foot East End retail and commercial development site. This $30 million project will remediate a long-idle brownfield site and bring much needed retail services to an underserved area of the city.