Outgoing President says Org. taking huge strides in many areas due to work of the entire board
By Steve Dwyer
Becoming president of Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) at the start of 2020, Rick Shoyer III, had both an opportunity and a challenge in front of him when his tenure started as COVID-19 hit the U.S. shores.
Three years later, BCONE navigated through the rigors of the pandemic in precision-like fashion by keeping communication and outreach epoxy-tight via a host of virtual events, as well as virtual member-oriented events that included book club and hiking club introductions.
Starting with the Charlie Bartsch Memorial Scholarship program, BCONE fanned out even more to offer additional scholarships, all geared to acknowledge and award gold-standard students who aspire to be brownfield professionals.
In addition to offering scholarships at the University of Connecticut, City College of New York (CCNY) students were awarded scholarships for outstanding projects in its successful Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments courses, which went fully online for the first semester 2020 due to restrictions. The course was overseen by instructor Angelo Lampousis, Ph.D., lecturer and undergraduate advisor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences with CCNY, and a BCONE board member.
Efforts like the CCNY course along with a continuing education component allowed young professional to become certified quicker and get to work.
Young environmental and engineering professionals -- perhaps armed with a fresh, vibrant brownfield vision for the future -- engaged with BCONE either casually at events and then ultimately became members, board members and even board President. Indeed, young professionals are now woven deeply into the BCONE fabric, and the future appears bright. Shoyer cited the Developing Professionals initiative as an example.
BCONE looked to continue expanding geographically across Pennsylvania, regions of New England, and Upstate New York, all to expand beyond entrenched footprints of New Jersey, New York City metro area, the Greater Philadelphia, PA area, and Connecticut.
Mid-Atlantic states such as Delaware, Maryland and others were more involved with BCONE with their own BCONE workshops and events. BCONE also oversaw more significant outreach to USEPA Region 4 that encompassed engaging with the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and others -- with Rick Shoyer establishing a presence as a contractor to provide training and grant application reviews.
Shoyer traveled to an underserved community in Florida to provide consulting on brownfield redevelopment, leveraging his skills as an investigation and remediation expert classified as a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and N-2 Industrial Operator in the state of New Jersey. This effort and his other efforts in USEPA Region 4 were as a BCONE subcontractor to the ICMA Technical Assistance for Brownfields program for Region 4.
Taking the Northeast Sustainable Communities Workshop (NSCW) event beyond New York/New Jersey and into Connecticut proved to be an excellent strategy—and the event also expanded from one day to 1.5 days. BCONE enjoyed a large number of new NSCW participants thanks to staging it in Connecticut.
These days, BCONE is able to balance virtually-held events with in-person ones, the latter integral because there’s no substitute for “shaking hands and looking someone in the eye,” he says.
The outgoing President, who handed over the reins to newly installed President Melina Ambrosino at the end of 2022, sums up his 3-year stint this way: “I’m proud of our executive board: It’s the strongest one I can think of. We were able to make progress in so many areas due to the work of the entire board.
“It became evident that if you listen and you reach out, you can encourage members to step up and spread their intel both within and outside the BCONE family and share their areas of expertise. We were able to do a lot of really great things, and I appreciated the support of Executive Director Sue Boyle and the entire board, the Committee chairs, for their efforts to keep us moving forward.”
Shoyer, who received his BS in Engineering from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., has spent the past 38-plus years investigating and remediating organic and inorganic substances both in-situ and ex-situ.
He spoke about four key topics recently:
On engaging with state regulators: “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished to strengthen the organization, starting with state regulatory outreach.” One way is having a seat at the table with state regulators about brownfield-related developments occurring in the respective BCONE footprint to determine “what works and what doesn’t,” he says. Years ago, BCONE members might have been the ones proactively reaching out to their state officials; now, that script has been flipped.
“We have asked to participate at various state levels, been invited to join stakeholder meetings due to BCONE’s recognized expertise,” all to provide guidance within regulatory efforts. “BCONE has competencies across multiple professional levels—and our ideas have been asked for upfront.”
On renewable energy initiatives: BCONE everts have focused on sustainable and resilient development and redevelopment, and community solar projects. It has spotlighted the expansion of community solar projects in urban areas and economically distressed areas where businesses and residence can take advantage economically of solar programs.
“We have not met our goals in taking advantage of the resources to do these things with underserved communities to the full extent we can. We could be doing more and are on a path to improvement. Many things go with that, and communities need to get involved.” He says that BCONE is eager to demonstrate that brownfield redevelopments—with solar and beyond—is more than adding money to local tax rolls, but about broadly creating sustainable communities—that’s the endgame.
On affordable housing: “There is a huge need for affordable housing, as we still struggle with fully executing this opportunity. The goal is to maintain and improve the social fabric of neighborhoods, and this is a real challenge. A lot of brownfield tax incentives and grants are there to target these initiatives—we’re on the right track to getting there.”
On the diversification of professionals that engage with BCONE: “We are still very heavy on the environmental, engineering and consulting side of the professional spectrum. We would be better served if we had a more diverse group to bring in other professional disciplines and perspectives. There’s a push to work more on these areas because brownfield redevelopment is a team sport—and lacking a good team negatively impacts projects.”
Posted February 5, 2023