QUIJANO, BURZICHELLI, RILEY & EVANS BILL AIMS TO TRANSFORM VACANT URBAN SITES INTO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ENGINES

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, John Burzichelli, Celeste Riley and Elease Evans to help transform vacant urban sites was recently released by an Assembly panel.

“We want to encourage nonprofit corporations and associations to help transform the vacant properties in our urban areas into vibrant fields of flowers, plants, fruits and vegetables,” said Quijano. “Too often such parcels cannot be sold, blocking economic development, but with this bill we’ll help move these neighborhoods in a new direction.”

“Many of our cities – from Newark to Bridgeton – have been working for decades to overcome the problems tied to vacant lots that block job growth and stagnant the economy,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “This is an effort to transform those lots, clearing the way for renewed economic development in these areas.”

“Economic development takes many forms, including measures like this that can reinvigorate a neighborhood, leading to increased investment and the job creation that follows,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Urban gardens can help build small businesses, create jobs and turn unproductive properties into centerpieces for an economic revival.”

“We need to ensure economic development occurs in all areas of the state,” said Evans (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Cities have been struggling to overcome vacant properties for years, but if we can allow nonprofits and community associations to take over these sites and turn them into assets, we can benefit everyone.”

Existing law authorizes municipalities and counties to lease or sell public property not needed for a public use to nonprofit entities

This bill (A-2859) would add the cultivation and sale of fresh fruits and vegetables to the list of purposes for which local units may lease or sell public land for nominal consideration.

The bill would also authorize local units to sell land to nonprofit entities for the provision of gardening services to the general public.

Current law allows for the long-term lease of excess public land, but not the sale thereof, to nonprofits for gardening purpose.

Recognizing that the transformation of excess vacant public lands into vibrant urban farms is a public purpose, the bill would afford these lands exemptions from property taxation.

The bill was recently released by the Assembly Budget Committee.