The Portfields Initiative

The Port of New York and New Jersey (PONYNJ) is the largest port on the East Coast, the third-biggest port in the United States and the gateway to one of the world’s largest consumer markets, making New Jersey and New York key nodes in global commerce.  This means there are a lot of trucks driving in and out of the area, day after day, year after year.

Air Quality and Capacity Issues

Freight emissions make up close to one-third of the nation’s transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and have risen by over 50 percent since 1990.  In and around the PONYNJ, freight emissions have been and continue to be a significant health and environmental concern.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), comprehensive air emissions inventories provided by the PONYNJ point to the port as a major contributor to air pollution in the region, and trucks as a significant part of the problem, with off-terminal truck trips in particular.

In addition to health and environmental concerns, there has been a growing demand for distribution and warehouse space closer to the port area.  Establishing more near-port warehouses and distribution centers, would not only help address capacity issues but would also reduce the length of off-terminal trips for trucks.

While there was this demand, much of the existing building inventory in the area was crumbling or functionally obsolete.  There were also a number of abandoned former industrial sites, called brownfields, which were dormant and unproductive.


A brownfield is typically a former industrial site with soil or ground water contamination.  Areas along the Arthur Kill were once pristine beaches and marshlands and private residences overlooked the straight.  At the end of the nineteenth center, large water-dependent industrial and chemical companies bought the lands and dominated the waterfront.  Years later, much of the industry was gone, leaving the land as abandoned and underutilized brownfields.

The Portfields Initiative

A little over a decade ago, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) saw opportunities in the transformation of these brownfields and collaborated to create the Portfields Initiative.  Through the Portfields Initiative, the PANYNJ and EDA were able to provide  financial, technical  and  other  support  to  developers  and  communities  to  transform brownfield  sites  into  modern  warehousing  and distribution centers and tackle the shortage of facility space available in the close proximity to the ports, highways, and intermodal facilities.

The initiative also provided opportunities to benefit the environment.   Redevelopment near urban centers would reduce traffic congestion and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) thus cutting back on energy consumption and improving air quality.

Site redevelopment was intended to protect greenfields from future development and mitigate the creation of more sprawl. Remediation of contaminated sites also addressed soil and groundwater contamination.

Just south of the ports in Port Reading and Carteret, ProLogis of Cranbury redeveloped brownfield land into Port Reading Business Park, a new 3.4 million sq. ft. industrial park. Prior to construction, the site  needed significant environmental  rehabilitation  including stabilization of site contaminants, removal of polluted sediments, the capping of 125 acres and restoration of over 12 acres of inter-tidal wetlands.

In Carteret, KSS Architects of Princeton partnered with Panattoni Development and PA Associates and remediated a 113-acre site, closing three abandoned municipal landfills, installing a leachate collection system, and restoring 15 acres of natural wetlands.  On the site, iPort 12, a 1.2 million sq. ft. distribution center, was built.

The hope is that public agencies and the construction industry will embrace urban redevelopment and environmental remediation through incentive programs, investments, and sustainable land use policies, and end users will consider the cost of fuel, sustainability and the value of port proximity in selecting facilities.

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