Hoboken, NJ A growing number of commercial industrial real estate transactions in the New Jersey/New York marketplace is fueling demand for firms that specialize in complex environmental laws and regulations. As president of Atlantic Environmental Solutions Inc. (AESI), Michael Novak is meeting this demand by simultaneously managing an increasing number of large and complex projects and the explosive growth of his environmental consulting firm.
AESI has two decades of experience in the regulatory, technical and management aspects of environmental issues in New Jersey, New York and across the U.S. The firm’s scope of services includes environmental due diligence; soil and groundwater investigations and remediation; and asbestos and wetlands surveys. Since founding his firm in 1997, Novak has led his team in completing over $50 million in industrial and commercial projects at over 5,000 client locations across 47 states.
Over the past 10 years, Novak has seen AESI’s revenues increase fourfold. Projects have included asbestos evaluation for 1,500 properties for a national retailer; evaluating 1,500 homes impacted by Super Storm Sandy including LSRP services for the city of Bayonne; helping to reposition a six-parcel site in Red Hook, Brooklyn into a last-mile distribution facility; and over 100 remediation projects for Port Elizabeth-related businesses.
“There has been substantial demand for industrial properties, coupled with a high turnover of these assets,” said Novak. “Internet shopping, the deepening of the Panama Canal and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge have created the need for more warehouses and logistics facilities. These projects often require AESI’s expertise and capabilities.”
To keep pace with demand, Novak has steadily increased AESI’s professional staff with high level, experienced problem-solvers. The firm recently bolstered its team with the addition of four new staff members, bringing the total number of new hires to nine within the last nine months.
“Bringing these new team members on board is a significant step in AESI’s continued growth,” said Novak, who expects to fill two additional positions in the coming months. “2017 is proving to be a banner year for our firm. These new hires provide us with the depth and resources necessary to deliver the highest quality services to new and existing clients.”
Novak has 29 years of experience in the management and implementation of environmental consulting and remediation services. He earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University and served as vice president of operations for a New Jersey-based environmental consulting firm before founding AESI. Novak has been responsible for directing more than $60 million in environmental projects during the course of his career, honing his expertise in environmental due diligence, wetlands, brownfields redevelopment, soil and groundwater remediation, underground storage tank compliance, hazardous waste management, asbestos and indoor air quality, and regulatory compliance.
He also was among the first group of individuals to be issued a license by the State of New Jersey under its Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program. His firm represents roughly 1.5% of the productivity under the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) Program. Novak and his team have closed 140 of the 270 LSRP projects they have handled to date. AESI also routinely performs Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for property buyers, sellers and lenders to help establish “innocent land owner” status in commercial real estate property transactions.
One of the most notable projects Novak has directed involved the remediation of substantial soil and groundwater to facilitate the installation of a 72-inch diameter water main within a 1,500-ft. tunnel beneath the Raritan River in New Jersey’s Middlesex and Somerset counties. The $3 million project included the remediation of 21,000 tons of arsenic contaminated soil, 4,000 tons of asbestos contaminated soil and the successful treatment of six million gallons of contaminated groundwater. The transformation of an asbestos landfill into a public park was a key outcome of the project, which was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award by the 24,000-member New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
Novak strategically targets AESI’s services to the areas of industrial and commercial property transactions, and the firm’s staff is specifically trained to perform due diligence and remediation services in this arena. “This gives us a distinct advantage over consulting firms that are not as specialized,” he said. “We can be far more efficient and cost-effective in identifying critical issues that need to be resolved as a part of these transactions.”
He added that maintaining a diverse mix of real estate clients – including industrial, retail, mixed-use residential and office building owners – allows the firm to thrive during an economic downturn. “When conditions negatively impact one or more of these market sectors, we continue to receive project work from sectors where business remains strong.”
With a focus on providing clients with cost-effective, reliable solutions, Novak ensures that his senior management teams maintain direct involvement in all projects, no matter the size or complexity. As a result, the firm’s leadership is uniquely qualified to provide expert testimony and litigation support on a range of environmental and regulatory compliance issues. Novak has assisted customers regarding eminent domain and condemnation proceedings and helped them gain planning board approval for development projects involving wetlands, asbestos and groundwater contamination issues.
He also has testified successfully in court and has been deposed on multiple matters involving environmental issues. His court testimony has ranged from a one-day appearance to a six-week trial at state superior court in a complicated, corporate dispute regarding environmental remediation cost allocation at an industrial site regulated by the New Jersey Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA).
Novak’s commitment to community is evidenced by his involvement in Hudson County not-for-profit organizations and his service on the boards of numerous educational institutions and professional organizations. He is currently a member of the advisory board of the Rutgers School of Business, Center for Real Estate, and serves on the advisory board of Investors Bank and the ambassador’s board of Connect One Bank. In addition, he is a speaker on environmental matters for Lorman Education Services and frequently addresses real estate industry groups on environmental topics.
With no sign of a market slowdown on the horizon, Novak plans to continue growing his firm over the next decade by expanding the footprint of properties it remediates. Whether working with municipalities, industrial brokerage firms, transit village developers, REITS, general contractors or utilities, he is dedicated to managing and resolving environmental concerns to ensure a better quality of life in communities throughout the region, driven by the vision of creating safe, environmentally clean places where residents can live, work and play.