The City Council set forth on a platform last month to identify new zoning and land use tools in an effort to grow both manufacturing and “creative” sector industries throughout the city.
“Industrial Employment Districts” would reserve space for the industrial sector to focus on manufacturing and industrial businesses, often found in many existing Industrial Business Zones (IBZ).
In “Creative Economy Districts,” the focus would be placed on creating dynamic mixed-use employment centers in order to aid in the development of technology, media, arts and design and keep out businesses like bars and restaurants.
“Real Mixed Use Districts” focuses on commercial regions the city feels are compatible with both residential and industrial space.
“New York City’s industrial sector bolsters our local economies and provides strong stable jobs for our workforce,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The proposals outlined in our report shed light on how we can harness the power of manufacturing to grow and diversify our city’s economic and community development, while balancing the need for livable neighborhoods.
Last week, Community Board 5, home to numerous industrial zones, voted in favor of the new framework.
“One of the reasons that in manufacturing zones a lot of illegal activity happens is because there is a general zoning pattern there,” suggested CB5 Land Use Committee chair Walter Sanchez. “There are some places in West Maspeth and Ridgewood where there is some mixed-use with residential and manufacturing, so we can really cut those, and define those manufacturing districts and not have competing uses.”
Sanchez added that one concern that many manufacturing businesses have is that some manufacturing areas could be lost to Real Mixed Use and Creative Economy districts.
“You’re going to lose some manufacturing space, but it really strengthens the areas where you might lose it to housing,” he said. “Although you’re going to lose some manufacturing, in the long run you’re going to save the manufacturing in New York City.”
Maspeth Industrial Business Association (MIBA) coordinator and CB5 member Jean Tanler said she had some concerns over the new policy.
“I feel like mixed-use might be a utopian ideal that, in practice, has not happened anywhere in the United States,” Tanler said. “This would be the first instance where it would be incorporated in city zoning. Even light industrial is not compatible with residential.”
She noted some issues like odors, late-night truck deliveries and worker schedules that conflict with residential uses.
Tanler also questioned, “Whether it is even financially feasible for the developer to develop a mixed-use building.”
Ted Renz, director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, supported the idea, adding that he thinks mixed-use could be a solution to save manufacturing and provide more housing.
“Ridgewood has a history of mixed-use,” Renz said. “I grew up in this community. Knitting mills and residential lived side-by-side, provided local jobs - walkable jobs - which saves time on commuting and saves energy.”
A report issued by the city shows that industrial companies currently employ nearly 350,000 people in manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities. Salaries in these positions in both Brooklyn and Queens are double the average service salary at $51,000 annually.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso applauded CB5 for supporting the program, adding that he hopes it will send a message that local communities understand how to preserve their manufacturing districts.
“Maintaining and growing the manufacturing sector is essential in order to preserve quality jobs for our communities, and I am very supportive of the Council’s proposals to achieve this,” Reynoso said. “In order to implement these recommendations, we need buy-in from the administration.”