Coalition proposes changes to city’s industrial development

In an effort to build the city’s industrial sector, the Industrial Jobs Coalition has proposed a set of policies that would change manufacturing areas to foster growth.

According to the IJC, which was formed to implement the strategies, New York City has pioneered the use of nonprofit organizations to develop and manage affordable housing. Now the coalition wants those groups to do the same for manufacturing businesses and jobs.

“We are interested in development that is beneficial to the community,” said Armando Moritz-Chapelliquen, a campaign coordinator for the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD), “and not driven by profit margins.”

For example, organizations like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) and Evergreen Exchange collectively manage 4 million square feet of space and close to 10,000 jobs. But the coalition said the benefits of their efforts are limited to their individual communities.

The IJC now wants to extend this strategy throughout all five boroughs.

To achieve the large-scale expansion, the coalition suggested that the city give nonprofit organizations a priority in the disposition of city-owned industrial land.

It also proposed funding increases to the Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s Industrial Development Fund and enhancing the role of Industrial Business Service Providers (IBSPs) as neighborhood partners.

The second strategy it recommends is re-conceptualizing Industrial Business Zones into “industrial campuses.” That would include physical and structural changes to industrial areas.

Advocates from the IJC proposed rerouting bike lanes off truck routes and adopting parking, loading and sidewalk regulations. They also suggested adopting signage about the area’s industrial use, expanding high-speed broadband access, reviewing street maintenance and planning for resiliency.

The last proposal to foster manufacturing growth is to reform city zoning to protect industrial spaces. To do this, the IJC wants to prohibit “incompatible uses” that accelerate speculation within IBZs, such as hotels, large-scale entertainment venues and mini-storage facilities.

The zoning changes would also reevaluate density in manufacturing zones and end a Community Facility bonus.

“A hot real estate market feeds into speculation,” Moritz-Chapelliquen said. “We need to nurture an ecosystem of nonprofit developers.”

Jean Tanler, coordinator of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association (MIBA), a program within the Business Outreach Center Network, is part of the Industrial Jobs Coalition.

She said part of the proposal is to have nonprofit providers maintain affordable space. GMDC, for example, has an incubator that provides affordable space for manufacturing businesses.

“With the recent rise in real estate costs in New York City, there’s been a great demand for more industrial space that’s affordable,” Tanler said. “Right now, there just isn’t enough in the market to meet that demand.

“If it’s left to a developer, there’s less of an incentive to fill the space with viable, small manufacturing businesses,” she added. “You really need a nonprofit to curate the space and to provide local services to those businesses.”

Tanler said city zoning hasn’t been updated since 1961. In the several decades since then, the “nature of industrial manufacturing businesses” has changed, she said.

For instance, when the zoning text was written, no one thought people would want to live in an industrial area, Tanler said. Now, it’s happening in areas like Williamsburg and Red Hook.

As a result, many neighbors are taking issue with nearby industrial uses. Tanler called it an “incompatibility of uses.”

“It’s putting a lot of pressure on those businesses and driving them out of those areas,” she said. “They’re also being priced out.”

According to Tanler, other uses such as commercial, residential or even hotel and self-storage facilities typically have a higher rate of return than manufacturing. If property owners can get more rent for those uses, she said, businesses lose industrial space.

Tanler said she believes mixed-use zoning hasn’t been very successful in the city. The higher, more profitable use tends to dominate.

“Unless there are some type of protections, which there haven’t been in the zoning, it’s going to push the other use out,” she said.

With Industrial Business Zones (IBZs), which were first implemented in 2005 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the idea was to protect industrial uses, Tanler said. But she said it’s “merely a designation” and isn’t written into the zoning text.

As a result, she said, they are “susceptible” to rezonings and variances.

“I would like to see a little more teeth in the IBZ designation,” she said. “Also to limit competing uses, like the large event spaces, hotels, self-storage facilities, in industrial areas.”

Tanler said the IJC will be working to convince political leaders to strengthen protections and foster growth for industrial businesses.

“We’re actively working with local city agencies and council members, trying to bring attention to this issue,” she said.

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