In today’s New York, economic development has become almost synonymous with gentrification, with communities often fearing new projects will mean displacement of long-time residents.
That’s the current vibe in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where the city plans to revive the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal by the end of 2016.
The city plans to reactivate the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal’s industrial maritime and rail freight service in order to “invigorate South Brooklyn’s transportation networks,” said Maria Torres-Springer, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is spearheading the project. The NYCEDC hopes the reactivated terminal, which will handle general cargo, special cargo, vehicles, break-bulk and other commodities, will create more waterfront jobs and advance New York Harbor’s maritime industry.
Torres-Springer, who took the NYCEDC reins four months ago, told the crowd at yesterday’s Crain’s Business Breakfast Forum that an opportunity exists for inclusive development that will benefit Sunset Park, which is also home to new innovation hub, Industry City. She said her agency is dedicated to using different tools and strategies that ensure people both stay in their neighborhoods and have equitable access to the economic opportunities flooding into their communities.
But, said Torres-Springer, fears that the terminal project will disrupt a changing Sunset Park are taken “very seriously” by her office.
“The real task of urban policy today is not to stop the market forces,” said Torres-Springer, “but to think very deliberately about people-oriented policies that allow people who were already in the area to reap the benefits of growth.”
Part of providing equitable commercial growth and quality job creation is building out more commercial space throughout the five boroughs, said Torres-Springer. According to a new NYCEDC market analysis announced at the forum, the agency found an estimated demand for 60 million sq. ft. of office space over the next 10 years.
A recent report from the New Building Congress estimates that office development will account for about 40 percent of non-residential construction spending this year. The Building Congress also forecasts non-residential construction to reach $11.6 billion in 2015 — a $1.7 billion increase from last year — and jump to $15 million in 2016.
“Fundamentally, this is about growing the capacity of our city to continue to attract and retain the businesses that create the kind of jobs for people across the economic spectrum,” she said.
Commercial developments are in the works near Hudson Yards and Grand Central Station to pump up office density, Torres-Springer said. She also announced at the forum NYCEDC plans for a new tech hub in Union Square where the old P.C. Richards’ store sits to meet the increasing demand for office space from New York’s bustling tech sector, which boosts 300,000 jobs in the city and is expected to grow by over 100,000 next year.
The city also announced two days before the forum a new industrial action plan established a $150 million Industrial Development Fund to invest in building traditional and advanced manufacturing firms — some of which will have a presence at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Torres-Springer said that 55,000 sq. ft. of industrial space at Brooklyn Army Terminal will also “house New York City’s next great hub for manufacturing.”
“Industrial manufacturing sectors are very critical,” she said. “It doesn’t just help sustain middle class, also closes loop on innovation.”
Investing in the city’s industrial manufacturing sector can also spur affordable housing creation around developing sites, which would help curb resident displacement, Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development spokeswomen Emily Goldstein said in a statement. Workers of all skill levels and economic backgrounds will have access to “family-supporting jobs” that allow them to maintain their home.
“The City’s industrial policy proposal, with its inclusion of zoning changes and city investments to support this sector, is laying the groundwork for real equitable economic development,” said Goldstein in a statement.