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Creative economy, always huge in NYC, finds most robust growth in Brooklyn

Center for an Urban Future: Creative biz in Brooklyn grew by 125 percent vs 8 percent for Manhattan

June 23, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Center for an Urban Future on Tuesday released a major report which finds that Brooklyn is increasingly powering New York City’s creative economy.
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The Center for an Urban Future on Tuesday released a major new report which finds that Brooklyn is increasingly powering New York City’s creative economy.

The report shows that Brooklyn added more jobs and businesses in the creative sector than any other borough during the past decade, with the number of creative firms in the borough jumping by 125 percent and creative sector employment increasing by 60 percent.

Titled “Creative New York,” the report shows that between 2003 and 2013, the number of creative firms in Brooklyn increased from 815 to 1,831. That 125 percent increase over the past decade was a faster rate of growth than every other borough, including Manhattan (which only had an 8 percent increase), Staten Island (21 percent increase), Queens (50 percent) and the Bronx (99 percent).

According to the study, Brooklyn has significantly more creative firms (1,831) than the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island combined (1,163), but still considerably less than Manhattan, which is home to 11,151 creative businesses.

Brooklyn also experienced the greatest surge in creative employment of any other borough over the past decade, with its creative workforce growing from 18,851 in 2003 to 30,140 in 2013. Brooklyn’s 60 percent jump significantly outpaced those of Manhattan (10 percent) and Queens (10 percent).

Brooklyn also had the biggest increase in nonprofit cultural organizations among the five boroughs. From 2005 to 2015, the number of active cultural nonprofits in Brooklyn rose by 149 percent (265 to 659), as compared to 133 percent in Staten Island (48 to 112), 102 percent in Queens (208 to 420), 93 percent in the Bronx (72 to 139) and 35 percent in Manhattan (2,144 to 2,894). More than half of Brooklyn’s cultural nonprofit organizations were founded in the new millennium.

The study also illustrates Brooklyn’s growing importance to New York’s art scene. It shows that the number of art galleries in the borough rose from 95 in 2004 to 248 in 2015 (a 153 percent jump), with Bushwick (63), DUMBO (43), Williamsburg (43) and Greenpoint (31) leading the way. Only Williamsburg has seen a decline in galleries, falling from a peak of 71 in 2011 to 43 in 2015.

The report also documents the migration of self-employed creative people out of Manhattan to the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn. While self-employment in creative occupations fell by 18 percent in Manhattan between 2003 and 2013, it rose by 53 percent in Brooklyn, far exceeding Queens (16 percent), the Bronx (15 percent) and Staten Island (15 percent).

In addition, the report shows that Brooklyn saw the largest jumps in film and television (91 to 312), architecture (77 to 190), applied design (242 to 526) and the performing arts (91 to 182).  Brooklyn also beat out Manhattan in the total number of new creative businesses created, with more than 1,000 new establishments compared to Manhattan’s 790.

As New York continues to attract the next generation of artists and creative professionals, most settle in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. Among the age 30 and under group, 42 percent live in Manhattan, 38 percent in Brooklyn and 15 percent in Queens. For those creative workers who are over 30, the distribution is much more skewed, with 52 percent residing in Manhattan, 29 percent in Brooklyn and 13 percent in Queens. Overall, the percent of all city creative workers living in Manhattan fell below 50 percent for the first time ever in 2012.

In another area, 49,000 immigrants in New York City are employed in creative occupations, including 15,647 in Brooklyn. New York City is home to an astounding 14 percent of all foreign-born creative professionals in the United States. As of 2010, there were 199 ethnic cultural nonprofits in the city, including 115 in Manhattan, 39 in Queens and 35 in Brooklyn. Only Los Angeles County has even half as many, at 145.

While traditional economic drivers like finance and legal services have stagnated in recent years, according to the Center for the Urban Future, employment in film and television production soared by 53 percent over the past decade. Architecture (33 percent), performing arts (26 percent), advertising (24 percent), visual arts (24 percent) and applied design (17 percent) all outpaced the city’s overall employment growth (12 percent).

While the tech sector has grown more rapidly in recent years and industries such as health care and retail have more jobs overall, the report concludes, the creative sector arguably provides New York with its greatest competitive advantage.

In 2013, New York City was home to 8.6 percent of all creative sector jobs in the nation, up from 7.1 percent in 2003. The city is now home to 28 percent of the country’s fashion designers, 14 percent of producers and directors, 12 percent of print and media editors and 12 percent of art directors, the report says.

The report was funded by New York Community Trust, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and Edelman. It was written by Adam Forman. 

The report is available at


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