Downtown

New report issued detailing the rise of Downtown Brooklyn

February 23, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Tuesday, a breakfast forum convened in Manhattan to discuss a new report on the rise of Downtown Brooklyn. Participants included (from left): Tucker Reed, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership; Joseph Chen, executive vice president of Empire State Development Corporation; Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park; Hugh O'Neill, president of Appleseed Inc.; and Mitchell C. Moss. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

For the past decade, Brooklyn — Downtown Brooklyn in particular — has been a hot commodity. More than $10 billion in private investments has flowed steadily into the borough and now there is a written blueprint.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, NYU Rudin Center and Appleseed Inc. unveiled a new report, Downtown Rising: How Brooklyn Became a Model for Urban Development, at a breakfast forum in Manhattan on Tuesday, outlining how Downtown Brooklyn became such a popular development location and offering ways to keep it that way.

“You have the Brooklyn Bridge Park on one end, Barclays Center on the other, and in that is a massive amount of energy and activity which is spreading all the way down to Sunset Park and Industry City to all the way north in Greenpoint,” said the forum’s moderator Mitchell C. Moss, Henry Hart Rice professor of urban policy and planning at New York University. “We believe Downtown Brooklyn’s success is reflected in the number of new start-ups, households and cultural activities that have reinforced the superb quality of life in the borough.”

The report heralds Downtown Brooklyn as a model central business district for the 21st century, setting an ambitious pace for the rest of the city and providing a roadmap for other burgeoning business hubs across the region and nationwide.

“Downtown Brooklyn has transformed into a 24 hour live, work, play neighborhood,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in a statement. “Driven from creating a central business district as charted in the Group of 35 Report, to the tech boom in Brooklyn, businesses and people simply want to be here. Continuing these smart development policies are key to keeping Brooklyn on top.”

According to the report, between 2000 and 2013, Downtown Brooklyn’s population grew by 17 percent and the number of young adults increased by 29 percent. The number of residents in the area with at least a bachelor’s degree skyrocketed by more than 99 percent and median household income grew by more than 22 percent.

The report identifies the key factors that have spurred the district’s growth, including the growth of the innovation economy, the continued collaboration among local institutions of higher education and the development of the Downtown Brooklyn area as a major center for arts and culture. These local milestones were bolstered by the public sector: through zoning, land-use and development policies, and through targeted investments, from commercial development to world-class public spaces like Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“First investment was rezoning, second was a very aggressive capital program and third was the creation of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership,” said Joseph Chen, executive vice president of Empire State Development Corporation.

The report concludes with five key recommendations for continued growth of the district:

1)     Downtown Brooklyn and the city should ensure that innovative new companies have room to grow through increased — and targeted — commercial office space investment.

2)     The city should learn from the 2004 rezoning of the area, which allowed flexible permissive zoning and land use policies and resulted in a surge in development. The city should avoid trying to achieve narrowly defined policy objectives by enacting overly detailed zoning restrictions and prescriptions.

3)     The city should continue to invest in innovative public space improvements, such as the Brooklyn Strand initiative and completion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, that make Downtown Brooklyn a more attractive place to live, work, invest, do business and visit.

4)     Developers and property owners, nonprofit organizations and the city need to work together to ensure that cultural institutions, arts organizations and individual artists can continue to play a vital role in the ongoing transformation of Downtown Brooklyn.

5)     The city needs to address long-standing gaps in the area’s transportation networks, including lack of transit access to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, difficulties in getting between the core of Downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront and the scarcity of good options for travel between existing and new waterfront neighborhoods and growing concentrations of jobs along the East River.

“The challenges that face us now are related to questions of infrastructure to support it,” said Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

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