Exclusive interview with EDC’s James Patchett: Historic investment, new homes, more jobs in Brooklyn
Sunset Park, Coney Island Renewal and More
James Patchett, as president and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), oversees job growth and economic development across the city.
During his tenure (he started in February 2017) Patchett has overseen NYCEDC’s efforts to jump-start the city’s technology and life science sector, expand the ferry system, invest in affordable housing, shift freight delivery from trucks to trains and ships, boost jobs at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and reactivate the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and much more.
As the city’s fastest-growing borough, many of these economic efforts are being undertaken here in Brooklyn — where Patchett lives in Crown Heights with his wife Candace Taylor and their two kids.
This week, he took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions from the Brooklyn Eagle on historic developments in Coney Island and Sunset Park, the BQX, Downtown’s Tech Triangle and more:
Coney Island Transforming
Brooklyn Eagle: What infrastructure investments are being made in Coney Island?
James Patchett: We are excited about the historic investments being made in Coney Island, one of our city’s crown jewels. Right now, the de Blasio administration is investing more than $180 million to shore up the neighborhood’s infrastructure, build new streets and upgrade the sewer system to support future development. We’re also building 4,500 new homes and 500,000 square feet of commercial space — all to spark future development. And knowing that Coney Island Hospital is an invaluable resource to South Brooklyn, we are making much-needed improvement to the facility, which was badly damaged during [Superstorm] Sandy.
Eagle: What other initiatives are helping to further along Coney Island’s local economy?
Patchett: So much is happening in Coney Island right now. The Ford Amphitheater continues to draw popular headliners, and the City recently celebrated the opening of Kitchen 21, a new fast-casual concept in the historic Child’s Building. In addition, EDC announced that Central Amusements will be bringing a brand new log flume ride, circus-themed adventure park and public plaza with food concessions to the already beloved boardwalk. Coney Island is already the New York summertime destination. With these investments, it will attract even more visitors and create even more jobs.
Eagle: More specifically, does EDC have plans to redevelop the area where the Abe Stark Rink is located?
Patchett: EDC thinks the area surrounding the Abe Stark rink has tremendous potential for smart development. We will continue having conversations with community stakeholders to determine how best to bring more recreational opportunities and good-paying jobs to the neighborhood.
Eagle: Does EDC have any plans to bring the city’s ferry service to Coney Island?
Patchett: NYC Ferry has been wildly successful. To date, we have served nearly six million riders, and new projections predict we will reach 9 million riders by 2023. We are thrilled that so many New Yorkers have embraced this new mode of transportation. We are now in the final stages of launching the Lower East Side route next week, which is the last route to be launched this year. Following the successful implementation of this sixth and final route, we will start a comprehensive feasibility study of potential locations for expansion of the system. And this study will surely include both Coney Island and Canarsie.
Eagle: We have been hearing a lot about manufacturing coming back to this area. What is the latest?
Patchett: The administration is doubling down on its promise to bring 21st-century manufacturing back to the city. And nowhere is this happening more successfully than in Sunset Park. Our investments and focused tenanting strategy has turned the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) into a vibrant, growing industrial campus. Today, it’s home to over 100 local businesses and nearly 4,000 jobs. In May, we cut the ribbon on half-million square feet of affordable industrial space; we expect this to bring in businesses that create an additional 1,000 good-paying jobs. And earlier this year, at an event held to celebrate BAT’s 100th anniversary, we announced a new workforce training platform called Launch Pad; this will connect even more residents with new opportunities, which remains our ultimate goal.
Eagle: What is the state of the wind power generation project?
Patchett: We are thrilled to have delivered on our commitment to the Sunset Park community, and have selected a long-term operator to reactive the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT). We are also excited about the prospect of bringing offshore wind construction to SBMT. This largely depends on Deepwater Winds (a wind farm developer) securing a state contract for its South Fork Wind Farm. Should Deepwater Winds win the contract, we expect it will create 1,000 new jobs.
Eagle: Bring us up to date on the state of the BQX.
Patchett: The Brooklyn-Queens Connector will be nothing short of revolutionary. The proposed light rail system can help close the transit gap for nearly a half-million New Yorkers living along the growing Brooklyn-Queens waterfront corridor. BQX will also create hundreds of good-paying jobs, as well as provide environmentally friendly and sustainable mass transit option to over 400,000 New Yorkers, including 40,000 NYCHA residents. This is truly a game-changing transit system, which is why we are taking the necessary steps to ensure everything is done right. This includes finalizing the block-by-block analysis we need to move forward.
Eagle: Any exciting developments in the Tech Triangle?
Patchett: Our virtual and augmented reality lab is coming to the Brooklyn Navy Yard; this space will support new ventures with workspace and early-stage funding support. We partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MoME) to select NYC Media Lab to operate the lab. This is another great job generator; it’s expected to create over 500 jobs over the next ten years. The lab is scheduled to be fully up-and-running by 2019.
Eagle: What is the state of the Bedford-Union Armory project? Are there other big affordable projects in the pipeline?
Patchett: Late last year, the City Council voted to approve the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment, one of our most transformational Brooklyn projects. This will give new life to the long-vacant site (which is larger than the White House!) by bringing hundreds of affordable homes, a world-class recreation center and space for local nonprofits online. The project is currently going through pre-construction, and we expect on-site work to begin this winter.
Challenges: More Housing, More Jobs
Eagle: What are the biggest stumbling blocks for Brooklyn coming up? Any solutions?
Patchett: Today, Brooklyn is experiencing an unprecedented wave of prosperity. From 2010 to 2017, Brooklyn’s population grew by over 140,000 residents. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in decades, and the borough has become a global brand.
But all this success has come with some very real challenges. These include rising rents and people searching for their place in the new economy. That’s why, as the city’s economic development corporation, we are tackling these issues head on. Our formula is straightforward; if we create more housing and more jobs, it will lead to more economic opportunities for New Yorkers. This is the catalyst for us taking on difficult but highly impactful projects, including building affordable housing at the Flatbush Caton Market, reviving our manufacturing sector along the Sunset Park waterfront, and bringing ferry service to Brooklyn’s shores. With this as our guide, we are ensuring that Brooklyn’s future looks even brighter than today.
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