Brooklyn Boro

New push to protect manufacturing districts from residential dev

July 19, 2019 Mary Frost
Borough President Eric Adams has approved three Brooklyn affordable-housing projects. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
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A grassroots proposal for a new zoning model that could preserve manufacturing in districts where residential areas are becoming denser is gaining steam, with Borough President Eric Adams announcing support.

The plan would require residential developments encroaching into manufacturing areas to include light industrial, community facility or artisan “maker” uses.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which represents the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Weeksville, initiated the idea as part of a proposal that aims to preserve manufacturing jobs and at the same time create affordable housing in northwest Crown Heights.

In an unusual move, CB8 has asked the city for residential upzoning for six blocks bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Grand Avenue, Bergen Street and Franklin Avenue. Most areas don’t ask for upzonings, fearing gentrification and loss of manufacturing jobs as a result of added density. This area is riddled with vacant lots and empty industrial buildings.

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CB8’s proposed rezoning would require a significant amount of industrial, manufacturing and commercial space to be built while allowing increased density for housing development.

Now housing advocates see this as a model that might be taken up citywide.

“Members of CB8 have worked in partnership with my administration for several years to further a new model for mixed-use development that captures these goals,” Adams said in a statement.

The violet-colored sections represent areas zoned for manufacturing. Map courtesy of NYC Planning
The violet-colored sections represent areas zoned for manufacturing. Map courtesy of NYC Planning

More than 5 percent of the area covered by the community board is zoned for industrial, manufacturing, commercial and office use, but residents are afraid these neighborhood employment opportunities will slip away, as is happening in East New York.

Ethel Tyus, chairperson of CB8, said the Department of City Planning currently leaves manufacturing uses in mixed-use zones as an option, not a requirement.

“We’ve learned from the experience of other neighborhoods in Brooklyn that means new development will only be residential and retail. While our community needs affordable housing, no housing is affordable if you don’t have a job that pays a decent wage,” she said in a statement.

“As manufacturing zoned land has gradually been lost, the amount of space for manufacturing uses in our city has dwindled,” said Armando Moritz-Chapelliquen, senior economic development organizer for Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

“DCP should allow innovative policy that addresses this shortage and aims to bring new light industrial space to move forward, rather than be disregarded by private developments that undermine the goals laid out by communities,” he added.

DCP spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff said the agency was “pleased to continue to work with community boards, elected officials and neighborhood groups, including in Crown Heights, on creative solutions that bring more housing and good jobs, in a broad array of sectors, closer to more New Yorkers, and which allow an evolving range of businesses to locate in close proximity to residences.”

The proposed light industrial and maker uses this new zoning would encourage are in line with Brooklyn’s “Innovation Economy” uses, which has seen 155 percent growth over the last decade. At the Center for an Urban Future’s conference on Brooklyn’s growing innovation economy, held in June, panel members said high real estate prices could drive out creativity and stifle growth.

The city has three umbrella categories of zoning districts: C for commercial, R for residential, and M for manufacturing.

The city lost about 4,050 acres of M-zoned land between 2002 and 2015, reducing the total percentage of land in the city that is zoned M from about 21 percent to 14 percent, according to City Limits. C8 land — a type of commercial zoning — was also reduced. By 2016, only 1 percent of the city was zoned C8.

Paired districts, mapped as Mixed-Use Districts, combine a manufacturing district with a residential district.

Other advocates joining in the announcement included Evergreen, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Pratt Center for Community Development and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation.

Update (July 22 at 10:30 a.m.) — This story has been updated with a comment from DCP.

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