Bedford-Stuyvesant

North Brooklyn: A small-business powerhouse that drives growth in city, says EDC report

May 31, 2024 Raanan Geberer
The Brooklyn Navy Yard has been known as a small-business incubator ever since the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. was created to develop the sprawling former Naval facility. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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NORTH BROOKLYN — The area containing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, DUMBO, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene is leading the growth of small businesses in the city, according to “Small Business Dynamism in New York City’s Economic Recovery,” a report issued by the city’s Economic Development Corp. this week.

Citywide, “new businesses open at a faster rate than existing businesses close,” the report said. Since 2019, these Brooklyn neighborhoods have experienced a net growth of 1,000 small businesses — more than the rest of the city combined.

Moreover, the report says, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these areas of Brooklyn were home to the highest rates of new small-business formation, with around 1,300 small companies opening each year. Among the growth areas in North Brooklyn business, according to EDC, were new restaurants, computer systems design and technical consulting firms.

The average annual small-business creation rate in 2018 and 2019. Notice the high numbers for Northwest and North-Central Brooklyn. Graphic courtesy of EDC
The average annual small-business creation rate in 2018 and 2019. Notice the high numbers for Northwest and North-Central Brooklyn. Graphic courtesy of EDC

“Combined, these professional and consumer service sectors reflect the transformation of Northern Brooklyn over the past decade into a hub of entrepreneurship, one that helped lead small business growth during the pandemic and recovery period,” the report says.

A September 2023 article in THE CITY points to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as an example of the kind of growth the report talks about. The Navy Yard, says Greg David, the article’s author, is home to 500 industrial and commercial businesses. While some large companies, such as the Steiner Film Studios, make their homes there, “the average company size is only 12 employees.”

Another such area in Northern Brooklyn is DUMBO. Although DUMBO is best known for its apartment and condo boom, the district, according to the DUMBO BID’s 2023 report, “supported 103 indie businesses and 1,000-plus creative offices.”

DUMBO is best known for its residential renaissance, but it is also home to many “creative offices” and “indie businesses.” Eagle file photo by Mary Frost
DUMBO is best known for its residential renaissance, but it is also home to many “creative offices” and “indie businesses.” Eagle file photo by Mary Frost

Southern Brooklyn also saw healthy small-business growth, although not at the same level as Northern Brooklyn. “New areas of growth emerged, with neighborhoods in far-eastern Queens, Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn, Northern Manhattan and the Bronx,” the EDC report said. 

Among the Southern Brooklyn areas that saw 18% growth or more from 2019 to 2022 were Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Sunset Park and Coney Island’s amusement area (although not the rest of Coney Island).

All in all, the city is home to 183,000 small businesses — a record high. This is about 1,000 more than existed in 2019 and 33,000 more than existed in the second quarter of 2020. Obviously, many small businesses went under during COVID-19 before the nation’s economy began to bounce back, affecting the totals.

But despite all this growth, small-business employment is down 28,000 jobs compared to 2019. This may be due to the rise of “solo proprietors” or businesses with only one employee or one employee-owner. If you take solo proprietors out of the equation, the total number of small businesses, excluding solopreneurs, remains down by just over 2% compared to 2019.

While not at the level of North Brooklyn, the Coney Island amusement area has seen solid small-business growth. Photo by MusikAnimal/Wikimedia
While not at the level of North Brooklyn, the Coney Island amusement area has seen solid small-business growth. Photo by MusikAnimal/Wikimedia

And what of the traditional central business districts of New York City — the Financial District (or, as some would have it, “FiDi”) and Midtown Manhattan? 

While they remain active business areas, the report details, they didn’t see the same amount or growth as Northern Brooklyn and other outer-borough areas. Indeed, “the most significant overall losses were concentrated in Midtown and Lower Manhattan,” possibly referring to layoffs during the pandemic.

Turning to the city, as a whole, the sectors that grew the most after the pandemic were manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, third-party management services, waste management, education, health care, and the “kings of them all,” entertainment, recreation and food services. Each of the last three saw growth of 35% or more.

The data summarized in the report came from the New York State Department of Labor.


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