With tens of millions of dollars, New York City hopes to jumpstart a transformation of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood into a hub for artists and tech companies. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the city is spending $100 million to transform part of the Brooklyn Army Terminal—an old navy-supply hub—into space for light manufacturing. That investment is just one piece of the millions of dollars flowing into the neighborhood from real estate investors.
While the money will be significant, giving new life to Sunset Park’s industrial corridor will take more than artisanal pickles and startups. It will take great public space and significant improvements to the neighborhood’s streetscape. At this point, however, it’s not clear if that type of investment is in the cards.
In recent years, Brooklyn’s waterfront has morphed into a breeding ground for start-ups, tech agencies, and boutique manufacturing. Now the massive Industry City complex in Sunset Park could emerge as the next creative hub in the borough joining other booming neighborhoods to the north such as DUMBO, the Navy Yard, and Williamsburg. Crain’s reported that Jamestown Properties, a real estate management and investment company, which owns Chelsea Market and the Milk Studios Building in Manhattan, is teaming up with Angelo Gordon and Belvedere Capital to purchase the sprawling 6.5 million-square-foot Industry City site.
David Ehrenberg has been appointed president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre, former ship-building base turned city-owned industrial park. Ehrenberg is currently an executive vice president at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Over the last decade the Navy Yard has emerged as an essential zone for preserving and growing New York’s manufacturing sector, especially small businesses. The Yard currently includes 4.5 million square feet of leasable space, with an occupancy rate of 99 percent.
Much has been made of the decline of American industry and, more recently, the rise of small-scale urban industry, but one of the largest international manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn, could change the industrial scene completely if it decides to build factories in the United States. The Guardian reports that Foxconn is considering Detroit and Los Angeles for potential outposts thanks to rising costs overseas, but the company infamous for manufacturing Apple products among others at its 800,000-worker-strong Chinese facilities would have to adapt to radically different American ways of working.
With investment in American cities on the rise, mixed-use development is all the buzz, but architect Deborah Berke says we must be careful not to leave industry out of the mix. “We need to sway mixed-use back to the direction of a real mix. We’ve gone to all residential,” she said. Berke and critic Noah Biklen just finished teaching an architectural studio at Yale on boutique urban manufacturing, where students explored bringing a bourbon distillery to downtown Louisville, Kentucky.