City Council Members Push for New Industrial Zoning, Green Job Development

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A group of New York City Council members who represent some of the city’s biggest industrial areas are pushing for a comprehensive plan that would update the city’s outdated manufacturing zoning, allow existing businesses to grow and attract new green manufacturing companies.

Council members Amanda Farias, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Avilés and Farah Louis on Tuesday announced legislation that would require multiple city agencies to develop a plan for modernizing industrial zoning in their council districts while limiting certain kinds of retail uses. The council members also want the city, which is getting funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to commit to infrastructure upgrades in industrial neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

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“The last time the city looked at any kind of industrial zoning was in 1961,” said Gutiérrez, who represents parts of Bushwick and Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Ridgewood in Queens. “That’s 60 years of us making zero change to support New Yorkers, to support housing, to support our economy. This bill will call for an industrial study across all five boroughs to support those industrial sectors.”

Although the council members have not yet released the text of their bill, they said they wanted to encourage more sustainable manufacturing in the areas, which usually involves making solar panels, energy-efficient heating and cooling products, electric appliances, or wind turbines.

The bill would require the city to analyze jobs, supply chain issues, freight rail, land use, property sales and infrastructure issues every five years starting in October 2024, according to Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ office. The analysis would also include environmental conditions, like sea level rise, flooding and pollution.

New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, Department of City Planning and Department of Small Business Services would be expected to develop a land use framework, economic development programs and infrastructure improvements in areas such as Brownsville, Sunset Park, Bushwick and East Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

The Planning Department, which would likely lead the effort, didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the bill.

Representatives from industrial business groups in Sunset Park and Bushwick said during a press conference announcing the bill that they would like to see some industrial zoning rules eased to make it easier for existing manufacturers to grow. Industrial businesses in the outer boroughs have long advocated for fewer parking requirements and the ability to build denser buildings, because manufacturing zoning often limits properties to one or two stories.

“I was at a meeting recently where someone said all these [Industrial Business Zones], all the jobs would be obsolete,” said Nurse, who represents the Brooklyn neighborhoods of East New York, Brownsville and Cypress Hills. “I refuse to accept that. These are thriving wages, these are careers. These aren’t stepping-stone jobs.”

Previous efforts to update industrial zoning in Brooklyn — specifically in the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone that covers parts of Greenpoint, Bushwick and Williamsburg — have foundered when council members and the administration of former Mayor Bill de Blasio couldn’t agree on the details.

The City Council plans to introduce the bill Thursday at its next stated meeting.

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.