If you are a New Yorker, you've probably visited or at the very least have heard of the North Brooklyn neighborhoods of Dumbo, The Navy Yard, Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant (aka Bed Stuy.) They are thriving, growing, transforming and innovating! Over the last number of years these neighborhoods have been unstoppable on their amazing trajectory of economic success!
Businesses of all kinds have made their home in North Brooklyn, from a small workshop at the Navy Yard producing electric motorcycles from recycled materials to nearby in Dumbo where 180 designers at BIG NYC work on urban projects like how to rebuild the Brooklyn/ Queens Expressway (BQE.) Pretty much all of the designers live in Brooklyn, walking & biking to the office year round.
In Bed-Stuy a group of partners opened a wine store called Bed-Vyne and have thrived through the neighborhood’s trendy transformation and evolution. Bed-Vyne have added both a craft brewing space and a cocktail lounge.
These businesses are in one of the most thriving economic centers of the city post pandemic known loosely as North Brooklyn.
North Brooklyn's economic success was not planned, but happened because of the area’s historical strengths, many transportation options, high walkability factor and private developers as well as city leaders belief in this area.
David Lombino, managing director of Two Trees Management Company, which is the driving force responsible for the revival of Dumbo said “There are naturally occurring retirement communities. This is a naturally occurring economic community”.
North Brooklyn both before and after the pandemic has seen the highest rate of small businesses formation with the addition of 1,300 new firms, led by professional services, tech, consumer businesses and especially restaurants. This has made North Brooklyn into a hub of entrepreneurial ship according to a study released in May by the city Economic Development Corporation.
The success of North Brooklyn was not predestined. North Brooklyn had a rich history and a brand. As Randy Peters, President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce said “People knew where Brooklyn was”. “What we needed to do was rebrand it and start talking about ourselves. Dangerous became edgy and now hip'.
Importantly, there was a huge amount of abandoned or underutilized industrial space that could be be repurposed as housing or live/work space to attract people.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard is a shining example of this transformation and evolution of North Brooklyn. Today, the Navy Yard is home to 550 industrial and commercial businesses, a third of which are owned by people of color and employ 11,000 people. The biggest tenant is the sprawling Steiner Studios film operation.
The rebirth of Dumbo was a product of one developer, David Walentas. In 1979 he bought all the buildings in the neighborhood, pushed for a rezoning to residential use and redeveloped most of the buildings into loft spaces and preserved 1.5M square feet of office space. More than 1,000 small companies fill these buildings along with 150 artist's studios.
Business Development Director at BIG NYC, Allison Wicks said “We wanted more space to collaborate and we looked all around and realized that 80% of our designers worked in Brooklyn.
In a report by Tech: NYC Tech jobs in Brooklyn jumped 42% to 14,000 between 2012 and 2021.
Blondel Pinnock, President of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp, the local development group overseeing improvements in the neighborhood is planning a major transformation of it's home at Restoration Plaza with 2 large new buildings, one as high as 16 stories and 4 smaller ones to create 840,000 square feet of office and cultural space. Pinnock says “We want this space to be the center of Black wealth creation, black job creation and the tech center of this part of Brooklyn”.
The question for NYC is can the success of North Brooklyn be accomplished elsewhere in the city? The answer is yes! Look at the growth of Long Island City in Queens and the transformation of the South Bronx. The Bloomberg Administration 5 Borough economic strategy led the way for these changes to come about. The Adams Administration is moving to further these gains with an ambitious plan emphasizing Capital Projects outside of Manhattan.
To be continued...
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