The Brooklyn Economy: It’s Booming — and Still Has Room to Grow


    The Brooklyn economy is doing great, thanks to increasing population and jobs, according to a sweeping economic report released last week by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

    Brooklyn added thousands of jobs last year, an increase of 5.8 percent, and in just one or two years may have more residents than Chicago, the third-largest city in the U.S.

    “We’re growing,” Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura told Brownstoner. “In a year or two, we will have more population living here than in Chicago. The trends show a good future for our population.”


    Photo by Mary Hautman

    The food industry is part of the boom, but it’s not just a tide of artisanal pickle juice that’s lifting all the Brooklyn boats. The leading Brooklyn industries are healthcare, education, retail and tourism.

    “Large numbers of immigrants, large numbers of young people are moving here,” Scissura said. They are importing talent and expertise. Almost 15 percent of immigrants who move to Brooklyn have advanced degrees, Scissura told NY1.

    Here are nine statistics about the borough revealed by the report:

    • Brooklyn has 2.62 million residents
    • Brooklyn has 560,000 jobs
    • Employment grew 28 percent in the borough between 2000 and 2014
    • Brooklyn’s population increased by 186,000 residents in nine years between 2006 and 2014
    • Net foreign migration to BK increased by 74 percent between 2011 and 2014
    • Personal income in BK totaled $110 billion in 2013
    • Health care accounts for 33 percent of jobs in Brooklyn
    • Brooklyn added 640 bars and restaurants between 2011 and 2014
    • The population with advanced degrees grew by 46 percent, vs. 20 percent in NYC and NYS.

    But there is a dark side too: inequality. Even though Brooklyn is adding jobs, unemployment remains high, particularly in outer neighborhoods. Educational attainment and income is also low in some areas.

    Net migration was down in 2014 — more people moved out of the borough than moved in. But that was just a one-time blip and not part of a bigger trend, Scissura said.

    Mayfield Restaurant

    Mayfield Restaurant in Crown Heights. Photo by Mayfield Restaurant

    Brooklyn’s boom holds the key to helping out the less fortunate in the borough. Brooklyn has huge amounts of untapped potential with the possibility of improving conditions for all who live here, said the report.

    Growth in retail, hospitality and manufacturing can mean good-paying jobs for central Brooklyn and in East New York, for example.


    Snapshot of population in New York City. Image by Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

    The borough should also invest in high tech and manufacturing. Areas like the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and Industry City are already getting boosterish support for making room for startups and makers.

    City and state investments in transportation — like the multi-billion dollar upgrades the MTA has in the works, or the idea for a waterfront light rail — can lead to high-paying jobs along the waterfront and in retail corridors.

    “Brooklyn’s resurgence has caused explosive economic growth, and established the borough as a transcendent brand recognized the world over – but untapped potential is still teeming under the surface,” said the report.

    This is the Chamber’s first borough-wide economic analysis. The report was funded by the Chamber in response to its membership’s call for statistics. “It’s critical to have this at businesses’ hands and begin a conversation about what is lacking and what is needed to continue to make Brooklyn a great place to be,” said Scissura.


    The Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg. Photo by Wythe Hotel

    In recent years, Brooklyn has become a tourist destination in its own right. After having only one major hotel for years — the Marriott, which opened in 1998 — now hotel construction is booming in the borough.

    Williamsburg is teeming with luxury hotel construction, such as Chetrit Group’s M15 on Metropolitan Avenue, in addition to the already very successful Wythe Hotel and nearby McCarren Hotel. One hears many languages being spoken by visitors near Prospect Park, in Williamsburg and other areas in Brooklyn.

    European families coming from the train with luggage in brownstone areas such as Bed Stuy are now a common sight, thanks partly to the rise of Airbnb. Brooklyn is so popular, the esteemed Fodor’s this year put out its first guidebook dedicated entirely to the borough.

    Albee Square

    City officials announcing plans for 420 Albee Square. Photo via Downtown Brooklyn‘s Instagram

    The Growth of Downtown Brooklyn
    A rezoning in 2004 is bringing new residential units, retail, office buildings, parks and taller buildings to Downtown Brooklyn. Significant changes are in the works for the Albee Square area, where the City Point mixed-use mega-project is currently under construction and other office and residential buildings have either opened or are on their way.

    Developers Michael Stern and Joseph Chetrit this week released a sleek new rendering for their 1,000-foot-plus tall tower at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension. The building will be designed by SHoP Architects, which also designed the distinctive Barclays Center and Domino Refinery redevelopment.

    Another tall tower set to transform Downtown Brooklyn is 420 Albee Square, which will rise 600 feet and be all offices, developer Jemb Realty and the city jointly announced this week.

    Is it the weekend yet? #bkflea ?: @blkmktvintage

    A photo posted by Brooklyn Flea (@bkflea) on

    Small Business and Innovation
    Mom and pop businesses dominate the borough. Many of them are restaurants, bars and packaged-goods makers. Between 2011 and 2014, Brooklyn added 640 restaurants and bars — more than Manhattan’s 581.

    Brooklyn is also known as a borough of startups and entrepreneurs, from arts and media startups such as The Awl and BRIC to tech companies such as Etsy and Kickstarter to food-related startups such as Mast Brothers and Smorgasburg.

    IBZ De Blasio

    Photo by Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center

    Rezoning for Growth
    The mayor has floated plans to rezone the city’s industrial zones to encourage more space for small makers and manufacturers and discourage hotels, which have taken over manufacturing areas in protected industrial zones such as in north Williamsburg.

    Also in the works — now going through the almost year-long official public review process — is a proposed rezoning of East New York. The city promised infrastructure upgrades and funding for affordable developments to help jump start the economy there. Private developers would be allowed to build more densely and higher along main avenues and retail corridors, in exchange for providing a mix of 25 to 30 percent affordable housing.

    Locals have not yet embraced the plans, however. Many fear a rezoning will accelerate gentrification and push out current residents.

    Spiderman Dumbo

    Photo via McBrookyn

    Film and Television
    Film shoots in the borough are a big business, and Brooklyn is a coveted backdrop for TV, commercials and films. Brooklyn counts many residents in the film and television business.

    Steiner Studios, the country’s largest film lot outside of Hollywood, occupies 26 acres in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It is an example of a small business that has grown into a big one, and carried Brooklyn along with it.

    Steiner Studios has also become a developer, funding a $140,000,000 project to redevelop part of the Navy Yard, including a Wegmans supermarket.

    The big takeaway: “Open and grow your business here,” said Scissura. “More people means more opportunities for business growth. We are a city of 2.6 million people.”

    [Top photo: Mary Hautman]

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