How Will a Proposed Rezoning Change the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone?

Newtown Creek in 2010. Photo by Pixonomy

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After three years, a plan to rezone part of Brooklyn’s industrial sector is finally seeing the light of day.

On November 19, the Department of City Planning released the North Brooklyn Industry and Innovation Plan, a long overdue study of the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone. It was first announced as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Industrial Action Plan in 2015.

Its appearance comes hot on the heels of Amazon’s plans to open its new headquarters in nearby Long Island City, and the upcoming City Council vote on the process of developing hotels in areas that are zoned industrial.

brooklyn north industrial

Newtown Creek in 1939 viewed from Meeker Avenue with Brooklyn industry on the left and Queens on the right. Photo by Alexander Alland via New York Public Library

The area discussed in the study covers parts of Greenpoint, East Williamsburg and Bushwick, running alongside Newtown Creek. It was zoned as a manufacturing district by New York City’s 1961 Zoning Resolution, and presently contains a mix of M1 and M3 zoning areas, with a small portion that is mapped C8, combining commercial and manufacturing uses.

The plan “does not propose to allow for development of new housing in the Study Area, apart from limited blocks on the periphery with predominantly residential uses today,” it says.

Not much has changed from de Blasio’s original plan, but details have been filled in. In the largest swath of the studied area, referred to as the Core Industrial Area, the report recommends raising the FAR to 2.0 and changing industrial parking and loading requirements, which the report suggests are currently holding back manufacturing in these areas.

The recommendation will “encourage shared parking across the subarea,” the report says.

The admininstration hopes to implement “appropriate limitations on targeted non-industrial uses, including entertainment uses.” In recent years, venues such as Brooklyn Steel and the dance club Mirage have opened in the industrial zone.

north brooklyn industrial

140 Stewart Avenue in 2018. Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

But what about hotels? The report is vague on this issue, except to mention the upcoming City Council vote, which if approved would require developers to get a special permit for building hotels in IBZ areas zoned for light manufacturing.

Most of what the study refers to as the Core Industrial Area is zoned for heavy manufacturing, where hotels are prohibited. But in other areas — defined in the study as Growth Districts and Transition Areas, and which are zoned for light manufacturing — a special permit will not stop hotels from being built, it will just make the process more cumbersome for developers.

Additionally, in those light manufacturing districts, the report recommends increasing the maximum permitted floor area to between 2.0 and 5.0 FAR for commercial and industrial uses.

brooklyn north industrial

Meserole Street. Photo via NYC Department of Planning

In the small “established residential” areas that are included in the study, which are currently zoned for industrial uses, the idea would be to make the zoning “similar in character to adjacent residential neighborhoods.”

Councilmember Antonio Reynoso has already offered his support. “I believe the restrictions on non-industrial uses proposed in this study will provide the necessary protections to allow the North Brooklyn IBZ to retain its industrial character and continue to serve as an economic hub for local communities in the years to come,” he told the Commercial Observer.

De Blasio is sticking with his stated intentions of preserving the industrial area and increasing manufacturing as well as office jobs in areas such as tech, media and advertising. But major changes that will improve transit in the area could also be needed to achieve these aims, and the report notes the Department of City Planning plans to coordinate with the Department of Transportation and other city agencies on “complementary measures.”

The Department of City Planning intends to kick off the official public review process for a rezoning by the end of 2019, the report states.

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