A decade of rezoning Brooklyn — for better and for worse

The renovated Kirkman Lofts in Dumbo was once a soap factory
The renovated Kirkman Lofts in Dumbo was once a soap factory

Nearly 40 percent of New York City land was rezoned during the Bloomberg administration, drastically altering New York City’s industrial base, once a bedrock of commerce in the city. 

Generations of manufacturers once welcomed by industrial neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint were forced to migrate after the rezoning, which made residential development legal in many areas that had long been zoned for industry. As manufacturers left, they took jobs with them, according to Curbed.

Brooklyn, once the fifth most productive industrial area in the country, found itself waving goodbye to its factories. Industrial employment in the 11211 zip code was cut almost in half from 2001 to 2009, Curbed said. Although the entire U.S. has lost about 30 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 2000, New Yorkers were hit especially hard, losing 58 percent of its industrial workforce over the same time period.

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As companies fled, they left building carcasses strewn across the borough for developers to pick up. Kirkman Lofts‘ developers, for example, nabbed a soap factory to create residential property.

“If you are a pharmaceutical company or a steel company, you do not need to be here,” Bloomberg had said in a 2003 interview with the Financial Times, according to Curbed. “New York City should not waste its time with manufacturing.”

But there is hope. The city’s small manufacturers — the craft brewers and other artisans — are currently spurring the borough’s re-emergence as manufacturing sector, Curbed reported. But with vacancy in industrial properties’ in the five boroughs at around 4 percent, they struggle to find space — and to stay afloat. [Curbed] — Angela Hunt