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Downtown Brooklyn hailed for growth in jobs, income; rezoning lost to history; Barclays Center seen as opportunity; DBP portrays itself as nonpartisan

Downtown Brooklyn is booming--sort of. Yesterday, a press conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) unveiled reports about job growth, a residential boom, and the area's future.

While two publications (Patch and the Epoch Times) did check with FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), which expressed dismay at the lack of affordable housing, nobody pointed out that the rezoning passed in 2004 was aimed to increase office jobs for Wall Street and other large firms, which didn't happen at all.

Instead, there's been little increase in office space; the boom has been in health care/social assistance, education, leisure hospitality and tech. From 2003 to 2010, there was a growth of nearly 12,000 jobs, or 18.3%, in the Comptroller's broadly designated Downtown Brooklyn, which includes several adjacent neighborhoods, from Boerum Hill to Clinton Hill, but not Prospect Heights (though the arena gets listed).

Why's that important? Because neither legislators nor advocates focused on ensuring that property owners, newly gifted with the opportunity to build large residential towers or hotels, had reciprocal obligations. Thus the median income has boomed, but the benefits have not been broadly shared.

The DBP's report also includes a curious evasion, in which the organization claims not to be partisan.

The coverage

Reuters, in Economic growth in NY's Brooklyn holds lessons for cities, reported:
"Don't view investments in arts and culture as simply aesthetic, or for quality of life," DiNapoli said. "It is also an economic investment."

Comptroller DiNapoli said that collaboration between the public and private sectors bolstered the area's natural advantages, which include its historic neighborhoods, riverside land, and nearly a dozen higher educational institutions.

..."BAM is a dominant arts and culture institution, but they don't elbow out other organizations," he said. "They work very hard to create more venues in the BAM network of buildings so other organizations can participate in a low-cost way."
The Daily News reported Downtown Brooklyn has been exploding with job growth despite 2008 recession, new report shows:
Cheaper office rent and the area's close proximity to Wall St. has been a major lure, the report said. The average office space price in downtown Brooklyn is $30 per square foot, lower than the $42 per square foot cost in lower Manhattan and the $65 rate in midtown Manhattan.
Patch reported:
"The key, in our view, is how you go from being a hotspot, a high-tech Silicon Valley flash-in-the-pan to being a blue chip thing. And that's the whole objective," said Alan Fishman, chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

To accomplish that goal, DBP president Tucker Reed unveiled a strategic plan to draw tenants to underutilized spaces, particularly above Fulton Mall storefronts, and to better connect Downtown neighborhoods for pedestrians.

In his remarks, Reed announced plans for a network of parks, plazas, greenways and greenspaces to connect hotspots like the Barclays Center, MetroTech and Brooklyn Bridge Park
Also see coverage by NY1 and by MetroFocus, which stressed a new bus line to connect DUMBO, the Navy Yard, and Downtown Brooklyn, the so-called Tech Triangle.

The DBP video

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership offered a sprightly video, which the Daily News also posted.

The DBP Strategic Plan

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's Strategic Plan (below, in summary and full versions) focuses on five priorities:
  • connectivity of the pedestrian network
  • diversity of economic growth, especially in the area it calls "Brooklyn Tech Triangle," involving the Navy Yard, DUMBO, and Downtown
  • community, "to combat dated and inaccurate perceptions that we have held too much sway," the DBP will "work with area stakeholders" and, among other things, "seek out ways to integrate the Barclays Center with local businesses, activities, and public spaces"
  • culture, including promotion of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District
  • opportunity, including workforce development and connections to educational institutions
The DBP's role: non-partisan

The plan is careful to describe the organization:
In reading this document, it is important to understand the Partnership‘s unique and nuanced role in Downtown‘s development. The DBP is a champion for the area but not a lobbyist. The DBP works with public bodies but is not a government agency and lacks the authority to dictate public spending or change the regulations that govern development. DBP does convene public and private stakeholders for discussions of issues important to Downtown Brooklyn, but is not a political fundraising entity or a partisan organization. What the DBP does have is local knowledge, relationships and a strong, respected voice in the business and development community.
Is this a way to distance the DBP from the reported investigation into illegal lobbying by the state Attorney General's office? Surely the public testimony in favor of Atlantic Yards from Downtown Brooklyn Partnership leaders Joe Chan and Alan Fishman qualifies as partisan, even if the latter officially spoke on behalf of BAM.

The arena

Here's an elaboration of plans regarding the arena.

The arena location

Note that the DBP map seems to bootstrap the arena into Downtown Brooklyn, but acknowledges that the rest of Atlantic Yards would be in Prospect Heights.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Strategic Plan Summary July 2012 Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Strategic Plan Full 07-25-12 Downtown Brooklyn State Comptroller 712


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