Monday, January 07, 2013

Looking back at the Group of 35's wrongheaded boost of Downtown Brooklyn (not the AY site) for office jobs

The showing of the "My Brooklyn" documentary sent me back to the wrongheaded June 2001 report Preparing for the Future: A Commercial Development Strategy for New York City, relied on by Atlantic Yards boosters.

The report was the work of the Group of 35, organized by Sen. Chuck Schumer and including major developers, landowners, and business officials. While the report unwisely suggested there was a huge untapped market in New York City for business space--including 12 million more square feet in Downtown Brooklyn--it did not extend the boundaries of Downtown Brooklyn to the Atlantic Yards site.

So, when Schumer appeared as an enthusiastic (or "enervated") booster of Atlantic Yards for the purported 10,000 office jobs in some 2 million square feet, he was in some ways going off-message. As it's turned out, most of that planned office space is gone, the rest delayed, and the 6 million-plus square feet of potential commercial space from the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning has so far turned into luxury housing and hotels.

From the Group of 35 Report, June 2001
From the report: reasons, obstacles, recommendations

The Group of 35 understandably saw proximity to Downtown Manhattan, access to transit, and nearby neighborhood amenities as boosting Downtown Brooklyn. However, the Group also assumed that the low vacancy rate would continue, rather than be the artifact of subsidies and a way of doing business that would change, due to re-distribution of jobs as well as tasks.

The obstacles to development, however, included "the difficulty associated with assembling ready-to-go development sites," low-density zoning compared to Jersey City, a concentration of government uses rather than private sector tenants, the district’s isolation from the surrounding communities, and the difficulty of access from New Jersey, Westchester, and Connecticut commuters.

The recommendations were, in the main, followed by the city: rezoning, site assembly via eminent domain, marketing of the sites, tax incentives, and the encouragement of retail and residential development. The recommended "aggressive marketing campaign" has been furthered by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

It all worked out--except those office jobs.
Group of 35 Report, June 2001

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