By Matthew Monks
The city will offer tax incentives of up to $1,000 per job for businesses that relocate to the future zones in Long Island City, Jamaica, Steinway, West Maspeth and the JFK Industrial Corridor. A new Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses will levy increased fines against conversion-related offenses inside the districts. The city will invest about $17 million through 2009 to retain manufacturers and will set aside $9 million for the tax incentives, all of which hinges upon approval from the state Legislature, Bloomberg said. Gentrification and outside market forces have reduced the city's to about 500,000 manufacturing jobs from roughly 2 million in the 1950s. About 160,000 of those jobs are in Queens, mostly in transportation and warehousing, the mayor said. “We believe that our new industrial initiatives will stem this tide and grow our manufacturing sector,” Bloomberg said in a release. “(They) will strengthen New York City's industrial core, help businesses to grow and increase jobs.” The initiative will also protect the business zones from residential rezoning, which tends to encourage landlords to raise their rents, forcing industry to flee.That is what has been happening in Long Island City since the city approved a new mixed-use zoning in Hunters Point last year, said Ernie Smith, president of Penn & Fletcher, an embroidery designer based in the neighborhood. The zoning opens up the once-bustling industrial enclave for more housing and non-manufacturing businesses like restaurants and cafes. “The rents in my building are going up. I can tell you that,” Fletcher said. Four years ago, he was priced out of Manhattan'sLower West Side. He fears the same might happen in Long Island City.He had a lukewarm response to the mayor's new plan. “I kind of chuckled because the city will, quote, discourage illegal conversions,” he said. “Why not prosecute them?”But he hopes that Bloomberg follows through with the initiative, he said, because manufacturers are vital to the city's economy. Manufacturing accounts for about 40 percent of the borough's employment, according to an industrial policy report from the mayor's office. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.