Funding Cut Endangers R’wood Plan
Plans for a new industrial business zone (IBZ) in Ridgewood-and the fate of established IBZs across the city- were thrown into limbo last Friday, Feb. 14, after business leaders learned funding for the initiative was excluded from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget.
According to Leah Archibald of the East Williamsburg Industrial Development Corporation, de Blasio’s budget plan for the 2015 fiscal year subtracted $1.14 million in IBZ funding in the present budget. Sponsor organizations in IBZs use funding provided through the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for myriad programs aimed at boosting industries and keeping them in the city.
The potential loss of funding jeopardizes the planned Ridgewood IBZ for the industrial and manufacturing section of the neighborhood dubbed “South of Myrtle Avenue” (SOMA). Last year, as previously reported, Community Board 5 and local business leaders called upon the EDC to add SOMA to the Maspeth IBZ, which had been expanded into parts of northern Ridgewood and the Blissville area of Long Island City.
The EDC’s Boundary Commission initially refused the request, but upon further consideration, gave the green light late in 2013 to establish a separate IBZ for Ridgewood. The Ridgewood Local Development Corporation (RLDC) was tapped to be the IBZ’s primary sponsor.
At Community Board 5’s meeting last Wednesday, Feb. 12, it appeared the Ridgewood IBZ’s formation was moving forward without any trouble. Responding to an EDC request, the advisory body passed a resolution reaffirming its support for the IBZ’s creation.
The Ridgewood IBZ would cover an area of buildings zoned for manufacturing use generally bounded by Irving and Cypress avenues, Weirfield and Halsey streets and the Long Island Rail Road’s Bay Ridge branch.
But the loss of funding would almost certainly doom the Ridgewood IBZ before it even has a chance to operate, according to Ted Renz, the RLDC’s executive director. The organization, and other groups supporting IBZs across the city, are scrambling to find a way to save the initiative.
“If [de Blasio] doesn’t put the funding back in the final budget, then the City Council-if they want it- will fight to put it back in,” Renz told the Times Newsweekly on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Archibald confirmed in a phone interview with this paper Tuesday that “all of the other IBZ providers citywide will work together” to convince city lawmakers of the program’s importance to the economy.
There are currently 21 IBZs in operation across the five boroughs, including in Maspeth and East Williamsburg. The services provided by IBZ sponsor organizations range from skill-building workshops to public outreach in applying for various tax credits and incentives.
The program was launched in 2006 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Archibald warned the proposed reduction in IBZ funding would serve a major blow to her group’s ability to provide support services to local businesses. A similar impact would be felt by other organizations in other IBZs across the city.
“It is my fervent hope that funding will be restored as our new mayor has stated repeatedly how important it is to him for the city to support programs that keep manufacturers here and keep working class jobs in our community,” Archibald added.
The Times Newsweekly contacted the Mayor’s Office for comment, but as of press time Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 19, none was provided.