By Sarina Trangle
Manufacturing zone leaders are hoping a recent city study will usher in a more industrious era for the sector, particularly those in Queens staving off residential encroachment.
The City Council released a study last week of industrial districts and proposed three new zoning codes — a stronger industrial overlay that requires permits for non-manufacturing uses; a creative economy district integrating industrial uses with tech, media and art businesses; and mixed-use residential-commercial areas that retain manufacturing companies through mandates or incentives.
The study found about 10 percent of the city’s private work force is employed by industrial companies. They report contended manufacturing businesses and related wholesale, transportation, warehousing and utilities work pays an average salary of $51,000, nearly double that of the nightlife, dining and service jobs that typically replace them.
The study stressed that the sector is particularly lucrative for immigrants who may not have access to education. And merchant leaders seemed to agree.
“Manufacturing jobs are the kind of jobs that immigrants with very little education can get a foothold and build an economic base for themselves in this country,” said Theodore Renz, executive director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corp.
Legislators representing districts with at least 10 percent of constituents employed in the industrial sector included all but six of the borough’s 14 Council members — Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Cost Constantinides (D-Astoria), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), Rory Lacnman (D-Hillcrest), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), according to the study.
After decades of decline, the report said the sector held steady from 2010 to 2013 and grew 4 percent during 2013-14.
To cultivate continued growth, the report proposed three zoning types to supplement the Industrial Business Zones, an initiative developed in 2006 to prevent manufacturing businesses from getting priced out of the city. IBZs offer companies tax incentives to move to the zones and come with the city’s pledge not to rezone those areas.
The report floated an Industrial Employment District overlay plan, which would require City Planning Commission permits for other uses, such as hotels, offices or entertainment venues, and allow bulkier buildings with less parking space.
Jean Tanler, the Maspeth Industrial Business Association coordinator, said fewer limitations on building size and height could go a long ways toward shoring up industrial zones because it would increase landlords’ likelihood of profiting from industrial tenants.
“If they are limited to one story, it would be a low return for an industrial use,” she said.
The second proposal called for a creative economy district that would authorize commercial office space additions to industrial buildings, while requiring that a minimum square- foot-space remain reserved for manufacturing use.
And the final mixed use proposal suggested blending residential uses with commercial or light industrial uses by mandating that a certain portion of buildings be set aside for the industrial sector or encouraging diversity through incentives.
“(Mixed use) is not going to work unless industrial is mandated,” Renz said, noting landlords typically reap the highest income from residential buildings. However, he said he and Paul Kerzner, of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, had discussed a similar idea. “You’re not going to live above a chemical factory, but light manufacturing, like a metal working facility, that might work.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4546.