East New York, Brooklyn Credit: Image by jurienh from Pixabay

The Coalition for Community Advancement, along with several other local organizations, came together last Thursday to discuss East New York’s industrial business zone (IBZ) and how to grow local jobs that the city and the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) promised the community years ago.

The coalition said that the “promised 3,900 jobs and 16.7 million of investment” were supposed to be a part of the East New York rezoning that was approved by city council in April 2016. It’s also called The East New York Neighborhood Plan, which is the rezoning in East New York, Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill.

Members present at the virtual rally said that developers are currently receiving the benefits of the rezone, but the community “is still waiting for theirs” while suffering from underemployment, unemployment and depletion of small businesses due to the pandemic.

“Some segment of the economy is always getting the short end of the stick,” said economist Adam Friedman. “The jobs are being pushed out, often held by people of color. And businesses are closing, often owned by entrepreneurs of color.”

Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson said in the meeting that economic development has been a long-standing issue that needs to be spotlighted in the Black community.

“There’s been no secret that East New York and Brownsville have been neglected by one regime or the other,” said Thompson.

Similar to Friedman, Thompson said that it’s hard to tell the government to just create jobs, but the infrastructure and hiring can change. He said that Mayor Bill de Blasio focused on hiring from within communities for public housing and is working on getting a bill passed that states businesses contracted with the city have to hire from neighborhoods as well. Thompson said the legislature hasn’t introduced the bill yet.

“But this is what we can do, leverage our procurement power to create jobs from those businesses because they all take the city’s money,” said Thompson.

The group is demanding the NYCEDC act on its overdue commitment, freeze the rezone plan, and be more transparent.

For clarification, said the EDC’s public affairs office, the rezoning plan is technically separate from the East New York IBZ Plan (ENYIBZ Plan), which is “unfortunately a common confusion between the two plans.”

The 2016 rezoning does not include the geography of the East New York IBZ, which remains industrial zoned, said the EDC.

The ENYIBZ Plan was released in July 2016. There were 20 strategies with over $16.7 million in infrastructure investments to the business zone in the plan, said the EDC.

When the ENY Plan was released in 2015, said the EDC, there were approximately 3,000 jobs in the ENY IBZ, and data from 2019 (the latest available) showed a 40% (or 1,250) increase in jobs.

The $16.7 million investment was allocated to projects, such as the renovation of the East New York Industrial Building, improvements around the Sutter Avenue L-train stop and Van Sinderen Avenue, and more high-speed broadband to businesses in the neighborhood.

Other projects focus on updating the Broadway Junction transit hub, which is estimated to create over 225 quality jobs (175 office and 50 retail) in addition to the 1,200 HRA employees that will be relocating from their current office in Downtown Brooklyn, said the EDC.

The hub project is expected to come online at the end of 2024.

Councilmember-elect Sandy Nurse, who was at the virtual rally, said that though the City Council cannot create jobs directly, it can invest in capital improvements to infrastructure that can help attract emerging industries to the area.

“I am very excited to work with the East NY community to move forward the visions being created for a thriving, resilient local economy,” said Nurse.

Nurse said she is a strong supporter of moving towards industries that contribute to long-term sustainability, protecting workers rights, and developing the workforce at all ages to participate in the changing economy.

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