After the proposals for the West Side Stadium, Bronx Terminal Market, Atlantic Yards, Williamsburg-Greenpoint, and Willets Point, there’s no shame if you shudder at new development initiatives from the Bloomberg administration and its partners in the private sector. In each neighborhood, people affected by the plan have asked the city to consider the price that local residents and businesses will pay for “progress.” For industrial firms especially, the proposed redevelopments and rezonings have exacerbated the pressure in areas where a hot residential market has already inflated commercial rent. So when the EDC today released requests for proposals “for disposition and redevelopment of 11 City-owned industrial sites,” you had to wonder if another nail was getting pounded in.
The city, however, is insisting that these sites will remain blue-collar. According to the RFP for two of the sites, adjacent parcels in the Bathgate section of the Bronx, “industrial use must be the dominant use for the site.”
“The preferred tenants/owner-occupants for this project are manufacturers with a strong employment-to-space ratio,” he request continues. “Proposals including self-storage or similar-type facilities will not be considered.” And while a limited amount of retail is allowed on a portion of the site, the RFP states that, “NYCEDC will not consider responses that propose large-format retail on either site.” No zoning changes are allowed. No self-storage warehouses are wanted. And green buildings are preferred. The EDC indicates the same rules apply to the other sites, located in Sunset Park, East New York, and Flatlands in Brooklyn. All are being incorporated into a Bloomberg administration industrial initiative dating back to early 2005.
But small industry in the city ought not breathe easy just yet. Consider scale. The 11 parcels the EDC is putting up for RFP (and lets assume that the city can bind developers who purchase the properties to keeping them industrial for the foreseeable future) comprise 738,000 square feet. Columbia University’s plan to expand into Manhattanville—which is now dotted with small industry and warehouses—encompasses about the same amount of space at street grade alone. Among the hundreds of businesses that a city development initiative might uproot from Willets Point (a 75-acre or 3.3 million square foot area) are several large, active warehouses and factories that, taken together, easily eclipse what the city is offering in today’s RFP. For industries thirsting for space, this is just a sip.