As the days wind down to November 5–when New Yorkers will choose their first post-Bloomberg leader–the would-be mayors continue their mad dash for donors, seeking large contributions from New York’s most powerful elites. Spearheading that movement is City Council Speaker and Democratic frontrunner Christine Quinn; with the largest campaign treasure chest of any candidates thus far, she faces major criticism for her connections to the real estate industry. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting Quinn’s most prestigious bundlers in Big Development for the upcoming mayoral election.
Our third subject: Macro Sea, a developer that’s reinventing the Brooklyn Naval Yards, largely due in part to its preferred (and funded) mayoral aspiration.
“The Navy Yard is a testament to New York City’s resilience and creativity,” Quinn said last year at a press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She was there to announce the opening of the Green Manufacturing Plant in the once-desolate spot near downtown Brooklyn, where workers built battleships a century ago.
The Brooklyn Naval Yards Industrial Park perfectly summarizes its 21st-century goals in its slogan: “We used to launch ships; now, we launch companies.” Akin to Long Island City, the endless space is the one of the epicenters of manufacturing’s New York City renaissance; a cooperative space planned for the end of 2014 that will be home to hundreds, if not thousands, of start-ups seeking to weave together the old with the new. 3D printers, advanced body armor and environmental constructions are just a few innovations on the product list of the future.
The Yards are, without a doubt, an economic force to be reckoned with: a two-year study conducted by Pratt Institute projects that the space will be an “economic model” of sustainable jobs and investment for American cities soon enough.
Now, Macro Sea is one of the Naval Yards’ lead tenants. Strange, given the fact that a real estate developer holds the most prominent position at a New Tech haven, but not really, given the circumstances.
The company is led by David Belt and has developments in Philadelphia, Paris, Princeton, and plenty of other spots. In New York, Macro Sea’s main project is New Lab, which exists as an overseer of the incoming startups at the Yard. It is also led by Belt and has already moved in to Kings County: Beta Space, a prototype of what’s to come to the Yard, was launched by Macro Sea in May to get a feel for the new digs.
Belt’s hopes for New Lab are high: “New York City is supposed to be sort of a design hub,” Belt told the Times. “I was frustrated seeing so much time and effort pumped into software. I’m more interested in products and hardware.” In turn, he has essentially made Macro Sea the Naval Yards’ broker and New Labs its landlord.
In Quinn’s campaign finance papers, Belt has designated himself as “self-employed” for his intermediary role in raising money for the Speaker. His list of contributors, totaling some $38,000 for the campaign, runs as a roster of the NYC tech community and Belt’s former staff at a company called DBI Consultants, all of whom are confident that Christine Quinn will be Tech’s Favorite Mayor should she win in November.
The New Lab’s renovation costs over $60 million and lists Quinn as one of its central sponsors. That’s because the speaker has guaranteed the council provide $7.5 million of the $18 million Macro Sea is receiving from city, state, and federal sources to pay for the immense project. Through private investments, the Brooklyn Naval Yards Development Corporation is covering the rest. Oh, and add in the $3.5 million in capital funding from the city legislature as well.
Out of all of her rivals, Quinn is the most outspoken on the innovation front. In a speech she delivered at the end of May, she called for the city to be totally WiFi-connected by 2018, a new online 311 program called myCityHall, free tech classes for New Yorkers, more capital funding for startups, and the establishment of an Office of Innovation. She’s even called for a new CUNY campus at the Brooklyn Naval Yards, focused on churning out the newest class of advanced manufacturers.
As a result, Quinn has taken Bloomberg’s insistence on transforming New York into the next Silicon Valley to the next level. The idea of this ultra-modernity shift could provide a plethora of jobs in a city that desperately needs them. But millions of dollars of capital funding in exchange for donations and votes from the tech community is a whole different story.