Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Down, but not OUT!

Over the past month we have been regrouping, reexamining where we are, and looking at various strategies to keep the dream of Redhook Green alive.   Luckily there has been a huge out pouring of creative ideas, support, and advice in response to my last post “Buyer Beware”.  I have gotten emails from city officials (confidentially of course), architects, lawyers, real  estate developers, members of the Redhook community, and readers from as far away as Australia, all overwhelmingly supporting the project and offering their views and expert advice to help me find a way to align my building with the City of New York’s plans, policies and procedures.
Of all of the various emails I’ve received, the most interesting were from other neighborhood leaders, communities and towns (some out of NYS) asking me to consider changing my venue from Redhook to another that would embrace my vision and support it in many ways that Brooklyn has been unwilling or unable to, some including offers of land grants and tax subsidies.  Did you hear that Mr. Brooklyn Borough President?  All I was looking for were some permits. My enthusiasm has been routed in not simply creating a building, but one that could serve as a proof of concept for a net zero energy structure in an urban setting.  
Redhook Winery
One of the key issues facing me is that much of Redhook has been designated an Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) by Mayor Bloomberg.  The Mayor’s Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses website says “These areas foster high-performing business districts by creating competitive advantages over locating in areas outside of New York City”.  Sounds great, I run a business, where do I sign?  But they went on to say “The IBZs represent areas in which the City provides expanded assistance services to industrial firms in partnership with local development groups.  In addition, IBZs reflect a commitment by the City not to support the re-zoning of industrial land for residential use within these areas.”  What about mixed use?  Why wouldn’t that work?  Interestingly, my land is on the very edge of the Redhook Industrial Business Zone, not sure why it begins there, since much of my block is and has been residential for decades.  
I love NYC and I fully support Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for it, but I think we should consider expanding the definition of “modern” manufacturing.  Redhook, like many of the other 16 IBZ’s are already experiencing what I would consider  a renaissance in manufacturing.  I am not speaking of the kind of manufacturing that once called NYC home, but of the new and highly specialized “manufacturing” such as software/web development companies, wineries, boutique distilleries, coffee roasters, bakers, furniture makers, and jewelry designers just to name a few.  The city has developed an impressive plan to attract business “Protecting and Growing New York City’s Industrial Job Base” but I think that  a modern live/work strategy should be able to fit into this vision.  
Interestingly, at the same time the city published it’s plans for attracting new business, a New York based think tank, The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, disagreed with the City’s premise in it’s report “Up From the Ruins: Why Rezoning New York City’s Manufacturing Areas for Housing Makes Sense”, it said that “Because New York City has space for 500,000 more manufacturing jobs than actually exist, we propose to rezone some of this manufacturing space for housing and for mixed use. By rezoning the five areas suggested in this report, the city would increase its tax revenues, raise its employment rate, and substantially alleviate its long-standing housing crisis.”  One of those areas pointed out was Redhook.
I say lets all just get along!  One of things that I love about Redhook is the true “mixed use” nature of the area.  I want to clarify that I am not asking someone in the city to allow me to break or change a rule, but rather exercise the discretion they have on the narrow interpretation of that rule so I can build something good for Redhook, for NYC and myself.   I have not given up, I believe there is a way to make this happen.
Keep those emails coming, I love hearing your thoughts and ideas.

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