Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first budget proposal might have nixed an allocation of $1.1 million towards industrial business zones, but Community Board 5 member Ted Renz said there was still a chance that Ridgewood could see a designated area specifically meant to support manufacturing companies and jobs.
Renz, who works as executive director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, has been one of many in Queens to support industrial business zones as a means to revive the city’s manufacturing industry. And even though de Blasio’s budget seemingly snubbed the concept, the Ridgewood native said it was only a matter of time.
“I have seen literature from the mayor’s office before and during his transition talking about how he is an important proponent of these kinds of manufacturing jobs,” Renz said. “We were kind of surprised that it was not in his budget, but that does not mean necessarily he is against manufacturing.”
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped launch a total of 16 industrial business zones across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island in an attempt to foster an environment in which manufacturing jobs can thrive with help from various tax credits. The funding for that cause, however, continued to dip below the originally allocated $4 million originally budgeted for IBZs.
De Blasio’s campaign website touted a pro-industrial development agenda as part of his progressive vision and vowed to strengthen the city’s existing industrial business zones. That was partially what made the allocation elimination somewhat of a surprise to some within the IBZ community.
There were many possibilities that could explain the lack of funding, Renz said.
“It could just be an oversight. This is, after all, his first year putting a budget together and this item might have gotten lost somewhere along the way,” Renz said. “Maybe he’s looking to revamp the entire program and it will be in his final budget.”
Community Board 5 in July voted to support creating an industrial business zone in the area south of Myrtle Avenue between Cypress Avenue to the north, Irving Avenue to the south, Hancock street to the west and New York Connecting Railroad Bay Ridge Freight Line to the east. The proposal received overwhelming support from the board, including District Manager Gary Giordano and Chairman Vinny Arcuri.
When the city first launched the IBZ program in 2006, creating zones in places like Maspeth, Jamaica, Astoria, and Long Island City, it was an attempt to lure industrial and manufacturing businesses back to the area – which, like the rest of the country, experienced a mass exodus of such jobs in the 1990s as companies were drawn overseas by cheaper labor and production costs. As part of the IBZ program, companies that relocate to the area received a $1,000 tax credit per employee, up to 100 workers.
The program, many CB 5 members said, would rejuvenate an area that had once had hundreds of knitting mills and textile factories lining its streets – places that made supplies fort hose fighting in World War II and, at one point, as much as one-quarter of the sweaters purchased in the United States.
And while board members have said it’s unlikely those kind of factories would return to Ridgewood, it was expected that an IBZ would have drawn smaller companies to open in the expansive factory buildings, such as architects and design firms.
Jean Tanler of the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone said IBZs provided a boon to small businesses within them and deserved adequate funding within the mayor’s budget. But Eric Palatnik, an attorney who represents some of the properties along Irving Avenue, testified at a CB 5 meeting over the summer that an industrial business zone would be hard to accomplish if property owners were unable to find tenants.
Either way, the Ridgewood resident said he was still hopeful someone would step up to the plate in the end to make sure the adequate funding is set aside. He cited times in the past when former City Councilwoman Diana Reyna helped take the IBZ reins to restore funding into last year’s Bloomberg budget and hoped a similar savior awaited.
“I would hope the City Council can help in restoring these funds,” Renz said. “In my opinion, they should be even higher because the program was cut under Bloomberg. We’re still very much committed to our industrial sector and we hope as the mayor moves forward in his agenda, we will get a clearer consensus of where he’s headed.”
By Phil Corso