REINVENTING-–BIG-TIME

November 5, 2012 | CUNY Matters, The University

The Regional Economic Development Council cochaired by Chancellor Goldstein is turning abandoned NYC buildings into invaluable job-creating, economy-boosting projects.

Concrete and iron workers are converting three abandoned, World War II machine shops at the Brooklyn Navy Yard into a green, 21st century factory for a body-armor and military-apparel manufacturer; a laboratory for designers, digital manufacturers and university researchers; and state-of-the-art light manufacturing. About 400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs are expected.

WWII building at Brooklyn Navy Yard will become a Green Manufacturing Center and labs for eco-conscious research.

This might not have happened without the New York City Regional Economic Development Council. This two-year-old state body, cochaired by Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, is one of 10 regional councils statewide that recommend job-creating and economy-boosting projects for competitive state grants — with $762 million on the line in 2012 alone.

The $46 million, 220,000-square-foot, sustainable Green Manufacturing Center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard epitomizes the kind of transformative project that the council seeks out. The lead tenants are military- and law-enforcement-gear manufacturer Crye Precision and Macro Sea, the developer that intends to open the New Lab for eco-conscious manufacturing and research there.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the regional councils in 2010 to foster bottom-up economic planning from diverse perspectives. Council members include more than 20 community, business and union leaders, elected officials and economic development experts.

“The Regional Council initiative has transformed economic development in our city and across New York State,” Chancellor Goldstein explains. “The council has become an invaluable forum for businesses, nonprofits, community groups and individuals to discuss strategies and plans to create jobs and generate regional economic growth. The council worked tirelessly last year to identify the region’s best projects, and all of the projects funded in 2011 are successfully moving forward.”

In 2011, the state awarded $785 million statewide for these projects, including $66 million for five city projects. The city projects were in some of the 15 Opportunity Zones, which are formerly distressed or underutilized and have undergone major rezoning, planning and public investment during the past decade. Besides the Green Manfacturing Center, they are:

· Redevelopment of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market to bolster economic activity in the impoverished South Bronx.

· Food industry partnerships between upstate agricultural groups and local developers. A distribution center may locate at Create@Harlem Green, where a former factory is being transformed into an artisanal and entrepreneurial center of sustainable business and creative enterprise.

· SeedStart, designed to connect digital media entrepreneurs and software engineers with venture capital, business expertise and market opportunities in New York City. Over 12 weeks, entrepreneurs will refine their products and meet with venture capitalists. Applications were to be accepted in November 2012.

· Three projects in the city’s Applied Sciences Initiative. One is a consortium of universities in Downtown Brooklyn that includes CUNY and is led by NYU and NYU Polytechnic University. Called CUSP — the Center for Urban Science and Progress — the collaboration will confront urban challenges including infrastructure, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, transportation congestion, public safety and education. CUNY faculty and students will have many opportunities for research and educational initiatives. The other two Applied Science Initiatve projects are the partnership of Cornell University with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, slated for Roosevelt Island, and a major expansion of Columbia University’s engineering school.

In 2012, Goldstein says, the New York City regional council “focused on refining our strategies and strengthening our implementation program and, through robust public participation and council discussion, we have made important adjustments to ensure a strong, effective plan for a more prosperous New York City.”

The council’s top five recommendations for state funding in 2012 are:

· Phase III of constructing the Steiner movie studio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is already the largest film and television production facility on the East Coast. More than $110 million would build nearly 100,000 square feet of new soundstages for TV shows and commercials and the first New York City outdoor streetscape back lot. Steiner has partnered with Brooklyn College and its prospective graduate cinema school. If that graduate program wins CUNY and state approval, it would be the country’s only graduate film program located on a working studio lot.

· Wiring industries in “digital deserts” for fiber-optic broadband. This $13 million outer-borough project could affect 260 buildings over two years, supporting the development of high-tech industry clusters in economically distressed areas.

· Creating lab space for high-tech design, prototyping and programmable hardware ventures at Macro Sea’s New Lab, a $23.2 million facility that would promote collaboration between high-tech design and fabrication.

· Restoring wetlands while encouraging waterfront development. The New York City Wetlands Mitigation Bank would use $10 million as seed money for work at Sunset Cove Park in Jamaica Bay, Saw Mill Creek on Staten Island and Ferry Point Park in the Bronx. It’s part of a broader program to leverage about $576 million in infrastructure investment at 60 sites, 18 private and 42 public.

· Cleaning up 60 polluted brownfields for residential and commercial development in low-income and underserved communities. The goal is to unlock $1 billion in private investment. Projects could include 1,500 new housing units — including 1,000 affordable housing units — and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space.