For many years, New York City’s manufacturing recession was even worse than the national manufacturing recession. The real estate industry has adapted, converting manufacturing districts into expensive housing estates, but city officials refuse to wave the white flag.
There are just 57,000 manufacturing jobs left in the city, down from 172,000 in 2000, when the industry peaked at about 1 million. The industry accounts for only 1.4% of the city 4 million jobs.
Yet city lawmakers and economic development agencies continue to struggle to keep it afloat and even add manufacturing jobs, City and State Reports.
Mayor Eric Adams is seeking citywide Division Text Amendment Support for small businesses and commercial corridors, which some city council members and development groups say helps save manufacturing jobs.
Co-sponsored by Council Members Amanda Farías and Jennifer Gutiérrez bill This will guide the city’s plans for industrial business districts, where it hopes to expand manufacturing activity.
The areas the Bloomberg administration created to prevent rezoning for residential use may have saved some jobs, but it hasn’t reversed the decline in jobs. For property owners in these areas, this means lower rents and land prices than they would get if they repurposed it for housing.
Manufacturing zones can even hinder surrounding rezoning efforts. In Park Slope last year, for example, Councilman Shahana Hanif more than halved a proposed 48-unit mixed-income project because she believed the larger development would put pressure on the manufacturing district across the street. (Residents have been known to complain about trucks and noise from industrial businesses.)
Advocates for manufacturing zones say they provide well-paying jobs for New Yorkers without college degrees, and that landlords sometimes avoid long-term leases with manufacturers because they don’t want to preclude more lucrative uses in the future. This hindered the company’s growth and they ended up moving to New Jersey or Long Island for more space.
Some manufacturing experts and advocates say the city missed an opportunity to protect manufacturing jobs through other means, such as land-use policy and commercial rent controls.
The city’s manufacturing sector has lost about 8,000 jobs during the pandemic, making the industry’s expansion efforts more difficult.