Antonio Reynoso, chief of staff to Councilwoman Diana Reyna
With city unemployment rates hovering around 8.4 percent over the last several years, job creation is on everyone’s mind.
In Ridgewood, rezoning the Southside of Myrtle Avenue (SOMA) has become an option, and last week Community Board 5 reviewed a proposal to create an Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) to secure and encourage job growth.
A Ridgewood IBZ would provide tax incentives to businesses who relocate to the area and foster similar advantages to a Business Improvement District (BID), but for manufacturing businesses.
“I heard someone compare it to a BID on steroids,” said Jean Tanler, CB5 member and coordinator for the Maspeth Industrial Business Association.
Tanler said the Maspeth IBZ currently includes 850 businesses and over 15,000 employees. It assisted 27 local firms in applying for tax credits and incentives in 2012, and also helped 35 local firms on a variety of issues, such a removing graffiti, fixing signs and helping with utility outages. They also helped four firms apply for over $1 million in financing.
“Its sole purpose is economic development by providing hands-on assistance to industrial businesses to create jobs,” she said.
In 2005, the Bloomberg Administration created 16 IBZs in an effort to stabilize industrial areas in the city by keeping residential influx out with tax credits and incentives like relocation services, tax breaks for green infrastructure and networking opportunities.
Ted Renz, chair of the CB5 Economic Development Committee, said the committee submitted a joint study application last year and is now awaiting the results for IBZ status from the Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Small Business Services.
According to Renz, the New School for Social Research determined in a 2008 study that SOMA still provides viable business and industrial alternatives.
“They encouraged us for another round of the IBZ program, and that we should try to get inclusion again,” Renz said.
CB5 had a public hearing on the issue last week at Christ the King High School in Middle Village to gain feedback from residents and business owners on the IBZ, which would be bounced by Cypress and Irving avenues from Hancock Street to the Bay Ridge freight line.
Ruth Kahn, director of Outpost Artists Resources at 1665 Norman Avenue in Ridgewood, told the board she hoped the community could stay mixed-use as she, like many artists, has been pushed from community to community over the past several years.
“I don’t think there are many artists that wouldn’t want to see mixed-use and share the neighborhood with factories,” Kahn said. “We want to be part of the equation.”
Andrew Poma’s family has been in the proposed IBZ for the last 75 years, and is currently renting his property for half the market rate because, according to his attorney, the region is not suitable for manufacturing uses.
“For a third generation property owner, I want to stay and I want to do my best to keep the property,” Poma said. “We wouldn’t have been able to keep it had we not owned it outright because of the taxes in this area.”
Poma and his family have been seeking a change to R6 zoning in the area, which would allow medium-sized and moderate-density residential buildings in the area.
“Businesses are dying or dead and if they could stay they would,” he said of his neighbors. “There is not a bright light at the end of this tunnel.”
Antonio Reynoso, chief of staff to Councilwoman Diana Reyna, came to the meeting to support the rezoning designation and warn the board of historical failures in industrial zoning.
“Manufacturing in the city is one of the largest growing opportunities for economic development and job placement,” Reynoso explained.
He stressed that the board look at what has happened in Williamsburg as an example of an IBZ gone wrong.
“We are seeing that these industrial business zones are being converted illegally to provide residential housing,” he said. “IBZ would be very important, but we need stipulations that our community be an oversight body to make sure these manufacturing developments don’t become residential and hurt the community in the long run.”
Stephanie Eisenberg has seen the IBZ in action first hand and joined in the discussion to warn CB5 members of the possible consequences of mismanaging specifications.
“Our IBZ has turned into one big bar scene,” Eisenberg said. “Be very careful what you put in your rezoning on business owners in an IBZ.”