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Local Officials Want to Preserve Manufacturing Space in North Brooklyn IBZ, Want State Legislation Amended

The North Brooklyn IBZ (Google Maps)

Feb. 28, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan

The conversion of manufacturing buildings to loft space in the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone will continue to take place–unabated–if a new bill that was introduced in both the state assembly and state senate this month becomes law.

The bill, which is facing heavy opposition from local officials, would still allow landlords who own property in the North Brooklyn IBZ to convert their manufacturing/industrial buildings to residential loft space without having to go through the rezoning process.

Loft laws have historically prevented landlords from converting their industrial/manufacturing buildings into loft space in IBZs without a rezoning. The North Brooklyn IBZ–a section of land that runs along the Newtown Creek from the northern tip of Greenpoint down into Bushwick–however, has been exempt from this restriction.

The bill, introduced in the Senate on Feb. 11 and in the Assembly on Feb. 20, aims to update and amend a now-expired version of the loft laws. While the bill contains several updates to the prior laws, it would continue to allow landlords to convert industrial/manufacturing space into lofts–without a rezoning–in the North Brooklyn IBZ.

Local officials want the North Brooklyn IBZ exemption to end. They want to preserve the number of industrial/manufacturing buildings in the zone, since they are a source of local jobs. They say that landlords will continue to convert their buildings into loft space if permitted, since they can earn more rent.

Loft laws, first enacted in 1982, were prompted by the decline of the manufacturing sector that left landlords with vacant industrial properties. The laws allowed landlords in certain parts of the city to convert their space into lofts as long as the dwellings units met code, their tenants had certain protections, and the units were eligible for rent stabilization.

The lofts, in the early days, were often used as live/work spaces for artists

The laws, however, expired in June 2017 after legislators in the Senate were unable to come to an agreement on renewing the bill, putting a halt on residential loft conversions.

State Senator Julia Salazar condemned the section of the bill that allows for the conversion of industrial/manufacturing space into lofts in the North Brooklyn IBZ. She is now calling for an amendment that would end the exemption, so the North Brooklyn IBZ would be subject to the same restriction as other IBZs. 

Meanwhile, City Council Member Antonio Reynoso said that the legislation in its current form would lead to the loss of manufacturing jobs.

“In my district, residential lofts are located within the most active industrial area in the city, a geography that contains nearly 20,000 well-paying working-class jobs,” Reynoso said. “When residential and industrial uses are placed in such close proximity, clashes inevitably erupt and we have seen that industry almost always loses.”

Many residents who live in the IBZ are uncertain about what the proposed amendment might mean. They fear that it could lead to them being pushed out.

Salazar assured her constituents via twitter that they would continue to be protected. “We need to protect loft tenants while also protecting the ~20,000 currently existing manufacturing jobs within the IBZ and protecting the local community. It’s challenging, but doing the right thing often is!”

Salazar also responded to several tweets about the bill, stating that the concerns about eviction were unfounded and assured current residential residents of the IBZ that they would not face displacement under her proposed change.

“538 loft tenants are not being evicted,” Salazar said in response to a tweet referencing 538 Johnson Street, a loft located in the North Brooklyn IBZ.

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There are several bouts of misinformation in this article that have been forwarded by Tom McMahon. This is in response to community groups meeting with the tenants of the North Brooklyn IBZ to lend their support to the loft tenants.
1)538 Johnson tenants are in the eviction process
2) It’s an absolute fallacy that the conversion to residential in the IBZ will continue “unabated” because of the loft law. Under the law there is a 6 month window of application for residents in the M1 district, hundreds of tenants. This only applies to EXISTING long term residential used lofts. Existing manufacturing, the M3 zone, and 97% of the IBZ zone will remain untouched. There will be no rezoning as a result of loft law—in fact because of the rent stabilization of the existing units, it will stymie it.
3) Community leaders have joined in support with the tenant groups. This is an attempt by lobbying factions to EVICT low income tenants in favor of new development. The 20000 jobs is the TOTAL number of jobs in the area. 3,000 in the IBZ, ZERO which will be lost due to loft law. 538 Johnson has co-existed with two manufacturing businesses and will continue to do so under the law. Shame on your twisting of facts for lobbyists like Tom McMahon. These are real people.


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