...the last few decades have witnessed the decline of manufacturing. America's Main Streets declined, as did the neighborhoods in Long Island City. Then a new trend emerged, where artists, craft makers and other small manufacturers began to populate forgotten neighborhoods. They put abandoned warehouses and lofts to new use as art studios, small film production companies and custom fabrication shops. These informal artisanal districts reshaped neighborhoods. What was unique to this form of development was the fact that homes were rebuilt and not demolished. Long-term residents and businesses were not displaced. The existing economy was enhanced.
Artisanal districts would save nabes from overdevelopment
Every time these neighborhoods achieved momentum, the larger scale development industry saw opportunity. Being more politically and financially advantaged, developers were able to initiate and sustain rigorous activity that rapidly changed these neighborhoods. But a negative byproduct has been to shake up and destabilize existing businesses and residential enclaves. These have been supplanted by all things high-end and luxury.
In my neighborhood, all eyes are on a relatively underutilized district that has remained zoned for manufacturing.
But is it really a manufacturing district or is it a holding zone for the speculative hope that the city will cave in and allow more high-rise luxury development?
An Artisanal Zoning District would respond to many economic and social needs. A commitment to provide economic stimulus from the ground up and to help small businesses and communities that are already here, is what we now need.
Kenny Greenberg owns Krypton Neon LLC in Long Island City.