Stretching from 15th Street to 65th Street from 8th Avenue to New York Harbor, Sunset Park is a demographically diverse neighborhood of more than 150,000 people. Once known as South Brooklyn, and later considered part of Bay Ridge, Sunset Park was named in 1965 for the 25 acre park which overlooks the neighborhood. Largely rural until the mid – 19th century, the area began to grow rapidly in the late 19th century with the establishment of the Brooklyn waterfront as a major port for maritime trade. Fueled by successive waves of immigration and a steady demand for labor to work in its factories, warehouses, and piers, Sunset Park quickly became a hub for growing businesses and all who sought work.
While M-zoned properties can be found throughout this area, Sunset Park has four main industrial complexes: the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT), Bush Terminal, the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT), and Industry City. Today, Sunset Park is home to a diverse group of businesses, including garment and food manufacturing, and furniture and steel production. According to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, over 15,300 people are employed by Sunset Park’s manufacturing and industrial sectors.
The Gowanus Expressway, which hovers above Third Avenue, provides easy and quick access to Manhattan and New York’s outer boroughs. The neighborhood is also accessible via the R, D, and N trains and the B63 bus line.
The Gowanus Canal was constructed in 1848 to facilitate industrial maritime operations in South Brooklyn, and the corridor surrounding the canal quickly developed as a thriving manufacturing area primarily reliant on barge service. However, by the 1950s, major highway construction including the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Gowanus Expressway encouraged freight transportation of goods rather than barge or water transport. By the 1970s, the area began to decline as industrial businesses left the area. This in turn led to a job loss and subsequent population decrease. However the industrial business community has reinvested in the area significantly in the past ten years. The Gowanus Canal corridor is an area that has grown, and continues to grow, as a productive, jobs-generating center of economic activity.
The maritime industrial community along the Canal has also experienced a significant increase. The Gowanus canal is vital for the continued success of their businesses. Business in the area moves approximately 2.5 million tons of product on the Canal each year by barge. Together, barging activity on the Canal and Gowanus Bay removes roughly 105,500 trucks from the road each year, which not only decreases congestion on our roadways, but allows industry to operate in a more environmentally friendly way.
In 2000, 23% of Gowanus’s population was involved in blue collar industries: construction, manufacturing, natural resources, wholesale trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities. In 2010 that number had fallen to 15%. Meanwhile, the percent of residents working in information (e.g. information technology, publishing, telecommunications, etc.) increased from 4.3% to 9.5%, and in education and health care from 18.5% to 28.5%.
Sources: US Census 2000 Social Explorer: Tables1, 8, 93; US Census American Community Survey 2006-2010: Tables 113, 25, 57, 49, 97; US Census 2010 Social Explorer: Tables 1, 54; US Census Local Employment Dynamics, 2002 and 2011 as cited in Gowanus BOA Nomination Study 2014.
Established in 1636 by Dutch settlers, Red Hook is one of Brooklyn’s first settled neighborhoods. The construction of the Erie, Atlantic and Brooklyn boat basins with the development of pier and dock infrastructure in the 1840s set the stage for Red Hook to become one of the United States’ most important maritime hubs. As a port, Red Hook attracted many manufacturing and industrial businesses to the area. In the early 1900s the New York Dock Company constructed innovative large concrete warehouses with the ability to contain fumes and withstand flooding. The company became the largest employer in Red Hook, providing businesses with its loading and unloading services. The development of the Red Hook Houses in 1938 solidified Red Hook as a working waterfront, housing thousands of local workers.
Today, Red Hook retains much of its working class values. The overwhelming majority of residents live in New York City Housing Authority’s Red Hook East and West Houses. While the construction of the Gowanus Expressway in the late 1940s and the opening of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in 1950 served to geographically sever Red Hook from the rest of the district, today these arteries have made Red Hook the ideal location for companies that depend on their proximity to NYC clients, fast turn-around times, and that depend on water-born transportation such as barging and shipping.
The Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) in Red Hook is one of 16 citywide established in 2006. In IBZs, the City provides tax incentives and other benefits to support the preservation and growth of industrial and manufacturing businesses. In 2012, of the 6,000 jobs located in Red Hook, 58% were in the industrial, manufacturing, construction and maritime sectors.
Sources: Existing Conditions and Brownfield Study of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Department of City Planning, Office of Environmental Remediation, September, 2014; Dun & Bradstreet Report, 2012 from Red Hook NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan, March 2014.
Founded in 1978 by local businesses, SBIDC is a neighborhood-based economic development organization that works in the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Red Hook and Gowanus. Since the organization’s inception in 1978, SBIDC has been a driving force in the improvement of the Southwest Brooklyn economy by delivering a wide range of business services to local firms and acting as an advocate for business interests. Additionally, SBIDC provides local residents with employment services and advocates for local improvements that improve the quality of life for residents. Jobs in the industrial sector have fewer barriers to entry and are generally of high quality. As wage disparity in New York City continues to grow, retaining and increasing quality working class jobs is key to diversifying and stabilizing the local economy. Working class jobs, including manufacturing and other forms of industrial employment, help to stabilize the regional economy by providing a secure source of tax revenues and employment that is less susceptible to market fluctuations than other industry sectors. Additionally, manufacturing has traditionally served as the first rung of opportunity on the social and income ladder for newly-arrived immigrants.
SBIDC is the go-to organization for businesses in Southwest Brooklyn who are looking to hire or need resources to grow. We host workshops, assist with storm preparedness planning and recovery, and advocate for business needs. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the areas we serve and we continue to help businesses recover while ensuring that they are prepared for future storm events.