With tens of millions of dollars, New York City hopes to jumpstart a transformation of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood into a hub for artists and tech companies. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the city is spending $100 million to transform part of the Brooklyn Army Terminal—an old navy-supply hub—into space for light manufacturing. That investment is just one piece of the millions of dollars flowing into the neighborhood from real estate investors.
While the money will be significant, giving new life to Sunset Park’s industrial corridor will take more than artisanal pickles and startups. It will take great public space and significant improvements to the neighborhood’s streetscape. At this point, however, it’s not clear if that type of investment is in the cards.
About 20 blocks north of the Brooklyn Army Terminal is Industry City, a six-million square foot former industrial complex that currently includes startups, artist spaces, and light manufacturing. The impressive space hosted events for this year’s New York Design Week and will soon be home to the Brooklyn Nets practice facility. To continue the building’s transformation, a group of investors has purchased a 49 percent stake in the complex and plans to lease remaining space to food manufacturers with connected retail spaces. The idea here is to attract locals and tourists to the site. Nearby is the Liberty View Industrial Plaza, another early 20th Century naval supply center, which has received $80 million from some deep-pocketed individuals who want to create affordable space for small companies pushed out of the Garment District.
As the Journal noted, all this investment could be muted by the fact that these buildings are pretty difficult to get to from the subway and the neighborhood’s residential and commercial centers. “After decades of neglect, roads in Sunset Park are filled with potholes, some sewer lines are aging and walking from the residential areas to the factories requires a nerve-racking trip across the Gowanus Expressway,” reported the Journal. “Fixing all that will require significant investment.” The mayor’s Vision Zero plan could play a role in making that connection safer and more attractive. The waterfront side of these buildings could use some work as well.
Where DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights have the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Sunset Park has concrete piers. There is one glimmer of hope, though. The Bush Terminal Pier Park, the ever-delayed park, which has been under construction since 2009, may finally open this fall.