What Makes the City Run analyzes strategies for preserving affordable space for industrial businesses and jobs, which are critical to the city’s basic ability to function.

As companies in these sectors face intensifying displacement pressures, this report recommends that the City employ new tools, such as establishing Industrial Employment Districts to more precisely guide development in its industrial areas and achieve more balanced growth. Our report also offers an in-depth look at the potential application of Industrial Employment Districts in the East New York and Gowanus neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Photo of Policy Brief: What Makes the City Run: Preserving Space for Critical Economic Activities

Preserving industrial space is critical to the city’s basic ability to function – to transport, store, assemble, prepare, repair and/or move everything a city needs, from building supplies to school buses. Industrial companies and jobs are at risk of displacement as Manufacturing-zoned areas are converted to housing, and as the demand for space for hotels, entertainment venues, mini-storage and other non-industrial uses drives these uses further from traditional business districts into previously solid industrial neighborhoods.

The extraordinary diversity of NYC residents requires that we cultivate an economy that offers varied opportunities for work and entrepreneurship and ensures pathways of economic opportunity for New Yorkers who have only a High School degree or less. This means supporting and growing our industrial sectors, not allowing them to be degraded by escalating land values that force businesses out of the city.

Wages of High School Graduates/GED Holders by Sector (N=13,028)

Bar graph shows manufacturing jobs pay higher wages than Retail, Entertainment, or Service Sector jobs
Manufacturing provides better quality employment opportunities, particularly for people with modest educational attainment. Source: ACS PUMS 5 Year 2013


  • Space for manufacturing jobs is shrinking as the development of non-industrial uses such as hotels, mini-storage facilities, entertainment venues, offices and big-box retail spreads into traditional industrial areas.
  • The critical strategy for stabilizing the industrial real estate market is limiting non-industrial uses, which are currently permitted as-of-right, through the creation of Industrial Employment Districts
  • The successful application of the Industrial Employment Districts strategy depends on recognizing the particular characteristics of the businesses and built environment in each Industrial Business Zone.
  • Where increasing manufacturing density can help meet the needs of particular businesses, there is likely to be a financial gap.


  • Create a Special Industrial Employment District zoning to strengthen core industrial areas by limiting non-industrial uses.
  • Recognize that many industrial uses require ground floor space and increasing density may not always be an option.
  • Reform the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) so it can assess the impacts of proposed developments on the overall industrial character and functionality of the area.
  • Establish non-profit management and/or ownership of production space in mixed-use districts.

Project Status

Completed 2016


  • Policy
  • Research & Analysis


  • Publication
  • Brooklyn