Turns out, that pronouncement a couple weeks back that Bushwick would be getting its own branch of Nolita’s well-regarded “Taco Bus” Tortilleria Grattan may have been a little premature. Bedford + Bowery has an update on owner Dario Wolos’ ongoing back-and-forth with a skeptical Community Board 1, apparently part of a larger push to protect the integrity of Brooklyn’s industrial neighborhoods in earnest (“Is there a community need for a restaurant there? Is it forcing out small industrial businesses? That’s an industrial business zone. It’s meant for industry,” a board member told Wolos). This is what De Blasio’s New York hath wrought.
But really, this was all a big cornerstone of the De Blasio campaign, stemming the hemorrhage of manufacturing jobs from New York’s Industrial Business Zones, and maybe even bringing a few back. Bloomberg created a bunch of IBZs back in 2005 with the same purpose in mind, but one of the newer businesses that’ve moved into said “industrial” zip codes was the Wythe Hotel, if that gives you an idea of how things have turned out.
The question, then, seems to have become about what actually constitutes “manufacturing” in a day and age when small-batch artisanal lotions are made in the Old American Can Factory, and Brooklyn businesses that do make their goods here are forced to produce elsewhere once they actually hit it big.
Brooklyn Night Bazaar co-founder Belvy Klein told Bedford + Bowery, “GM is not about to come here and build a big Chrysler plant in North Brooklyn anytime soon. Those days are gone. But what we can do on our end is more a micro thing. Between the vendors we have, the bar staff, and production staff, we’re upwards of around 500 people a week that we are more or less employing.”
The nonprofit in charge of the industrial zones (the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corp, or EWVIDC) isn’t so sure, and its director Leah Archibald said she’d rather some kind of food manufacturer had moved into the cavernous former bakery now occupied by the Night Bazaar. They may be selling locally made goods there, but none of ’em are actually manufactured on-site. Of course, it’s the job of local businesses to carve out spaces for themselves and act as their own boosters, just as it’s the job of community boards to ask questions before issuing approvals, particularly in former industrial neighborhoods that’ve been colonized (or cannibalized) in a manner as extreme as Bushwick’s.
In any case, the pushback against Wolos’ taco truck (intended to set up in the heavily saturated block that includes Roberta’s and Momo Sushi Shack) represents the larger push-and-pull at work here: which kind of small “New Brooklyn” businesses will save New York manufacturing, which will stunt it, and how, exactly, are we ever supposed to tell the difference?
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.