In 2019, the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) and the New York State legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). These two laws, along with the passage of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, offer tremendous opportunities to jumpstart the green economy locally. If fully implemented and backed by public investment, these recent climate victories have the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of green and low-carbon jobs in the industries required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to create more equitable, resilient neighborhoods in New York City.
Our goal in this studio was to provide a roadmap for policymakers, advocates, businesses, and our clients to position the city’s 21 Industrial Business Zones (IBZs) as transformational spaces for climate mobilization and local wealth creation. The students conceived of policy and planning interventions to activate IBZs in ways that ensure that communities that have suffered from wealth extraction, pollution, and the earliest impacts of climate change will benefit from the increased economic activity associated with the transformation to a green economy. The students’ ground-level recommendations focused on the Maspeth IBZ in Central Queens and the Southwest Brooklyn IBZ, but their policy framework is applicable to all 21 of IBZs, seeing them as a system. The clients for the studio were Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development, Business Opportunity Center Network, and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation.
We argue that the City and State must advance policies that protect and expand a green industrial economy in New York City using a framework of “community wealth-building.” Employing a comprehensive approach to economic development and climate adaptation that centers racial and economic justice, officials can affect economic transformation by supporting a robust industrial sector capable of designing, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining the technologies needed to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, including energy efficiency retrofits, solar panels, offshore wind, heat pumps, green roofs, electric vehicles, and upgrades to public transit, among other critical pieces of the city’s infrastructure. The Industrial Business Zones can and should be at the center of this process.