Bill and the Metal Mill in Loopholeville
Developers are taking advantage of zoning loopholes to decimate manufacturing in Williamsburg. This essay takes a closer look at the situation.
Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore
“Bill and the Metal Mill in Loopholeville” examines the past, present, and potential futures of manufacturing in New York City via a fictional protagonist named Bill, who, in 1972, unexpectedly inherits a one-story building on Wythe and Banker, in the heart of what would later become the “Greenpoint / Williamsburg Industrial Business District.” Bill, an absentee landlord, watches as the waves of deindustrialization, bohemian-ization, and yuppification transform Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and make millionaires of his neighbors. Bill wonders how he can cash in on these trends despite his building being in a manufacturing zone. Will Bill take advantage of certain loopholes that allow developers to build certain non-manufacturing uses in the manufacturing zone? Or will Bill neglect the building and the needs of his manufacturing tenants, and fight for a residential rezoning? Owing to the city’s constant wavering on its commitment to strengthening manufacturing and its reluctance to enforce manufacturing zoning protections, one thing Bill is unfortunately not likely to do is commit to the welfare of his industrial tenants. An advocacy piece for industrial retention and development, “Bill and the Metal Mill in Loopholeville” argues that the city should follow through on earlier promises made to the manufacturing sector, and should step up its enforcement of zoning meant to protect and strengthen entry-level manufacturing jobs.