Two years have passed since the release of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Strategic Plan, and the innovation economy and Brooklyn are both hotter than ever. The number of innovation firms in the area now exceeds our 2013 projection, and the Tech Triangle made up of Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard is now home to more than 1,350 innovation companies—22% more than three years ago1.
Employment in the Tech Triangle is also on track to exceed expectations, with the number of innovation employees already reaching more than 17,300—a 45% growth from 2012 to 20152. In the two years since the report, companies like Etsy, Huge, MakerBot, Crye Precision, and Steiner Studios have grown significantly and, thanks to the creation of new office space as called for in the 2013 Strategic Plan, they have been able to realize much of that growth here. The Tech Triangle has also attracted many new and expanding companies—startups like goTenna, Honeybee Robotics, and Sartorous; and companies from the West Coast and other countries like SolarCity and Breather, looking to have a major New York presence.
However, we are once again facing a space crisis that threatens to halt this incredible momentum. Since 2012, the total stock of office inventory in the Tech Triangle increased from 21.05 million square feet to 21.3 million square feet, representing just a 1.2% increase—a fraction of what was called for in the 2013 Strategic Plan. Meanwhile, commercial vacancy rates have decreased to 3% today. Given these low vacancy rates and the lack of sufficient new stock made available to date, very little innovation industry growth can occur moving forward without new commercial office space being added to the Tech Triangle.
In response to a lack of available commercial space, we have already seen a ripple effect of the Tech Triangle to the north in Williamsburg and to the south in Sunset Park, as tech and design companies are drawn to these areas for their availability, affordability, and proximity to the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. However, the core neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard remain in highest demand.
Thus we have before us a straightforward proposition: the more space we are able to create in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, the more jobs will be spurred here. The opportunity is real and the City and private sector must work together to keep this impressive growth going.
We must redouble our efforts to connect all communities in New York to these jobs, through targeted education programs and an improved outer borough transportation network that addresses the long commute times for thousands of New Yorkers trying to reach jobs in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle using a Manhattan-centric mass transit system.
In the update that follows, we have highlighted some of the successes achieved in these areas over the past two years—from the first public bus service ever inside the Navy Yard to the creation of a college consortium focused on increasing jobs and internships for local students to new commercial developments planned for all points of the Tech Triangle.
Updated numbers from our 2015 Economic Impact Study speak for themselves: the Brooklyn Tech Triangle is a major economic engine for New York City. Now is the time to refuel and continue on the journey. Let’s come together to give our entrepreneurs and innovators the support they need to keep growing and create opportunity for tens of thousands more New Yorkers in the coming years.