New York’s attic: self storage units take over city manufacturing zones

Self storage facilities in Brooklyn’s manufacturing zones

Self storage companies have emerged as big winners in the post-recession re-structuring of the New York City economy.

As the city shed more than 102,000 manufacturing jobs and about 8,000 traditional warehousing jobs from 2001 to 2013, self-storage units filled open spaces in manufacturing zones across the city. Their expansion is driven by a proven business model, but manufacturing advocates are not enthusiastic about the change.

“They only employ a few people, so their workforce density is incredibly low and all of that translates into profit,” said Adam Friedman, executive director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, which runs the Made in NYC campaign. “This is a great illustration of how a use can be really profitable, really marketable, and clearly conveys far lower economic development impact – it’s like a dysfunction in the market.”

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Video: A visit to Brooklyn’s Other Museum of Brooklyn

For more than a decade, Scott Witter has waged a one-man crusade against the demolition of Admiral’s Row, a stretch of dilapidated Civil-War-era buildings by the Brooklyn Navy Yard that the city plans to replace with a grocery store complex.

Witter has written more than 20 letters to city and federal officials demanding that the Brooklyn Navy Yard reconsider its decision to save only two of the row’s 11 buildings. Even after other conservation groups begrudgingly accepted the buildings’ fates, Witter has continued to oppose the demolition plans.

“I attended every public meeting that the public is allowed to attend,” said Witter. “They had their own agenda…they didn’t consider saving all of them, they didn’t consider tearing down the rest of it and just preserving the facades.”

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