How does manufacturing occupy space in the city today? The massive factories that made New York City a productive powerhouse around the turn of the last century are mostly gone, but the city’s distinctive complexity has allowed a host of increasingly specialized manufacturing firms to thrive and proliferate. Indeed, after decades of decline, a host of new social and technological forces are growing and transforming the manufacturing sector into something more diffuse, diverse, and dynamic.
Open House New York (OHNY), in partnership with New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), is excited to announce the launch of Making it Here, a yearlong series of programs that explores manufacturing in the city today: what it looks like, how it works, and why it is so important to the future of New York. Through tours, talks, and other programs, New Yorkers will have a chance to visit and learn about how older industrial buildings, once considered outmoded, are being retrofitted to create spaces that reflect the changing needs of a manufacturing ecosystem that better integrates the design and production processes, as well as how some legacy manufacturers have adapted their businesses to shifting market dynamics, allowing them to thrive in place over time. Making it Here will also tour the spaces where entrepreneurs, technologists, and inventors are re-imagining manufacturing in the heart of the city through the development of new technologies like peer-to-peer platforms and 3D printing.
Making it Here marks the first time that OHNY has organized an entire series of programming around a specific theme, leveraging OHNY’s capacity for offering access and experience to give the public the unique opportunity to explore a single issue over many months. Partnership with NYCEDC, which works on behalf of the City of New York to support industrial businesses across the five boroughs, is key to unlocking the manufacturing sector. NYCEDC manages several City-owned industrial properties—including the Brooklyn Army Terminal—that collectively house hundreds of companies employing thousands of people. NYCEDC also initiates programs and projects designed to sustain and grow both legacy industrial companies and new manufacturers operating in the City.
In providing access to a system that exists off the average New Yorker’s radar, Making it Here will serve as a platform for a public discussion about how manufacturing fits into communities across the five boroughs. “As we know from the enormous audiences that attend OHNY Weekend and our other year-round programs, there is an intense interest among the public in better understanding New York: its buildings, its systems, its public spaces,” explains OHNY executive director Gregory Wessner. “In exploring a subject as broad as manufacturing, our goal is to give people a chance to learn about the City through the same kind of direct experience we offer in all of our programs, especially about an issue that is so important to the health and vitality of the city.
Making it Here tours will highlight manufacturing communities operating at a variety of different scales—from stand-alone adaptive reuse buildings embedded in residential areas to City-owned industrial campuses—to help New Yorkers better understand the role that manufacturing businesses play in building healthy, affordable neighborhoods.
“The success of the industrial sector is critical to the City’s economic health, and NYCEDC is pleased to partner with Open House New York to showcase some of the extraordinary industrial spaces across the boroughs,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball. “We must ensure that legacy industrial properties are updated and enhanced to meet the needs of a growing city, and seize the opportunity to build new industrial facilities with a keen sense of design—so that they become architectural touchstones while fully integrating into a neighborhood’s physical context. We look forward to opening doors and stimulating discussion about the ways that manufacturers create high-quality jobs for New Yorkers while sustaining the city’s position as a global center of commerce and innovation.”
To expand the reach of Making it Here, the OHNY Blog will feature interviews throughout the year with a broad range of experts to shed light on what each site in the series illustrates about the forces at work in urban manufacturing. Through additional web content, Making it Here will also explore the land use and urban design challenges facing the manufacturing sector, as well as the unique benefits that an urban context offers manufacturers. In a city like New York, where many hyper-specialized economic sectors coexist in a densely populated space, demand is diverse and sophisticated, and more flexible production and distribution networks become vital. Given the high environmental costs associated with mass production and globalized supply chains, the “new manufacturing” spaces springing up across the city could even become a critical component of New York’s expansive sustainability goals, turning the old trope of dirty industry on its ear.
The popular conception of the factory as a place of soot-belching smokestacks and dreary assembly lines obscures a fast-changing reality that necessitates a deeper public understanding of what making space for manufacturing in our neighborhoods means for our quality of life. “While the noise and pollution associated with production has often isolated manufacturing to the city’s urban edges and the hinterlands, significant technological changes could make re-integration of manufacturing spaces into more mixed-use neighborhoods possible, and even desirable, in the near future,” says Nina Rappaport, architecture critic and the curator and project director of Vertical Urban Factory. “When people actually have the chance to visit the manufacturing spaces that exist in New York City today and see them firsthand, it becomes evident that zoning needs to accommodate new and diverse uses for new kinds of manufacturing.”
“Tremendous economic, technological and cultural forces are reshaping manufacturing, and that bodes well for cities” said Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development and founder of the buy-local Made In NYC campaign. “The need to reduce energy consumption, the benefits of having designers and producers clustered closely together so that they can innovate new products, and growing consumer demand for local products are driving the growth of local companies. However, if the city wants to reap all of the benefits of this process we have to make sure that companies are able to scale up locally, which requires adequate industrial space among other things.”
In a city where demand for space is so high, where does manufacturing fit in? And in the age of globalization, when you can make something anywhere, what are the benefits of making it here? We look forward to exploring these and other questions with you over the coming year.
Making it Here will kick off with a four-part exploration of how different industrial redevelopment models are being used to carve contemporary manufacturing hubs out of the hulking remnants of the old, single-tenant industrial complexes of the past. To receive updates on these four tours, including information on when registration for each program will open to the public, please click here to sign up for our mailing list. The series will continue over the summer with an exploration of how legacy manufacturers and manufacturing districts across the city have adapted and evolved to changing market demands over time; in the fall, the series will visit sites where cutting edge manufacturing technologies are being developed to get a sense of how the city’s industrial spaces will change in the coming years. Information on the next set of Making it Here tours will be released later this spring.
Standard Motors Building
Friday, May 16 / 3:00 PM
Organized with Vertical Urban Factory
Tour a variety of niche manufacturing spaces, along with Brooklyn Grange’s expansive rooftop farm, with Vertical Urban Factory curator and project director Nina Rappaport, and learn about how and why private developer Acumen Capital Partners LLC is investing in the revitalization of New York’s industrial infrastructure. This tour is SOLD OUT.
Brooklyn Army Terminal
Tuesday, May 20 / 3:00 PM
Join representatives from New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Industrial Desk to see how Cass Gilbert’s massive Broooklyn Army Terminal complex, with its iconic atrium (above), has been incrementally re-imagined as a mixed-use hub for manufacturing, commerce, and cultural activity over the past three decades. This tour is SOLD OUT.
Brooklyn Navy Yard
Friday, June 6th / 10:00 AM
Spend the morning exploring the sprawling Brooklyn Navy Yard campus, considered a model 21st-century industrial park, with BNY staff. The program will include stops at several cutting edge manufacturing spaces, as well as the new Making it in NYC exhibition at BLDG 92. Tickets for this event will go on sale May 23.
Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center
Friday, June 20th / 12:00 PM
When a factory in East Williamsburg closed in 2007—taking a hundred local manufacturing jobs with it—the Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center, a mission-driven non-profit industrial developer, purchased the historic building and brought it back to life as a hive of industrial activity. Join GMDC staff for a tour of a selection of the dozen businesses that have located at the McKibbin Street facility, home once again to nearly a hundred industrial jobs. Tickets for this event will go on sale June 6.
**Please note that many of the Making it Here tours are scheduled during the day on weekdays to accommodate the business hours of the site and to allow attendees to see manufacturing processes in action.**
Making It Here is organized by Open House New York in partnership with New York City Economic Development Corporation, as well as with the Pratt Center for Community Development and Vertical Urban Factory.
- Brooklyn Navy Yard Report (Pratt Center, February 2013)
- Building a Vibrant Manufacturing Sector (Pratt Center, July 2013)
- Start of a New York City Manufacturing Revival? (Center for an Urban Future, March 2014)
- State of Local Manufacturing Report (NYCEDC, Oct. 2013)
- Urban Manufacturing Alliance 2nd National Convening Report (UMA, Oct. 2013)
- Vertical Urban Factory (Nina Rappaport, May 2011)