Fashion, film ex­ecs fear­ing com­pe­ti­tion from NYC jobs plan

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - HENRY GOLD­MAN BLOOMBERG NEWS

Mayor Bill de Bla­sio’s elec­tion-year pledge to add 100,000 well-pay­ing jobs in the next decade has some New York busi­ness own­ers con­cerned he will hurt more than help them.

His plan in­cludes spend­ing $136 mil­lion to cre­ate a “Made in New York” hub in Brook­lyn’s Sun­set Park for the cloth­ing, film and tele­vi­sion in­dus­tries. Ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion stu­dios say a sub­si­dized space for new busi­nesses may make it harder for them to com­pete, while ap­parel mak­ers say their prox­im­ity to one an­other in Man­hat­tan is what makes the city an in­ter­na­tional fashion capital.

“It isn’t re­ally ‘job cre­ation’ if you are just mov­ing jobs from one place to an­other,” said Jesse Lay­mon, pol­icy direc­tor at the New York City Em­ploy­ment and Train­ing Coali­tion, a non­profit that rep­re­sents about 150 job place­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions. “The city should fo­cus less on where peo­ple could work, and more on who can be taught which skills to put them to work.”

De Bla­sio, who has tried to build a na­tional pro­file as a cham­pion of pro­gres­sive val­ues, says his $1.35 bil­lion of in­vest­ments will in­crease jobs that pay at least $50,000 an­nu­ally, help­ing New York­ers af­ford to live there. In the past decade, the city added 666,000 jobs, reach­ing a high of 3.9 mil­lion in May. But too many of them, the mayor says, are in low-pay­ing re­tail or tourism.

Some of the fastest growth has been in film and tele­vi­sion, which gen­er­ates about $9 bil­lion an­nu­ally for the city’s econ­omy. A record 56 TV se­ries were shot in the city this year, thanks to an ex­plo­sion in Web-streamed pro­grams on such plat­forms as HBO, Net­flix and Hulu. The com­pa­nies have been lured by hun­dreds of mil­lions

● of dol­lars in city and state sub­si­dies, in­clud­ing about $450 mil­lion of state tax cred­its cov­er­ing 30 per­cent of lo­cal pro­duc­tion ex­penses.

“We sim­ply have got­ten to a point where you’ve got a bunch of ex­ist­ing com­pa­nies and they’re do­ing great, but you need more ca­pac­ity to con­sol­i­date the strength in the in­dus­try,” de Bla­sio said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence this month.

City-based film com­pa­nies say they’ve al­ready re­sponded to un­prece­dented de­mand for sound­stages, spend­ing mil­lions on ex­pan­sion. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of square feet of new stu­dio space in Brook­lyn, Queens and Staten Is­land have been built in the past three years or are planned.

Alan Suna, whose Queens­based

Sil­ver­cup Stu­dios has 23 stages where TV se­ries such as 30 Rock, Mad Men and The So­pra­nos have been shot, said there’s plenty of ex­ist­ing space to meet de­mand.

“Ev­ery TV show that has tried to find a home in New York has been able to find one,” he said.

Money would be bet­ter spent train­ing work­ers, said Dou­glas Steiner, whose Steiner Stu­dios has part­nered with Brook­lyn Col­lege, a di­vi­sion of the City University of New York, to of­fer a Mas­ter of Fine Arts de­gree in film­mak­ing.

“We brought this in­dus­try back from the dead,” said Steiner, whose 26 acres in­side the for­mer Brook­lyn Navy Yard is the largest sound­stage fa­cil­ity out­side Hol­ly­wood. “Given the huge in­vest­ment and risk we took, I’m not crazy about com­pet­ing with the city.”

James Patch­ett, pres­i­dent of the city’s Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment

Corp., says Steiner owes his com­pany’s pros­per­ity in part to in­ex­pen­sive leases on city-owned land and other gov­ern­ment help. Large stu­dio own­ers op­pose de Bla­sio’s plan be­cause they want to sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion, he said dur­ing a May 31 Crain’s mag­a­zine break­fast.

Patch­ett’s swipe at the larger stu­dios showed “a fun­da­men­tal lack of un­der­stand­ing of our in­dus­try,” Steiner said, count­ing dozens of large and small com­peti­tors within the city or an hour’s drive. His com­pany has six sound­stages un­der con­struc­tion and plans for at least 11 more, he said.

John Ford, who rep­re­sents 3,700 mo­tion pic­ture work­ers as pres­i­dent of Lo­cal 52 of the In­ter­na­tional Al­liance of The­atri­cal Stage Em­ploy­ees, said more stu­dios would cre­ate more jobs. Smaller stu­dios also sup­port de Bla­sio’s plan.

“With real es­tate so ex­pen­sive we wel­come a chance to

bid on op­er­at­ing a city-owned site,” said Peter Kap­salis, CEO of Brook­lyn’s Cine Magic East River Stu­dios, where Show­time’s Home­land and Bil­lions are shot.

East­ern Ef­fects, home to FX’s The Amer­i­cans, must move to ac­com­mo­date a fed­eral EPA cleanup of Brook­lyn’s pol­luted Gowanus Canal, so to owner Scott Levy, “the prospect of 100,000 square feet of in­ex­pen­sive pro­duc­tion space in what’s now an un­der­uti­lized prop­erty would be an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity.”

De Bla­sio’s plan has cre­ated anx­i­ety among the 100-plus work­ers in­side an old ware­house that’s part of a 36-acre, 11-build­ing Sun­set Park area known as the Bush Ter­mi­nal. All in­hab­i­tants must va­cate by Aug. 31 while the city re­ha­bil­i­tates the build­ing.

Glau­cio Silva, who owns a high-end wood­work­ing shop there, said he’ll have to spend $30,000 to move his equip­ment to tem­po­rary space sev­eral miles away, and he’s not sure how many of his 25 work­ers he’ll be able to keep.

Silva said that when de Bla­sio showed up there for a Fe­bru­ary news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing his plan, ten­ants weren’t in­vited and were told the event was only for the press.

“We didn’t get a chance to ask our ques­tions,” he said.

De Bla­sio’s ef­forts could help non­col­lege-ed­u­cated New York­ers find scarce well-pay­ing jobs, but only if the strat­egy doesn’t have a neg­a­tive im­pact on ex­ist­ing busi­nesses, said Jonathan Bowles, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for an Ur­ban Fu­ture, an eco­nomic-re­search group.

“It would be a shame if these well-in­ten­tioned plans were to cre­ate dif­fi­cul­ties for the film com­pa­nies we have,” Bowles said.

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