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Brooklyn's empowerment zone application under consideration.

An application to create a federally designated "empowerment zone" for designated sections of Brooklyn was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week by an assemblage of public and private officials led by Governor George Pataki, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and four Members of Congress from Brooklyn.

HUD is expected to receive applications from more than 100 communities across the nation, from which 15 will be selected in this second round of the empowerment Zones, which were first created by the federal government in 1994.

Designation as an empowerment zone would make critical areas of Brooklyn eligible for substantial economic development benefits, including $230 million in tax-exempt financing for business and community development purposes; $100 million in Social Service Block Grants for use by nonprofit groups; and a variety of tax incentives for local hiring, environmental remediation, equipment purchasing and other purposes over a period of 10 years.

Nine major national and regional banks and two equity funds have pledged more than $1 billion in additional private-sector investment. In addition, a host of other businesses, community-based organizations and agencies of government have pledged other kinds of investment and assistance to meet the empowerment zone's goals.

The primary goal of the empowerment zone is to create jobs in Brooklyn by providing access to investment capital, training and other programs that attract new employers, and encourage existing companies and institutions to expand.

The effort to develop Brooklyn's extensive application was led by four Members of Congress - Edolphus Towns, Major Owens, Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler - supplemented by nine key private sector and community leaders.

The map proposed for the zone includes much of Brooklyn's industrial waterfront and other industrial areas; commercial centers such as downtown Brooklyn and MetroTech, extending to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Atlantic Center; cultural areas including Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; and health-care institutions, with a special focus on the area including Kings County Hospital and the SUNY/Downstate Health Center.

HUD guidelines define an empowerment zone as including areas that are pervasively poor. The zone's total population cannot exceed 200,000 people, but may include up to three "developable sites" beyond the population cap.

Upon designation, the Brooklyn Empowerment Zone Development Corporation would coordinate all of these programs and resources proposed by the application. Its Board will be composed of representatives of the Governor, the Mayor and four Members of Congress, and supplemented by a broadly drawn, diverse panel of citizens.

"Over the past five years, Brooklyn, like the rest of our city, has made a comeback, and bringing in the Empowerment Zone to Brooklyn will ensure the continuation of new growth and opportunity to the Borough," Mayor Giuliani said. "Recently, we opened the Brooklyn Renaissance Plaza, and the Marriott became the first new hotel to be built in Brooklyn in nearly 70 years. These new developments further reconfirm the faith that people and businesses now have in Brooklyn. I look forward to working with Congressman Towns on this important initiative and celebrating Brooklyn's Empowerment Zone designation next year."

Charles Hamm, president and CEO of the Independence Community Bank, who chaired the planning committee for the empowerment zone application, noted that private investment would be coordinated through the new Brooklyn Development Financing Facility. "Although Brooklyn's economy has seen many challenges, as business people interested in economic growth, we believe Brooklyn's assets remain substantial: world-class cultural, health and educational institutions, a revitalized and thriving downtown, a classically beautiful urban park, spectacular and potentially valuable waterfront, and thriving concentrations of industrial jobs," Hamm said. "This empowerment zone application is built on these strengths. Together with the empowerment zone's powerful resources, Brooklyn can sustain its historic role as a borough of opportunity, and continue its economic revitalization into the next century."

Brooklyn continues to be America's most diverse city - it would be the nation's fourth largest, were it not a borough of the City of New York - and the place from which one in seven Americans can trace a relative. Although its history includes periods during which high concentrations of manufacturing jobs - many of them on its extensive waterfront - gave Brooklyn residents their jobs, almost 23 percent of Brooklyn's 223 million residents now live below the poverty line, especially in those neighborhoods included in or adjacent to the proposed Empowerment Zone. Despite many stable middle-class neighborhoods, education and income levels now lag behind those of New York City as a whole, and Brooklyn's unemployment rate is the City's highest. Manufacturing now provides jobs for only one in eight employees, down from the rate in 1960 of one in three.

The empowerment zone application identities 23 programs to be launched if Brooklyn is designated. Those programs are organized around six themes: A Working City, A Waterfront City, A Well-Educated and Trained City, A City of Healthy Families and Healthy Communities, and A World City.

HUD is expected to make its designations sometime in 1999. In the first round, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment zone was designated in 1994 and began work in 1996.

Participating investors in the Brooklyn Development Financing Facility include: Bankers Trust Company, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Independence Community Bank, Community Capital Bank, FleetBank, Republic National Bank, M&T Bank, Greenpoint Savings Bank, New York City Investment Fund and New York Community Investment Corporation.

Copies of the Brooklyn Empowerment Zone application proposal are available for public review at the following locations: Brooklyn Office of the Department of City Planning (16 Court Street, 7th floor), Brooklyn Public Library (Grand Army Plaza and Downtown branches), Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon Street), Office of Congressman Adolphus Tower (545 Broadway, 2nd floor, 16 Court St., Suite 1501), Office of Congressman Major Owens (289 Utica Avenue), Office of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (815 Broadway), and the Office of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (2875 West 8th Street).
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Oct 28, 1998
Words:972
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