Op-Ed: Brooklyn’s proving naysayers wrong

January 10, 2024

As New York City, and Brooklyn in particular, have recovered from the economic and social ramifications of COVID-19, it’s clear our borough and our city are back and stronger than ever,  Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers writes for the Daily News.


January 4, 2024 at 5:00 a.m.

As we turn the page to a new year, it’s worth looking back at how New York is faring. As New York City, and Brooklyn in particular, have recovered from the economic and social ramifications of COVID-19, it’s clear our borough and our city are back and stronger than ever.

While naysayers and the tabloid media regularly paint a bleak picture of the city’s declining future (pointing to high crime, taxation, and an exodus of residents to Florida and California), that vision doesn’t square with reality.

The numbers tell a much more optimistic story. Subway ridership and airport travel are both up significantly. The MTA recently reported the greatest weekend ridership on record. The number of jobs is now at an all-time high, while wage earnings are growing at a healthy rate. Since Mayor Adams took office, the city has added more than 282,000 new private sector jobs, up from pre-pandemic levels.

This progress is not just numerical; in Brooklyn, it is tangible. Our borough is on the verge of an economic renaissance, with the explosive growth of small businesses and cutting-edge industries. Areas that were once abandoned or underutilized like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Industry City in Sunset Park, have been transformed into hubs for innovation, housing a multitude of tech companies and manufacturing startups.

In Southeast Brooklyn, the historic Kings Plaza is booming and the Tompkins Avenue Merchants’ Association has created one of the most successful Open Streets, where you can see 3,000 people on any given Sunday. 

With this transformation has also come a surge in small businesses, with everything from artisanal cafes to boutique shops, turning places that were once vacant into vacation destinations. It is notable that in Kings County, we saw more than 53,000 new business applications in 2021 alone per data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the most in all of New York. 

Of course, issues remain. Retail theft remains too high, with the victims just as often to be small mom-and-pop grocery store owners as they are to be larger chain stores. One recent report put shoplifting in New York City as the largest reported increase as any major city.

There are also always continuing fears that a far-left leaning City Council will seek to promote anti-business legislation that disproportionately impacts small businesses in a negative way, especially immigrant and minority-owned businesses.

Thankfully, the Adams administration is taking these issues head on, starting with his Retail Theft Report and doubling down on the effort with a task force staffed aimed squarely at combating retail theft. It also appears that the mayor will stand up to the City Council’s efforts to make our communities less safe, using the power of the veto to try and stop legislation burdening the NYPD with unrealistic reporting mandates.

The mayor also deserves credit for taking on violent crime, investing in neighborhoods and getting real results. There was a 25% reduction in shootings last year and burglaries in Brooklyn are down more than 21% following increased policing efforts. Serious efforts to increase livability by punishing offenses like assaults and harassment, paired with a renewed commitment to mental health services, have led to positive outcomes. 

The city and state also made considerable investments to boost the economic future in Brooklyn’s historically underserved neighborhoods. This includes a nearly $500 million investment in the area around the Broadway Junction subway station to create a vibrant public space, with family-sustaining jobs, and unlock economic growth throughout East New York.

There’s also the mayor’s City of Yes zoning proposals. If approved by the City Council, these will rekindle private investment across the city, creating new affordable housing while promoting sustainability. 

There is plenty of work to do to continue to improve our economic future, especially for small businesses. That’s why we’re working with the four other leaders of the city’s Chambers of Commerce as part of the Small Business Resource Network (SBRN). The SBRN has served more than 50,000 small businesses citywide, connecting them to support in the areas of financing, marketing, legal assistance, and technology support. 

New York City and Brooklyn have been on a steady path of improvement and growth for more than a century. That has not changed. Historically, betting against our success has always been a bad bet.

As we look forward in this new year, let us remember that New York City’s spirit is not easily dimmed, and it continues to be a beacon of opportunity for those who dare to dream and build their businesses in our remarkable, irreplaceable metropolis.

Peers is the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

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