Economic growth in NY's Brooklyn holds lessons for cities

NEW YORK Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:08pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street may be the financial capital of the United States, but downtown Brooklyn, just across the East River, punches above its economic weight, a report showed Thursday.

Growth in private sector employment and wages in downtown Brooklyn outpaced the rest of New York City between 2003 and 2010, according to data analyzed by the New York State Comptroller's office. Wages in downtown Brooklyn grew 48 percent during that time, while wages in New York City's five boroughs grew by 38 percent.

The health care and social assistance sector employed the largest number of people, providing around one-third of the 77,260 jobs in the area. Education jobs grew by nearly 25 percent, and account for 11 percent of jobs in the area.

In the leisure and hospitality sector, thanks to a crop of new hotels, restaurants and cultural organizations, jobs grew by 54 percent.

Median household income in downtown Brooklyn rose by 40 percent between 2005 and 2010 to $71,790, nearly $30,000 higher than the rest of Brooklyn.

In recent years, tech companies and startups have flocked to areas like DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, drawn by rents per square foot that are less than half those in midtown Manhattan, according to real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank.

Downtown Brooklyn hosts the back-end operations of some of the largest financial service providers, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. While those sectors experienced job loss during the crisis, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that the loss of jobs was offset by gains in other parts of the economy, particularly the cultural sector. During the recession, downtown Brooklyn was spared the job losses that hit the rest of New York City.

"Don't view investments in arts and culture as simply aesthetic, or for quality of life," he said. "It is also an economic investment."

Comptroller DiNapoli said that collaboration between the public and private sectors bolstered the area's natural advantages, which include its historic neighborhoods, riverside land, and nearly a dozen higher educational institutions.

He cited the Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM, and its efforts to support smaller arts organizations in their orbit.

"BAM is a dominant arts and culture institution, but they don't elbow out other organizations," he said. "They work very hard to create more venues in the BAM network of buildings so other organizations can participate in a low-cost way."

With 2.53 million inhabitants, Brooklyn is New York's most populous borough.

(Reporting by Anna Louie Sussman; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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