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Budget Cuts Threaten Future of Industrial Businesses in North Brooklyn

By Meredith Hoffman | April 15, 2013 7:00am | Updated on April 17, 2013 11:50am

WILLIAMSBURG — It's 113 years since the Filiberto family started collecting trash in New York City, but city cuts are close to forcing them to move their business to New Jersey.

"We've already cut our workforce by about 20 percent," the East Williamsburg refuse company Filco's Vice-President John Okun said, blaming the city's scaling back of tax incentives for industrial businesses.

"Our ownership is always talking about leaving."

Filco and other North Brooklyn manufacturers —  which employ 35 percent of the local workforce, 2010 census data shows — risk losing all their financial incentives this summer if the city stops funding Industrial Business Zones (known as IBZ) in its proposed budget cuts, Okun said.

The cut would end funding to the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Corporation (EWVIDCO), which Okun said has helped clean-up his neighborhood, advertise his business, avoid thousands of dollars in fines and find staff.

"They put together a massive clean-up effort to clean up our street," said Okun of Gardner Avenue.

"Without them having done that we would have left this area."

Okun, other business owners, Williamsburg and Greenpoint's Community Board 1 and EWVIDCO's director have written letters to protest funding cuts that would cause  EWVIDCO to severely "scale back" its work.

"It's really hard to do business in New York City and it's really expensive," EWVIDCO's executive director Leah Archibald said, noting that her organization helps manufacturers find affordable real estate, employees and necessary services.

"They could go to New Jersey, but we think it's really important they stay in business here because they employ so many of our community's residents."

Okun wrote in his letter that "without the IBZ program and EWVIDCO’s overall assistance, Filco would have relocated to New Jersey, taking away 120 jobs and millions of dollars in primary and secondary NYC purchases, investments and tax revenues."

The Greenpoint-based safety consulting firm Safety Dynamics wrote to the city that EWVIDCO had been essential to the 6-year-old business' survival.

"Earlier this year we closed on a loan that allowed us to purchase a buiding on Humboldt Street. ...EWVIDCO played a prominent role in that deal," said Safety Dynamics' president Christian Bittar of the company's expansion in the neighborhood.

"Organizations like EWVIDCO are enormously important if the city wishes to retain industrial businesses."

Archibald said EWVIDCO currently serves more than 300 industrial businesses in the area.

"Our businesses report that about 40 percent of their workforce lives locally," she said. "Our community needs these jobs."

A representative from the Mayor's Office for Small Business Services said there were other incentives in place for such businesses from the Economic Development Corporation. She said the city would consider changing its planned cuts.

"We provide extensive services to industrial businesses," said the representative, Merideth Weber. "We are currently evaluating the IBZ contracts and continued funding."