Brooklyn’s Biotech Park Grows

Brooklyn's BioBAT Biotech Park

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may be robbing us of one of the things we like to gripe about: the slow pace of his administration’s  departure from its  initial narrow focus on residential, office, entertainment, and retail development, e.g., Willets Point, Coney Island, Hunters Point South and the Kingsbridge Armory Mall.

That’s what we concluded today when we saw Mr. Bloomberg join with SUNY Downstate Medical Center President John C. LaRosa at a press conference at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where they announced Phase II of BioBAT, the biotechnical industry facility that NYC’s Economic Development Corporation and Downstate are developing together.

Phase I was the tenancy of the International Aids Vaccine Initiative, which occupied almost 40,000 square feet of state-of-the-art laboratory space at the Sunset Park complex in 2008. Today’s event — which IAVI attended — acknowledged development of an additional 56,000 square feet for new bioscience tenants.

When BioBAT is completely built out, it will be a 486,000 square foot facility, intended to enable growing biotech companies to complete the transition from start-up to manufacturing. Typically, this transition starts with a biomedical research team that identifies a promising drug, instrument, or technique at an academic medical center such as Downstate, refines or prototypes it at a nearby biotechnical “incubator,” such as the one Downstate built adjacent to its East Flatbush campus, and then moves it into production in a larger industrial facility such as BioBAT.

John C. LaRosa and Eva Cramer

LaRosa and BioBAT President Eva Cramer — a Downstate researcher whose determination to develop BioBAT has earned her a pitbull reputation in New York biotech circles — share a vision that Brooklyn is the ideal place to grow a biotech industry. Fortunately, that vision is shared by State Senator Marty Golden and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, both of whom worked with Downstate to acquire funding and to convince NYC’s EDC that the Brooklyn Army Terminal — a 97-acre industrial park overlooking New York Harbor — was an ideal biotech site.

Prospective tenants, including L. Janet Milton, whose company, Apath, LLC, occupies space at Downstate’s incubator, already have expressed interest in Phase II, which is expected to be ready for occupancy next year.

BioBAT — and Manhattan’s East River Science Park, which is expected to open this fall — are designed to take advantage of the tremendous bioscience research activity already under way at the city’s nine academic medical centers.

Unlike a typical residential development project, which yields relatively few jobs once construction is completed, BioBAT will create more than 1,000 new ongoing jobs. Better yet: Most of those jobs will be for the middle class, which, in NYC, has seen itself shrink at an excessive rate over the past few decades.

During the BioBAT press conference, Mayor Bloomberg twice reminded his audience that New York City’s vitality benefits tremendously from the city’s immigrants. He bluntly said of the nation’s emerging anti-immigrant policies, “we’re committing suicide.” The nexus between immigrants and the BioBAT development: Both are important for the city’s economy — and its future.

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