Brooklyn Brewery C.E.O. Steve Hindy lately has been eyeballing an abandoned lot along the Gowanus Canal. The site of a demolished gas plant, the fenced-off eight-acre expanse of rubble, strewn with old tires and bundles of dumped newspapers, is overgrown with weeds and shrubs that somehow flourish in soil contaminated with coal tar and cyanide.
What better place for manufacturing potent potions?
It’s a far cry from the scenic Red Hook waterfront. But it sure beats Williamsburg!
“I’m being priced out of this neighborhood,” Mr. Hindy said one May afternoon at the local brewing company’s present headquarters on North 11th Street in the ’Burg.
The rent on his existing 20,000-square-foot microbrewery and 35,000-square-foot warehouse across the street is “already three times what it was when we came” in 1996. And counting.
Ironically, Mr. Hindy himself may bear some responsibility for further exacerbating the already steep rents that are now forcing his local brewing operation to seek new digs elsewhere.
In addition to sponsoring block parties and music festivals that, in the words of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “helped make Williamsburg hip,” the Brooklyn beer magnate was also an outspoken supporter of a massive neighborhood rezoning—debated for years before finally being approved in 2005—that didn’t exactly work out the way he envisioned.
“By establishing industrial business zones, the rezoning should have protected businesses like mine,” Mr. Hindy said. “But by allowing hotels, banks, and chain stores in the zones, it pushed up rents.”
The man credited with bringing brewing back to Brooklyn, where beer factories once thrived pre-Prohibition, has been cheering on big development a lot lately.
His vocal support for developer Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project, in particular, drew the ire of some of his most devoted customers and even prompted a small-scale boycott of his hallowed local brews.
But don’t fret over the fate of this small businessman: He stands to sell plenty of beer at Mr. Ratner’s new sports arena, not to mention the soon-to-be-redeveloped Coney Island. Oh, and that 40,000-square-foot beer garden that Mr. Hindy plans to build alongside an even bigger brewery, once the city finds him a suitable location.
The politicking brewmeister, whose brand reaches 16 states and at least nine countries (“We sell in Turkey, if you can believe it”), has a message for all the borough’s batophobes: “People who think that suddenly small industry is gonna spring up around Brooklyn are kidding themselves.”
It’s a message that’s heartened many developers and their Brooklyn backers, both inside and outside of government.
On June 6, the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corp. will honor Mr. Hindy as its “Community Leader of the Year.”
“He’s become an outspoken spokesperson on behalf of the needs of manufacturers and the 200,000 working-class jobs that they represent in New York City,” said Leah Archibald, associate director of the industry group, which counts Mr. Ratner’s allies at the Empire State Development Corp. among its main funding sources. “Brooklyn Brewery is constantly sponsoring and hosting events for the community at their site.”