Sunset Park

City tosses Sunset Park waterfront development plan overboard

Menchaca, EDC at odds over details of proposal

January 9, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sunset Park Councilmember Carlos Menchaca charged that the Economic Development Corporation balked at the idea of giving the community a say in the development of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, a charge EDC officials denied. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

A $115 million plan to redevelop the Sunset Park waterfront was torpedoed after a dispute erupted between Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) over the details of the project.

Menchaca charged that the EDC “walked away from the table” and scrapped the proposal to redevelop the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park because the agency was unwilling yield to his demand to give the Sunset Park community a say in the planning process.

But EDC officials leveled a countercharge, saying that that Menchaca refused the agency’s plan to have the Sunset Park community board, Board Seven, serve as the local voice for the project. Instead, EDC officials told Crain’s New York Business, the councilmember pushed for the establishment of a development corporation, a panel that he would control, to oversee the terminal.

The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is located on the waterfront near 32nd Street. The redevelopment proposal called for the reactivation of maritime services that would have specializing in handling automobiles and other cargo at the 88-acre site. In addition, the plans called for the construction of a municipal recycling facility. The redevelopment would have created 300 jobs on the waterfront, officials said.

Menchaca told his side of the story in a statement he issued on Jan. 7.

“Today, in the face of enormous pressure from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), I stood strong and asked them to withdraw their request for a 49-year master lease for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT). I made it clear to the EDC that our community deserves better,” Menchaca wrote in the statement.

EDC was seeking City Council approval of a 49-year lease for the marine terminal.

Menchaca claimed that EDC was seeking to “officially remove our charter-mandated voice through the City Council for 49 years (that’s 12 council member terms) on the future of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) by replacing it with a process that is non-binding” and that such a position was unacceptable.

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“I also asked for a serious job training program that would target Sunset Park residents enhancing the walk-to- work immigrant community, reinvesting a small portion of the revenue generated from the lease that would improve our open spaces and public infrastructure, and to begin a conversation about our vision (similar to the Brooklyn Navy Yard) to create a local entity that would govern over publicly-owned sites like SBMT making it accountable to the community and act as an honest steward for the next generation of residents and small businesses for Sunset Park,” Menchaca wrote in his statement.

Kyle Kimball, president and CEO of the EDC, told Crain’s that the agency found Menchaca’s demand for the creation of a development corporation “confounding.”

The dispute also played out over Facebook, where Menchaca posted his statement and where Kimball responded. Kimball wrote on the councilmember’s Facebook page that a development corporation “would have lacked transparency, to the specific exclusion of the Sunset Park community board.”

Tony Giordano, president of the civic group Sunset Park Restoration, sided with Menchaca. “I stand firmly with Councilmember Menchaca. His position is principled and wise,” Giordano told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Giordano said he opposed the idea of EDC getting a “master lease” for South Brooklyn Marine Terminal for 49 years. “That may not sound too threatening to the average person, but what it means is they would have total control over what uses the property is put to with zero oversight. The City Council would have no word in any transactions for the next two generations,” he told the Eagle.

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