Activists plead: Don’t turn Sunset Park into Williamsburg
Groups raise concerns that Industry City plan will bring gentrification
An ambitious plan to re-develop Industry City and turn the Sunset Park complex into a hub for emerging businesses, technology firms and artists is drawing sharp criticism from environmental groups, housing advocates and labor leaders who charge that the proposal will turn the working class neighborhood into another upscale, trendy, hipster haven like Williamsburg.
Leaders of groups like the United Puerto Rican Organizations of Sunset Park (UPROSE) and Neighbors Helping Neighbors said they’re worried that the revamping of Industry City will push working class residents out of Sunset Park. The groups held a press conference in Sunset Park on March 22 to voice their concerns.
“As a longtime resident of Sunset Park who has personally experienced displacement and as a neighborhood tenant advocate, the announcement causes great concern. Over the last few years, tenants in our community have increasingly been pushed out by high rent increases and illegal harassment tactics,” said Marcela Mitaynes, a member of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “Even though the proposal doesn’t call for housing on the waterfront the mere announcement of a re-zoning and a billion dollars of private investment is already increasing speculation on the upland residential portion of the community.”
The owners of Industry City – Belevedere Capital, Jamestown Properties, Angelo Gordon, Cammeby’s International and FBE Limited – are pumping $1 billion into the complex, Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City, revealed at a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce meeting on March 9.
Industry City is a collection of 16 warehouses spread out over 40 acres located between 31st and 40th streets next to the Sunset Park waterfront.
The goal of the re-development plan is to entice new businesses to rent space in Industry City, according to Kimball, who said the owners are also eyeing the establishment of university-based academic training centers at the site and plan to construct a new hotel and parking lot, among other amenities. The city would have to agree to change the zoning in Industry City before a hotel could be built.
The property owners will also ask the de Blasio Administration to fund improvements to the streets and sidewalks in an around Industry City. The proposal calls for elevated, eight-foot-wide sidewalks, the construction of 33 new loading docks, a ferry slip at 39th Street and the creation new bike lanes in the area.
But UPROSE and the other groups expressed concern that the $1 billion retail and hotel development plan will bring gentrification and will result in skyrocketing rents, wealthy newcomers flooding into the community and dwindling economic opportunities for current Sunset Park residents.
“The $1 billion dollar mega project proposed by Jamestown represents one of the largest industrial waterfront proposals for the Brooklyn waterfront in decades with recommendations that are inconsistent with a working class industrial waterfront,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE. “Given the public subsidies and public land use authorizations sought by Jamestown, we urge our elected officials to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Jamestown and demand specific details about their proposal before committing to an idea that may result in large scale displacement of residents and local businesses.”
Labor leaders said they’re concerned about losing jobs on the waterfront.
“Our families have always counted on Brooklyn’s ports for good, union jobs, but we are concerned that this proposal could put those jobs at risk. Workers in other neighborhoods have seen condos and retail replace their industrial jobs. Sunset Park deserves better,” said John Ulrich, vice president of Teamsters Local 812
A spokesperson for Industry City emailed a statement to the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday in response to the concerns raised at the March 22 press conference.
“After decades of decline, Industry City is once again poised for an era of economic growth and opportunity. It is gratifying that the conversation about creating jobs continues, and we look forward to advancing the discussion on how to best achieve our common vision of creating jobs for the community,” the statement read.
At the March 9 meeting, Kimball predicted that the re-development plan will create 20,000 jobs and that many of those jobs will go to Sunset Park residents.
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