Fans and critics speak out about Industry City’s development plan
Sunset Park complex's proposed rezoning is dissected at City Planning Department hearing
Industry City’s owners have big plans for development.
Two hotels. Academic facilities. Large stores.
The Sunset Park waterfront manufacturing and office complex must be rezoned in order for them to carry out their plans, which would add about 1.27 million square feet of space to the historic complex.
On Tuesday, supporters and opponents of the proposed rezoning turned out in full force at a Department of City Planning hearing held in Lower Manhattan.
The hearing marked the start of the public review process that’s required when property owners seek zoning changes.
At the hearing, Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, expressed his enthusiastic support for the planned development, saying it will bring job growth.
So did John Reynolds of Motivate, which has moved its corporate headquarters to Industry City. The company operates the Citi Bike program.
Industrial jobs are Sunset Park’s ‘lifeblood,’ City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca says
The councilmember who represents City Council District 38, where Industry City is located, doesn’t share their enthusiasm.
“We must keep the industry on the Sunset Park waterfront,” City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca testified during the public hearing’s afternoon session. “We must keep the ‘Industry’ in Industry City.”
Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook, Greenwood Heights and parts of Borough Park, Dyker Heights and Windsor Terrace) called industrial jobs “the lifeblood of Sunset Park” and noted that only 20 percent of adults living in the neighborhood have college degrees.
He urged the Department of City Planning to broaden the geographic area of a required study about the environmental impact of Industry City’s proposed development.
And the possibility of residential displacement should be studied as well, he said, because if industrial uses are pushed out of Sunset Park, the residents who rely on industrial jobs will also be pushed out of the neighborhood.
Menchaca’s testimony was significant because zoning changes must be approved by the City Council.
Several other people who testified at the hearing also said the environmental-impact study’s geographic area should be broadened and the possibility of residential displacement should be examined.
One of them was Armando Moritz-Chapelliquen of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, an umbrella organization of non-profit affordable-housing and economic-development groups.
One of them, Sunset Park resident Aru Apaza, said she’s “outraged and deeply saddened” by Industry City’s proposed development, which would drive people like her out of the neighborhood.
One of them, Ryan Chavez of UPROSE, an inter-generational, multiracial grassroots organization, said, “We are very concerned about the impacts of this proposed rezoning on climate resiliency, industrial business retention and environmental quality in Sunset Park.”
Kelly Anderson, a Hunter College professor and Sunset Park resident who also called for the scope of the impact study to be widened, said that development at Industry City could “decimate the community.”
Working to create an ‘Innovation Economy’ hub
Industry City’s owners, led by Belvedere Capital and Jamestown, have been working since 2013 to revitalize the complex and bring in new tenants.
The owners, repped by Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball, argue that the addition of hotels, academic facilities and large-scale retailers would support the complex’s continuing transformation into an “Innovation Economy hub,” as Kimball calls it.
Innovation Economy businesses do a mix of light manufacturing, research and development and engineering and design in fields including art, film, TV, fashion, tech, food production and retail products, Kimball told reporters in a media briefing on Monday. See related story.
Tenants past and present have differing opinions
But dozens of artists were forced out of Industry City after the current owners took possession of the property, Jenny Dubnau testified at Tuesday’s City Planning Department hearing.
A group of those artists — including Dubnau — created the Artist Studio Affordability Project, also known as ASAP. Its members support tenant coalitions and arts organizations at protests and public forums and work with political leaders and community groups to form support networks for artists.
In her testimony, Dubnau, a Yale-educated painter and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, said the proposed rezoning is essentially a “luxury rezoning.”
Several current Industry City tenants — whose businesses could be considered to be part of the Innovation Economy — voiced their support for the complex’s proposed expansion and rezoning.
They included Jack Flam, president and CEO of the Dedalus Foundation, which runs arts-education programs at its Industry City facility.
Industry City tenant Jason DeSalvo, a partner at Fodera Guitars, said some amount of affordable manufacturing space should be mandated in the rezoning.
Dawn Casale, a co-owner of One Girl Cookies, said there has been a “huge turnaround” at Industry City and now it’s “a place where people want to work.”
Yonatan Israel of Colson Patisserie said, “Our company has blossomed the same way Industry City has.”
Jennie Dundas, the co-founder of Blue Marble Ice Cream, said she was nervous when Industry City’s current owners took possession of the property. But they’ve helped her grow her business.