Sunset Park

One politician could decide the fate of Industry City’s rezoning

Councilmember Menchaca "holds all the cards."

July 23, 2019 Scott Enman
Industry City's courtyard. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

A redevelopment process that has been debated for months with broad implications for one of New York City’s most diverse neighborhoods will come down to the decision of a single person.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park, will have the final say on whether to kill or approve Industry City’s rezoning application, a proposal that seeks to transform the waterfront industrial site into an “innovation economy” hub characterized by makers, creatives, retailers and academic spaces.

At a Community Board 7 meeting on Wednesday — held to discuss Industry City’s ULURP application — George Janes, an urban planner and zoning lawyer, stressed just how much power Menchaca wields.

“The most important person in this room, or in this process, is the councilmember,” Janes said. “That’s the person who really holds all the cards. … He’ll be negotiating benefits and/or changes, and can be your best friend — and you want to make that person your best friend.”

The rezoning application is expected to come before the community board in the fall, after it’s been certified by the Department of City Planning. The board will then have 60 days to review it before making a decision.

Janes argued that a well-written recommendation on the record would be difficult for the other parties to ignore.

“Yes, your vote is advisory, but you speak first,” he told the board. “You set that agenda. You’re an essential part of this process. I can’t say how important it is. … The first question the borough president, the City Planning Commission and councilmembers ask is: ‘What did the community board say?’”

After the community board makes its decision, Borough President Eric Adams will have 30 days to give his recommendation, which will also be purely advisory.

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A spokesperson for Adams told the Brooklyn Eagle that he would take into account all of the community feedback that his office has and will receive, including the community board review.

After he submits his recommendation, the City Planning Commission will have 60 days to approve, kill, or make changes within the scope of the rezoning.

Finally, the application will go before the City Council, where the councilmembers will defer to Menchaca, according to Janes, who said the Sunset Park politician would have 50 days to make a decision.

“All the City Council members are going to vote, but really only one person matters, and that’s your councilmember,” Janes said. “They have the power to change, kill it or approve it. They also have the power to roll back CPC’s changes. He could overrule the city planning commission.”

(Any alterations at that stage would be very minor and limited in their scope, according to Janes.)

Industry City. Photo by Paul Frangipane
The exterior of Industry City. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Were Menchaca to approve the application, it would then go to the desk of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would likely recommend it, according to Janes, adding that the mayor would only dissent in extraordinary circumstances.

Menchaca has not said which way he is leaning, but on Sept. 9, he will give a presentation articulating his perspective on the project.

In an April interview, Menchaca told the Eagle that it is imperative to dig deeper into how the rezoning would affect Sunset Park, especially in light of how development projects have affected other neighborhoods across New York. He said that because Industry City’s rezoning is larger than most projects, it would be necessary to move forward cautiously.

“Right now we know Industry City’s presence in Sunset Park has already contributed to making the neighborhood less affordable,” he said. “If the rezoning hyper charges these trends, the best-case scenario may be no rezoning.

“However, if it turns out that the rezoning, or some version of it, would actually benefit Sunset Park by keeping families in their homes and winning them higher paying jobs, then that would be best case.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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