Sunset Park residents call for unity with Industry City expansion plan
"We need to talk more, not yell at each other."
Following last month’s contentious town hall on Industry City’s rezoning, residents gathered on Thursday for a “Public Speak Out” — the first of several hosted by Community Board 7 — to candidly express their opinions on the controversial proposal. Though the room was evenly split between those who supported the plan and those who rejected it, there was a common theme: a call for unity.
The atmosphere inside P.S. 24’s auditorium was one of civility — vastly different from that of Sunset Park High School just a few weeks ago, which featured screaming, cursing and an abrupt ending.
The night marked a clear shift in the nature of the conversation, as denizens, fed up with yelling, pushed for more civil discussions.
Chris Taylor, a co-owner of Industry City tenant Li-Lac Chocolates, argued that it was imperative for the community to come together, saying compromise is not a “dirty word.”
“We’re all over the place on this rezoning proposal, but the one thing that is fair to say is that everyone is incredibly frustrated with the process,” he said. “It’s very long and drawn out. We can live with a ‘yes.’ We can live with a ‘no.’
“The one thing that frustrates the living daylight out of us, to be brutally honest, is all the screaming and all the shouting,” he added. “We need to work together to make it a better plan, not just constantly screaming at each other.”
He pointed to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal as an example of the neighborhood working collectively, and said that regardless of what one thinks of Industry City’s rezoning, the status quo is worse. The communities — on both sides of Third Avenue — he said, need to create a better plan.
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who represents the neighborhood, is no stranger to compromise, as he recently said Industry City’s rezoning could move forward, albeit with concessions he says would benefit the community. He was present at Thursday’s gathering and said he was encouraged by what he heard.
“Last night I watched and listened to neighbors come together and express their love and support for the community,” Menchaca told the Brooklyn Eagle. “It was incredibly humbling and gratifying. It was also an example of the kinds of conversations I’ve always known our community can have. They must and will continue.”
Other residents echoed Taylor and Menchaca’s remarks, commending the neighborhood, regardless of their position, for coming together and being civically engaged. People cheered and applauded for various stances throughout the meeting.
Tom Gebbia, an actor and bartender, who said he knows firsthand what unemployment is like, called for everyone to hear each other out.
“We need to talk more, not yell at each other,” he said. “I think we really need to do that. Let’s be friends, not adversaries. We live in the same community, so let’s look after each other.”
Resident George Cardona, in an impassioned speech, used a sports analogy to describe what needs to be done in the community.
“Do I agree with everything? No. But we’ve got to go forward and we’ve got to be able to agree,” he said. “I’m a Mets fan. One of my best friends is a Yankee fan, but we get along. They’re going to the playoffs, and I’m not, but hey, that’s part of life.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified George Cardona.
Clarification (Oct. 7): This article has been updated to reflect that Chris Taylor is an Industry City tenant.
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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