Industry City reps make final push for expansion, but critics remain skeptical
Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball made one final push on Monday night to convince Community Board 7 to vote yes on a rezoning application that has divided many in the Sunset Park community.
At a three-hour public hearing hosted by the board, Kimball, along with hundreds of attendees, articulated why they think the industrial complex’s expansion plan should be approved or not.
With the deadline looming for the board to make a formal recommendation about the project, Kimball reiterated his intent to modify the plan with concessions, as well as to engage in a community benefits agreement, saying a “rezoning with concessions and a CBA results in greater benefits for the community than as-of-right-development.”
Kimball’s team also attempted to assuage fears that he or another developer in the future would try to make changes to the application.
“Are we doing this permit so we can then go in later somehow and modify it, without going through the full process? That’s not the case,” said Ethan Goodman, an urban planner at Fox Rothschild. “A new ULURP would be required if Industry City wanted any more retail, any more academic space, more hotels, we would have to go back to ULURP.”
Industry City’s proposal is for a $1 billion redevelopment that would add roughly 1.3 million square feet of space to the complex by 2027. The land use application currently includes academic space and hotels, and expanding “innovation economy” maker spaces and retail. Backers say these changes would help bring in investment and tenants that will drive job growth. Kimball said they expect to create more than 20,000 jobs through the redevelopment.
CB7 is currently reviewing the land use application. It has 60 days to assess it, before providing an advisory decision on Jan. 6.
“We have demonstrated a willingness to work with Community Board 7 and others, and believe that by working together, we can achieve a final outcome that is beneficial to all,” Kimball said.
Critics of the plan, however, say the rezoning could dramatically reshape Sunset Park, exacerbating displacement and gentrification in the largely immigrant low-income neighborhood. They argue any changes to the Brooklyn waterfront should be geared toward adapting to climate change, protecting blue-collar jobs and preserving the working-class character of the area.
Members of Protect Sunset Park, a grassroots organization staunchly against the expansion, stood in the aisles holding up various signs against the rezoning. Union members, and those in support of the plan, countered with their own placards.
A truck with a video board on its side displayed images in support of the rezoning outside the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope.
Due to time constraints, the forum was forced to end at 9 p.m. with some people unable to speak. CB7 will be hosting an extension of the meeting at its office on Wednesday.
Sunset Park resident and State Assembly candidate Marcela Mitaynes told the Brooklyn Eagle that it’s difficult for residents to compete with Industry City’s resources, but she said she hopes that their personal stories and struggles will convince the board to vote no. She also said the meeting’s location and time made it difficult for some to attend.
“It’s really hard,” she said. “It’s late. Some people are still working. We’re not even given a fighting chance. That’s why some people are testifying their personal experiences. This for us is our livelihood. If we get displaced, it’s very difficult to find another home. There’s so much competition. There’s harassment happening.”
Jorge Muñiz of Protect Sunset Park said the board’s choice to host the event outside the neighborhood on a weeknight in a private venue with time constraints prevented many people from speaking. Though residents will have another opportunity to present their thoughts on Wednesday at the board’s office, Muñiz’ group is also hosting its own event this weekend.
“The city’s first public hearing on a plan to privatize our waterfront failed to hear from many voices and so we’re organizing our own people’s forum next weekend,” he said. “Instead of Park Slope, we’ll be at Our Lady of Perpetual Help which graciously opened its doors to hear from all this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in Sunset Park and we invite everyone.”
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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