Sunset Park

Industry City regroups: Will demands of local politico halt new job creation?

July 30, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
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After years of planning, heated meetings and amended proposals, plans for the Industry City rezoning proposal may be scrapped. 

Politico reported that the owners of the massive waterfront space, Jamestown, Angelo Gordon and Belvedere Capital, were beginning to have doubts about going ahead with the rezoning plans.

Here’s where the opposing factions stood last year, in their own words.

“A number of convergent factors are causing Industry City to question whether or not it should pursue the rezoning,” Lee Silberstein, a spokesperson for Industry City, told Politico. “First, the price of conditions set by elected officials in their attempt to appease even the most unreasonable constituents is very high. That, combined with the fact that companies allowed under current zoning continue to show interest in the campus, raises the question as to whether the application should be pulled.”

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The following day, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca announced in an Instagram video that he is opposing the rezoning.

“From the beginning, I was highly skeptical but I decided to engage through the city’s rezoning procedure, called ULURP, which was paused during the pandemic,” he said. “I spoke with residents and business owners in Sunset Park and made it very clear that I would not support Industry City’s rezoning unless certain conditions were met. Those conditions were not met.

“Industry City would make it harder for working people to live in Sunset Park. Our city land use process favors corporate developers as they profit off the displacement of working class New Yorkers, so I strongly oppose this application and will vote no if it comes before the City Council,” he said.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook). Photo: Arthur DeGaeta/Brooklyn Eagle

Menchaca is requesting that Industry City officially remove its rezoning application before the mayor restarts the ULURP process next month. 

“It is clear to me that the displacement and gentrification the city is combating today is the result of giving private developers free reign,” he said. “We must learn from our mistakes and deliver what Sunset Parkers really need: stable housing, access to affordable and nutritious food, guaranteed health care and good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.”

Following Menchaca’s statement, Silberstein added, “It is abundantly clear that New York City is being challenged by the combining impacts of the greatest crises the city has ever faced: a pandemic that the city was not prepared to fight; a staggering loss of jobs leaving, by some estimates, more than one in five New Yorkers without work; and a revenue shortfall that will cripple government’s ability to fully provide essential services for decades.

“Often, in times of great crisis, great leaders emerge. We are hoping that will be the case in our effort to work with city leaders to fully implement a plan to create 20,000 jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.”

Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said, “After four months of economic devastation, the borough urgently needs forward-thinking projects that will stimulate economic development and create jobs and opportunities in our neighborhoods, especially in communities of color. 

“Turning our backs on the 20,000 new jobs, added workforce development programs and more community-focused investments, is nearsighted and irresponsible leadership,” he said.  

In January 2019, the plan was for a 10-year, $1 billion redevelopment that would increase the area’s total usable square footage from 5.3 to 6.6 million square feet and create 15,000 on-site jobs through the building of hotels, additional retail space and academic centers.

Menchaca said the proposal would be dead without concessions, such as no hotels, a reduction in the amount of retail space and the creation of a “manufacturing hub” that would be managed by a nonprofit. Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball agreed to modify the expansion plan.

Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress, said, “Since Industry City first proposed its plan for 20,000 jobs several years ago, it has engaged in good faith with decision makers and community stakeholders to create opportunity in Sunset Park – agreeing to preserve space for manufacturing, limit the amount of retail, continue its extensive job training and negotiate a binding community benefits agreement. 

“Now, with one in five New Yorkers out of work, the question we all must consider is: How can we reject the 20,000 jobs this project creates?”

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