Sunset Park

Opinions & observations: Brooklyn can’t afford to say no to Industry City

August 4, 2020 Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.
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Every day for the past five months, many of my 2.5 million Brooklyn neighbors have woken up and wondered “what happens next?” What will become of our borough’s schools, our hospitals, our local social service agencies and our shuttered small businesses in the wake of the greatest crisis to face our City in a century? Millions are out of work and where will new jobs even come from? How will we pay for the health care, food banks and senior centers our most vulnerable citizens so desperately rely on?

As a lifelong New Yorker, I wake up with exactly the same concerns. But as a member of the New York City Council, I also have a unique responsibility to take these concerns and work to translate them into concrete actions that can help to guide us through these incredibly challenging times. I owe it to my fellow Brooklynites to do what I believe is right for them — even if it might ruffle some feathers or challenge long-time City Council traditions – and so that’s why I’ve chosen to support Industry City’s rezoning application in Sunset Park.

I recently sent a letter to all of my City Council colleagues urging them to join me in supporting job creation in Brooklyn and explaining exactly why their bold leadership was needed now more than ever. I reminded them that many of us sat in the Council chambers during the fight over Amazon coming to Long Island City and made it clear that while we absolutely were supportive of the creation of tens of thousands of new private sector jobs in New York City, we also had a larger responsibility to ensure that local residents were prepared for and connected to those jobs; that we expected employers to act responsibly and engage respectfully with their surrounding communities; and that the process for reviewing major development projects needed to be fully transparent and involve local stakeholders … including the New York City Council.

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Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. Photo courtesy of the councilmember’s office

Industry City absolutely checks every one of those boxes. It will create 20,000 jobs and $100 million in new annual tax revenue with no public subsidy whatsoever. They already have provided free job training and placement to thousands of Brooklyn residents through their Innovation Lab and have participated in more public forums than any other development project in memory. And they publicly committed to a binding Community Benefits Agreement and a list of more than 10 conditions proposed by the local Councilmember and Community Board … all before ever even beginning the City’s formal land use process!

In the pre-pandemic world, this was already a precedent-setting example of responsible development in our borough that would have been an important project for Brooklyn’s economic future. Now, in the face of a financial crisis unlike anything since the Great Depression, it is an absolute necessity.

We find ourselves at a historically precarious junction and it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the City Council is now faced with a decision that will help to determine which economic path our City ultimately takes. And if we’ve learned one thing over the past several months, it’s that in a crisis of generational proportions, the City and its institutions can no longer afford to default to “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” This pandemic has forced us to think anew about what’s best for the greater good of our borough, our city and all of our residents – not just those within a few square blocks of a proposed development – and within that context I believe the choice for the City Council on Industry City’s proposal should be clear.

Read the Eagle’s latest coverage of the Industry City debate, “Industry City regroups: Will demands of local politico halt new job creation?”

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