Industry City CEO announces withdrawal of rezoning application following letter by pols
After years of back and forth, dozens of town hall meetings and a nearly 12-hour City Council zoning meeting, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball announced late on Tuesday, Sept. 22 that IC has withdrawn its rezoning application.
“In late July, it became clear that a number of convergent factors were forcing us to rethink our request to have the property rezoned,” Kimball stated. “Now, despite strong support from a growing number of Council Members, the City Planning Commission, a broad coalition of Sunset Park residents and small businesses, and members of the clergy, as well as civic, business and labor leaders and many others who care about New York and its future, it is clear that the current political environment and a lack of leadership precludes a path forward for our rezoning proposal.”
The plan included $1 billion in private investment and expansion to 6.6 million square feet of rental space with the promise of creating 20,000 jobs.
“Over and over, we have heard from key decision makers that while the substance of the project is strong, the politics of the moment do not allow them to support any private development project,” Kimball’s statement added. “Even the historic nature of our commitments – which significantly elevated the bar for future development projects – and a seven-year record of creating jobs and opportunity weren’t enough to overcome purely political considerations. Sadly, in the context of one in five New Yorkers losing their jobs and the City’s fiscal crisis spiraling out of control, the leadership needed to approve this development failed to emerge. Therefore, we have decided to withdraw our application and proceed with as-of-right leasing options.”
The statement comes on the heels of a letter written by U.S. Reps., and other pols asking city council to stop the Industry City rezoning proposal.
Four U.S. Representatives, including Nydia M. Velázquez, Jerrold Nadler, Yvette D. Clarke, and Hakeem Jeffries, along with two state senators and four assemblymembers wrote a letter to city councilmembers and Mayor Bill de Blasio to express their opposition to the proposal.
“What the Sunset Park community has made clear is rezoning such a large portion of the waterfront for a single private actor is not in the best interests of the residents,” the letter stated.
During an 11-hour City Council hearing held via Zoom on Sept. 15 that featured supporters and opponents of the plan, Community Board 7 Chair Cesar Zuniga stated that despite several town hall meetings on rezoning and recommendations the community has presented, the rezoning has not been taken into serious consideration.
But Industry City business owners who also live in Sunset Park, and collectively employ thousands of workers, take issue with elected officials “carelessly opposing a private project that clearly works because they want to exercise more control over private enterprise” rather than encouraging the job creation it can produce.
“I’m part of the community and have lived here for 25 years,” said Jacqueline Capriles, owner of Diaz Electric, a woman-owned electrical contracting firm that employed 15 people pre-COVID. “My firm was in cramped quarters on Prospect Avenue until three years ago, when I moved to Industry City.
“Their Innovation Lab and job training program was what enabled us to grow,” she added. “And since I grew up here I can remember how depressed this neighborhood was before private investment improved the landscape. My daughter will grow up in a much healthier environment.”
Capriles says she was “shouted down” by organized protesters that would not allow open discussion at open meetings and community board hearings.
“Those of us who employ people are taxpayers, a vital part of the ecosystem of New York City,” she added, “How does it make sense to oppose a zoning change that allows the U.S. to grow?”
She says the politicians are responding to “the squeakiest wheel,” referring to opponents who say Industry City should yield more concessions.
The letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, co-signed by multiple politicians, is viewed by business owners as a ploy to stifle private enterprise.
“Some in your body have announced their support for Industry City’s rezoning, despite the views of the local Council Member and the community,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately, they appear to have done so while knowing little about the countless hours of work undertaken by the Sunset Park community and Community Board to study and debate it.”
The letter also added that Industry City doesn’t need a rezoning to bring jobs.
“Today, they are touting the over 8,000 jobs without rezoning,” it stated. “With one million square feet of property still vacant and undeveloped, and another 1.5 million in storage, they can bring thousands more jobs without public accommodation.”
The statement above was called “rubbish of a bureaucrat who never had to meet a payroll,” by one business owner, a veteran of almost a quarter-century in Brooklyn. “Freedom of speech is an assumption of this democracy,” he said, “but freedom of suppression is not.”
Like other businesses in Industry City, he feared what he termed “outrageous and disruptive protests” staged by community opposition to IC which “purposefully resulted in suppression of engagement with our customers.”
Many business owners and workers in IC have refrained from commenting publicly, fearing more of the anti-business protests that turn away customers they say the neighborhood needs so desperately to keep jobs here.
But some elected officials still wished to clamp down on Industry City’s zoning proposals.
State Senators Zellnore Myrie, Julia Salazar, Jo Anne Simon as well as Assemblymemers Jo Anne Simon, Robert Carroll, Diana Richardson and Latrice Walker also signed the letter.
“We urge you to support this community by respecting the decision of the local City Council Member who represents their interests, prioritize the well-being and livelihoods of the residents and small businesses, and refrain from moving forward with approving the project,” they concluded.
“How can these elected bureaucrats claim to understand small business?” Capriles asked. “They lump us into the mixture of tenants who just fear a rent increase, and who represent more votes … and this, during COVID when no one is paying their rent anyway .”
A final point came from another business owner, a 30-year veteran of Sunset Park who feared retribution from protesters against his customers.
“We are just lucky,” he said, “The company that invested so much, at least a billion [dollars], to renovate IC could, as of right, rent the whole complex to a ‘last mile’ delivery system and probably make more profit without having to improve the physical plant … if that happened , I would not want to live here anymore.”
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