Kimball: In Industry City debate, politics outweighed job creation, small business needs

September 28, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Kimball: In Industry City debate, politics outweighed job creation, small business needs
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Now that Industry City has withdrawn its rezoning application in the wake of political opposition, the Sunset Park industrial-commercial complex needs to stay focused on supporting small businesses and growing the campus within existing zoning regulations, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball said in a Zoom conference after the fact.

The rezoning plan had 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.

During the online conference, Kimball reiterated his earlier statement, in which he said a lack of leadership in government prevented the plan from ever being finalized.

“There wasn’t a citywide focus on the need for this kind of project right now which is disappointing,” he said. “With all the leasing going on today and in the future, the political food fight, the lack of eagerness to engage in a substantial project just made us say, ‘We got to stay focused on the immediate need, supporting our small businesses and continuing to grow the campus in ways we know that we can do under the existing rezoning.’”

He also singled out City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who, according to City and State and other news outlets, remained “on the fence” and didn’t take an official position on the project. As the back-and-forth debate was becoming more heated, influential industry groups such as the Real Estate Board of New York, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and 32BJ SEIU had urged Johnson to support the rezoning.

“Supercharged environment didn’t allow thought for consideration of the substance of the proposal,” Kimball said. “When the speaker of the City Council says he’s still unfamiliar with the plan, that says something.”

Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball. Screenshot via Zoom

Kimball also admitted that Industry City leadership had considered withdrawing the proposal around two months ago after Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park, came out against it. However, they received support from members of the City Council, Borough President Eric Adams and the City Planning Commission.

“We just couldn’t crack the nut of something that goes something like, ‘Hey this is a great project, but I got to worry about my next election.’ That’s a tough nut to break,” he said.

Kimball was asked if a high-profile letter sent by several elected officials, including U.S Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Jerrold Nadler, among others, played a role in the withdrawal.

“Whether or not they played a role in that, we look forward to them playing a role in the future of New York City’s economy and coming up with a plan, whether that is 20,000 jobs or 5,000 jobs or the jobs lost during COVID,” said Industry City spokesperson Lee Silberstein.

Proposal had included technical high school

For Kimball, the educational component of the proposal not coming to fruition upset him most.

“One of the things we needed to do was double down on a vocational high school, and that was one of the things we planned to do and were committed to doing here,” he told the Eagle. “The other thing was a pathway to colleges and doing things like helping to create a Brooklyn College Cinema and embedding that backlot to help create pathways for diverse workforce that wouldn’t have the opportunity to break into the film industry and get them into that.

“That model will be something harder to do without rezoning, because one of the obtuse things about rezoning is that you can’t have classroom space in a M3 district so the zoning would have allowed us to do that. For me that’s the single most disappointing thing.”

When asked if Industry City would ever reconsider exploring the rezoning plan again, Kimball said no but later added, “Look, anybody who knows me knows I’m open to a conversation. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Additional material by Raanan Geberer, Brooklyn Eagle.

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