Southern Brooklyn

Opinions & Observations: Industry City ‘mall’ falls as Menchaca follows wishes of constituents who feared overnight gentrification

October 1, 2020 Editorial Staff
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Mammoth shopping district would have doomed Bay Ridge businesses

There was a point this past spring when Sunset Park Councilmember Carlos Menchaca stood virtually alone in his Council fight to prevent the gentrification he was sure — based on the overwhelming wishes of his constituency — a mammoth Industry City development would bring.

As usual, many spokespeople had fallen for the promise of 20,000 jobs. That’s understandable and it’s the job of business leaders to stress jobs in every such proposal.

Trouble was that Industry City was already blooming — growing organically, as some out there would say — because hundreds of small entrepreneurs (and some big ones like Victoria’s Secret) had already opened stores in the long-vacant expanse, which sits blocks from the Brooklyn waterfront.

Industry City’s Chief Executive Andrew Kimball, who led the now-stalled redevelopment, blamed his plan’s demise on politics; it was a cheap shot at Menchaca, who was doing his job — and doing it well —since a majority of his constituency believed the looming behemoth would destroy the neighborhood they have built over the years.

It wasn’t politics, as Kimball claimed, nor was it “fierce opposition from left-leaning Democrats” that brought down his proposal, as inaccurately reported by The New York Times. 

For weeks — almost months, in fact — Menchaca stood alone politically as other left-leaning Democrats in the Council actually tried to figure out a way to break a tradition that holds that no major development should be foisted upon a community when its municipal representative — on the clear wishes of his voters — opposes the disruptive implantation.

Mammoth shopping mall would have sucked life out of Bay Ridge market

Probably due to the pandemic, leaders in adjoining Greater Bay Ridge did not take part in the roiling Industry City debate, which, we believe, has resulted in instilling an even greater sense of neighborhood in its residents.

In reality, installing a huge shopping mall just a few blocks north of Bay Ridge would have doomed even more businesses on Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue and 86th Street than have already been shuttered by the persisting pandemic.

For decades Bay Ridge business owners have been confronted by the challenge of big malls in Staten Island and New Jersey. Specifically adding insult each day in earlier times, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority installed special “Staten Island Shopping Mall” bus signs at its 86th Street stops.

Former civic leaders, including John LoguePat CondrenMarty Golden (first as a private citizen), Mike LongAl HaigHarry English and Al Nahas, fought against the Staten Island Mall promotion at the heart of the 86th Street shopping district and it’s remarkable that these areas survived and thrived until the pandemic.

Third Ave. to launch cancer benefit ‘The 3rd on 3rd’ Saturday at 11 a.m.

Photo courtesy of Chrisie Canny

Demonstrating the community-oriented spirit that has characterized Third Avenue even through the pandemic, local business leaders will stage a special fundraiser on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. outside a leading retailer in Charmed — operated by Jeanine Condon — and with full support of Chrisie Canny, who has successfully deployed her well-known Vented in Brooklyn operation to the cause of overcoming  this dreaded disease. Leaders of the Merchants of Third Avenue are lending their support, including President Bob Howe, Co-Treasurer Brian Chin, Festival Chair Chip Cafiero, Sheila Brody and many more. For more information, call 917-301-0201 or search #shoppinkbayridge.

Photo courtesy of Chrisie Canny

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