The return on a city investment of more than $100 million in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) at 39th Street is in doubt after Councilmember Carlos Menchaca refused to go along with an accelerated approval process for the lease of the facility that would have curtailed community input.
On Wednesday, January 7, Menchaca requested that the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) withdraw its request for a 49-year master lease for the terminal – one that would not only see the newly renovated pier become a job-generating shipping hub, but also shut out both City Council and community input.
“I made it clear to the EDC that our community deserves better,” the Councilmember wrote on his Facebook page, stressing that the request was made less than 45 days prior to the deadline for council action, and on the brink of the holiday season. “I believe we can achieve regional economic development goals [and] serve local community needs at the same time. We need an economic development agency that believes in that too.”
The councilmember asked the EDC instead to “deliver on empty promises made to [the Sunset Park] community for the past 20 years,” while calling for a serious job training program and the creation of a special development corporation, similar to that of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, to afford the community more control.
That local entity, he said, would “govern over publicly-owned sites like SBMT, making it accountable to the community and act as an honest steward for the next generation of residents and small businesses for Sunset Park.”
The EDC rejected the councilmember’s proposal, withdrew its application and walked away from the table.
“Good manufacturing jobs are at the top of our agenda,” said EDC spokesperson Ian Fried, noting that the EDC can always resubmit its application – which, under law, requires Menchaca’s blessing to proceed. “It is regrettable that we could not reach an agreement to bring these working waterfront jobs to Sunset Park, but we remain committed to finding a path forward that delivers for this community.”
According to prior EDC testimony, the master lease of the $115 million project is imperative to maintaining a “flexible, well-managed SBMT port facility” it says will provide good, high-paying jobs, reduce the city’s environmental impact, and facilitate Affordable Housing goals.
Still, many local residents are standing by Menchaca for shutting it down.
“Thank you for not only listening to the community but for doing the right thing here,” wrote Facebook user Jennifer Canavan on the freshman lawmaker’s Facebook page. “Sunset Park applauds you for holding your ground and for putting us first.”
“Good job,” agreed user Angelo Cucuzza. “The property there is too vital to hand over in a lopsided deal like the one proposed.”
The City Council’s Committee on Economic Development will hold an oversight hearing on Tuesday, January 27 to discuss further plans for the redevelopment of the 88-acre site.
Councilmember Dan Garodnick will chair the meeting and has said that the Council “will work with Councilmember Menchaca, EDC and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the plan for Sunset Park is primed for job growth in the context of a plan that addresses local concerns.”