Councilmember Carlos Menchaca played host to his first annual State of The District Address on Sunday, April 12 at Sunset Park High School. The afternoon served as a platform to celebrate the work of the community over the last year, but also to discuss upcoming changes.
Following the address, attendees also had the opportunity to vote for projects they wanted to see funded through participatory budgeting, including new technology for schools, among other important issues.
During Menchaca’s speech, many topics were brought to the forefront, one of the most significant ones being the future of Sunset Park in light of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s plans for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.
This came just days after an agreement between Menchaca and EDC that EDC take over the largely unused South Brooklyn Marine Terminal through a 39-year lease, a scenario that Menchaca originally had tried to prevent from happening, citing the loss of oversight. The deal – assuming it is approved by the City Council — would allow Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to use the facility for shipping and marine cargo tenants.
“Our agencies must be faithful and responsible as stewards. They must be our partners in solving these critical issues. One agency has heard it loud and clear that we deserve better, the EDC,” said Menchaca during his address. “I’m not going to lie. Our relationship with this agency has been rocky and just plain unproductive, if you ask me. But just in the last few months, we’ve been able to make a very clean break from that stalemate.”
Menchaca did not address the specifics of the deal directly, but discussed ongoing progress with EDC, referencing the opening of Bush Terminal Park this past November as an example. In addition, he stated that the EDC, one of Sunset’s largest property owners, had agreed to a few points that would help accommodate the community.
“There will be a reorganization at EDC,” he said. “It will a create a new interdisciplinary division that is focused on the management of all Sunset Park offers. There will be an expert staff having a desk right here in Sunset Park. They’re going to physically be here to tend to our need,” he said, a statement which was met with applause by attendees.
In addition, “Over the next six months, a task force co-led by EDC and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation will be created to plan for the complicated mix of development and all issues related to it, and will closely work with groups in the community through this process,” Menchaca said.
EDC, said Menchaca, will also create a customized work force program that will prepare “local residents for the next wave of manufacturing jobs on our working waterfront,” an important factor in both the community and Menchaca’s improved relationship with the agency. This program, he said, would help residents learn skills and acquire these good paying jobs.
But not everyone is optimistic about the relationship. “Our position is that this deal is not good for Sunset Park,” said Tony Giordano, executive director of Sunset Park Restoration. “We want oversight by the City Council. We want in-house job training/mentoring in any businesses using the site. We want air pollution monitoring stations and we want a careful analysis on the impact of any additional truck traffic. This was not a deal; this was a surrender.”
Menchaca acknowledged that issues such as road construction, air quality control and other components must be discussed. “Those are things that EDC needs to start focusing on,” he said. “They’re going to be physically present and we’ve asked them to sit down with us and make sure they are stewards of our community.”
Other matters brought up during the speech were successes such as the launch of the city’s municipal ID card, getting rid of illegal clothing bins, the renovation of Sunset Park playground, and problems such as the neighborhood’s overcrowded schools.
“We are connected by our voice, a voice I am committed to champion in the City Council,” said Menchaca.