After months of publicized differences between Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) over a 39-year master lease for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) on the Sunset Park waterfront at 39th Street, EDC has resubmitted its application including a five percent giveback from revenue from the lease to Sunset Park.
“This is an exciting and important day for our district,” said Menchaca during a committee hearing on Tuesday, May 19 at City Hall.
“This time, EDC came to the table ready for a meaningful dialogue about some of the most pressing needs of our community,” said Menchaca. “Our focus was to create a framework for productive and long-term planning of the waterfront, something our local residents, community organizations and local elected officials have been doing for many years now.”
The news comes just a few months after Menchaca declined to support the $100 million, 49-year master lease, contending that EDC had ignored the community’s voice.
“I took the opportunity to ask them to deliver on empty promises made to this community for the past 20 years that would make this community whole,” he said in a statement on January 7. “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.”
Subsequently, the relationship between the councilmember and EDC improved. During Menchaca’s State of the District address in April, he noted, “Our relationship with this agency has been rocky. But just in the last few months, we’ve been able to make a very clean break from that stalemate.”
On Wednesday, May 20, Menchaca updated Community Board 7 on the progress that had been made. “This is really thanks to the work that the community board has done over generations,” he said. “In negotiation with the EDC, we were able to get some things that were long-standing items for the community board and the residents.”
In the statement, Menchaca mentioned several potential advantages offered by the deal, including the EDC’s commitment to local workforce development, and the establishment of a Sunset Park Waterfront Planning and Jobs Task Force that will serve as an advocacy board for the activation of SBMT for maritime uses.
However, not everyone is thrilled with the change. ”The councilmember along with the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses caved in to EDC and gave them a 39-year lease,” said Sunset Park Restoration’s Executive Director Tony Giordano. “This will set a precedent for the city – no other waterfront property has a master lease. A master lease means that the agency holding it does not have to go before the City Council for approval of future deals.”
Giordano was also critical of Menchaca’s role in the deal. “Why did the progressive Democratic caucus member Menchaca not hold a town meeting or a single general meeting to discuss this deal in the community that will give their waterfront away for at least 31 years after Menchaca leaves office?” he demanded.
Menchaca disagreed. “This is a great victory for our community,” he said. “We are changing the way we hold our city agencies, like EDC, accountable. We took a hard line to protect what should be protected and insisted that our needs as a community take priority.”