A local politician is threatening to quash Industry City’s plans to expand a retail and entertainment destination along the Sunset Park waterfront if its backers don’t slow down on a process that’s nearly five years in the making.
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Community Board 7 Chair Cesar Zuniga issued the warning to Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball in a joint letter on March 6, demanding that Industry City delay a request to rezone in order to allow the community time to provide input.
“If Industry City does not delay the application, and continue to follow the Sunset Park community’s lead, then this application is dead on arrival,” Menchaca told this paper.
Industry City filed a rezoning application with the Department of City Planning late last month, outlining a 10-year, $1 billion redevelopment plan to increase the amount of usable space on the waterfront and seek more retail and hospitality tenants, including hotels. Backers say the new uses would create 15,000 jobs.
Much of Industry City’s square footage is currently zoned only for heavy manufacturing, though the space is home to food courts, art galleries and a museum — as well as creative and manufacturing tenants. Half of the space is vacant or used as storage, The Real Deal reports.
Menchaca and Zuniga requested in the letter that Kimball and Industry City give the community more time to consider the impact of zoning.
“Community Board 7 is in the middle of a process to more comprehensively evaluate the waterfront and address concerns about displacement and gentrification, which has still divided members of the Land Use Committee. If this process does not finish, neither the Community Board nor the Council Member will be in a position to approve any rezoning,” the letter states.
“In speaking with the community and the larger constituency, I thought it was important to lift up a very important value we have here in Sunset Park — and that’s participatory democracy,” Menchaca said. “The community should be really shepherding the future of its own neighborhood and has been doing so for a long time.”
Kimball said that this process has been underway for nearly five years, shaped by an amount of community outreach unheard of in similar rezonings.
“You mention needing more time for planning and consultation,” Kimball wrote in response to Menchaca and Zuniga. “From 2013-2015, we studied the 197A plan and closeted extensively with you and the Community Board. In 2015, we announced our rezoning plan and have consulted extensively with the community since then. Just this past summer and fall we participated in five Community Board Town Halls. As far as I know, this is something unprecedented in the history of rezoning.”
Kimball cautioned in his letter that squelching Industry City’s expansion plans and the jobs it would bring could leave the property to stagnate and offer fewer opportunities for residents.
“You have the opportunity here to support the type of good paying, accessible jobs generating project that so far has resulted in 5,500 new jobs or 100 new jobs a month and will lead to 15,000 jobs with a unique mix-use ecosystem of commercial, academic and industrial uses; or you can slow job creation and force the project to turn entirely to commercial office-type tenants, all as of right under the current archaic heaving M3 zoning,” Kimball said in his letter.
Several town hall meetings about the rezoning plans were hosted by CB7 last year to assess the community’s biggest concerns. In their letter, Menchaca and Zuniga requested both time to offer the community a presentation of the findings from those town halls and a plan from Industry City on how its proposal will mitigate displacement, gentrification, rising rents, congestion and the effects of climate change.
The council member suggested his request for delay isn’t about an issue with Industry City’s plan, but about the systemic issues of the rezoning process.
“This is also the opportunity to talk about a process like ULURP that is structured upon a negotiation,” Menchaca told the Brooklyn Reporter. “We’re still on a fact-finding mission and [Industry City filing their application with City Planning] doesn’t allow us to do fact finding. It forces us to go into negotiations. It’s about a better process. What I have to say to Andrew [Kimball] and his team is what is the rush?”
If Industry City does not choose to delay, the application filed last month will need to be certified by the Department of City Planning, then be considered by the community board, continue on to the Borough President’s Office, return to City Planning and finally be voted upon by the City Council. The process can take more than a year.