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Sunset Park residents gear up for Industry City rezoning review

With the official review of Industry City’s rezoning approaching this fall, roughly 85 residents gathered on Monday — the first of several meetings — to learn, ask and begin the process of creating a clear roadmap for the future of Sunset Park.

The 35-acre office, retail and light-manufacturing complex filed its 135-page application in March. Its backers want zoning changes so they can build two hotels, academic space and large retail stores as part of a 10-year, $1 billion redevelopment that would increase its size from roughly 5.3 to 6.5 million square feet.

The months-long land-use review process was put on hold, however, at the urging of Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Community Board 7 chairperson Cesar Zuniga, who said there needed to be more community input.

After applications are normally filed with the city’s Department of City Planning, the ULURP process begins, which allows the community board 60 days to review a rezoning before making a recommendation.

CB7 land use chairperson John Fontillas said on Monday that because the community board only gets two months to consider a project — regardless of its size — this massive undertaking needed closer inspection.

“Once DCP has certified it, the time clock starts,” Fontillas said. “Time has stopped in a way where we know what the idea for the rezoning is, but the time clock has not started yet for us to review, so we can take a little bit of time to delve into what the issues are.”

The certified rezoning from DCP will likely come before the community board in September or October, according to Fontillas. (The borough president, City Planning Commission and City Council will then have an opportunity to review it.)

Critics of Industry City’s rezoning say it could dramatically reshape Sunset Park, exacerbating displacement and gentrification in the largely immigrant low-income neighborhood.

Proponents say it would revolutionize the waterfront as a tourist destination and create an abundance of jobs.

“The positions are very loud, very clear,” Zuniga said. “We’ve heard them, we want to continue to hear them. But we also want to hear folks who are not sure if this is the worst thing in the world or the best thing in the world. … We have to have some part of the conversation that’s uncomfortable.”

At Wednesday’s CB7 general board meeting, Zuniga reiterated to residents to stay engaged with the discussion, urging them to find a middle ground between the two “loud” perspectives.

One of those outspoken issues has been the type of jobs that Industry City plans to create. Residents have expressed concern that the positions would not provide living wages. We want “jobs that would provide a step ladder for people who live in the community to get a leg up,” Fontillas said.

Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City, responded by saying that new data with a more in-depth look at the types of jobs would soon be published.

In an effort to be completely transparent, Zuniga discredited any rumors that there were clandestine meetings happening between community board members and Industry City representatives.

We’re not “in rooms making deals and hashing plans out,” he said. “We’re about transparency. The more transparent, the more accountable we can be, the better off we can all be.”

Kimball, who answered questions from attendees in a very civil discussion, praised Industry City’s own openness throughout the process.

“If you look at anybody who goes to SunsetParkOppurunity.com and takes a look at the data we’ve provided — it is an extraordinary amount of transparency for a private project.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere in New York City — if not the United States — where a private development entity has created a space for the community and invited in not-for-profit partners.”

The next meeting, slated for July 1 at 4201 Fourth Ave., will confront how the rezoning plans to create jobs.

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