UPDATE (11:54 p.m.): Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball met with Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and the elected official’s working group — made up of residents and community organizers — on Friday morning and agreed to delay moving forward with their land-use application. Menchaca had previously vowed not to support Industry City’s rezoning if it was rushed into certification, which the developer had planned to do on Sept. 23. Kimball agreed to the councilmember’s requests, including removing hotels, creating a manufacturing hub managed by a nonprofit and restricting retail uses.
“We met with Councilmember Menchaca and his working group this morning, and once again agreed to delay certification into the ULURP process. … We are also prepared to negotiate and execute a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement with a community-based organization with support of the appropriate City agencies,” said Lisa Serbaniewicz, a spokesperson for Industry City.
Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball agreed on Thursday to modify his rezoning application to account for all of Councilmember Carlos Menchaca’s conditions, but he also said he would push forward the application for certification on Monday. That would leave little time, according to Menchaca, to work out the details of the community contract that is a critical component of the elected official’s demands.
Menchaca has said that he would “never, ever” allow Industry City’s current rezoning proposal to move forward unless the developers first concede to a set of rigid conditions.
One of those conditions requires developers to enter into a Community Benefits Agreement, a legally binding contract with neighborhood organizations that would hold developers accountable for delivering on their promises of certain investments, including carving out a space for a technical high school in Sunset Park.
While Kimball did agree to sign a CBA, his choice to rush the certification of the application on Monday does not leave enough time for the CBA to be properly carried out, according to Mencahca, who said he was “deeply disappointed” with Kimball’s response.
“While I commend Mr. Kimball for agreeing to modify Industry City’s application, and expressing shared values, he failed to acknowledge the most important value of all, the one underwriting my conditions for success: accountability,” Menchaca said.
“The establishment of a group who would sign one end of a community benefits agreement has yet to be established, let alone a facilitator or legal counsel identified. Any attempt to rush through a rezoning process without the community being fully prepared to hold Industry City accountable is something I will never support.”
Related: Menchaca urges community unity to prevent ‘capitalistic animals’ from taking over Industry City
In the letter, Kimball agreed that Industry City would amend their filing — slated to go to the Department of City Planning on Sept. 23 — to eliminate the request for a special permit to create hotels within Industry City. They also agreed to establish an “irreducible amount of space” devoted to industrial uses, and to restrict the amount and location of retail uses.
All of these concessions can be written into the land-use application and do not require a CBA to be legally binding. But without the contract, Industry City can theoretically resurface those changes in a future application.
The Sunset Park politician has repeatedly said he is unwilling to negotiate during the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure — the city’s time-limited land-use process — which he called “flawed” and like a “backdoor negotiation.” The ULURP process can take more than a year, with stringent time frames for feedback from the local community board, borough president, City Planning Commission and the City Council.
Menchaca said Kimball could still “do the right thing” by creating a timeline that works for all parties, but if Industry City decides to submit the application for certification on Monday, as indicated in their letter, the councilman would unequivocally oppose the proposal and vote against it should it reach the City Council.
Menchaca encouraged Kimball to reconsider, but if he chooses not to, the lawmaker would move forward without him by building on elements of his proposal that are within the control of the community, the City Council and the Mayor’s Office, like creating a public technical high school.
A staffer for Menchaca told the Brooklyn Eagle that if Kimball is truly serious about doing what’s best for the community, then he would hold off on seeking certification until everyone is on the same page and ready to move forward.
If certified on Monday by the Department of City Planning, the application will go before members of Community Board 7, where they will have 60 days to make a recommendation — a time frame that CB7 chairperson Caesar Zuniga called “pathetic and laughable.”
The 35-acre office, retail and light-manufacturing complex filed its application for rezoning in February and amended some technical details this past Friday, according to DCP.
“Councilmember Menchaca articulated a constructive path forward for the continued reactivation of Industry City and, more importantly, for creating new opportunities for the residents and businesses that comprise the Sunset Park community,” Lisa Serbaniewicz, a spokesperson for Industry City, told the Eagle.
“In response, we have agreed to support changes in our plan to more fully align with the councilmember’s vision.”
She added that Industry City looks forward to continuing the conversation with Menchaca and other community stakeholders in the coming weeks and months to create “an outcome that best benefits Sunset Park.”