SUNSET PARK — The city approved Industry City’s rezoning application on Monday afternoon, setting off a seven-month public review of the $1 billion redevelopment that would add roughly 1.3 million square feet of space to the complex by 2027. Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball put forward the proposal for certification just a month after agreeing to a second delay to allow for additional community engagement.
The filing came as a surprise to many within the Sunset Park community, including Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who found Kimball’s abrupt actions “deeply troubling” and “premature,” according to a staffer. The employee said that the local politician would reject the current proposal unless “a lot of work” was done.
“Starting [Monday] creates a high-stakes pressure that is antithetical to sound community input in the face of a developer’s overwhelming resources,” Menchaca said. “I am outraged that they would choose to move forward less than one week after a community coalition, comprised of our neighbors, made a commitment to explore the feasibility of a community benefits agreement. The developer’s decision reflects an unwillingness to continue following the Sunset Park community’s lead and I find that troubling.”
Menchaca wields outsize power in the rezoning battle, as the City Council has the final say on whether to approve or kill the application, and councilmembers usually vote in line with the representative whose district is affected.
Kimball said the growth of Industry City and the communities’ engagement process so far have been “remarkable,” and he expects it to continue.
“During the review process, and for many years to come, we will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that the benefits of this effort stay close to home,” he said.
Menchaca vowed that he would “never, ever” allow Industry City’s rezoning proposal to move forward unless the developers first conceded 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.
A CBA has not been created, but a group of community stakeholders known as Sunset Coalition had planned to meet on Nov. 16 to explore whether such an agreement could ensure that the benefits of a rezoning outweigh potential impacts.
The new coalition consists of residents, Community Board 7 members, including chairperson Cesar Zuniga, as well as the Sunset Park Business Improvement District and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation.
Even with the accelerated timeline, Menchaca said he was still determined to have his three conditions met, including the enforceable CBA, which he called “the most important” requirement.
In a Sept. 17 letter, Kimball agreed to Menchaca’s concessions, including removing hotels, entering into a CBA and creating a manufacturing hub managed by a nonprofit. Industry City representatives told the Eagle that they will remove hotels from the plan, but because of technical reasons, that type of amendment would have to happen during ULURP, the city’s land-use process.
Menchaca previously promised not to support Industry City’s rezoning if it was rushed into certification, which the developer had planned to do on Sept. 23 before agreeing to delay it.
But in an apparent about-face, Kimball filed the application, which appeared on the Department of City Planning’s session agenda late Friday afternoon.
Menchaca’s staffer said his office was initially made aware of the certification by “rumors” circulated by constituents on Friday. Their concerns were confirmed at roughly 4:45 p.m. when the session agenda was made available online.
When Industry City tried to push the application for certification last month, Menchaca said he would unequivocally deny it on the basis that there was not enough time for meaningful community engagement. This time around, Menchaca has not publicly rejected it, despite the fact that a CBA has not been formed.
“I will oppose this rezoning, through an official vote on the floor of the City Council, if we cannot execute a proposal that protects and uplifts our most vulnerable neighbors in Sunset Park,” he said.
That statement has led many in the community to call on him to reject the new certification outright.
“Sunset Park residents need Councilmember Menchaca to keep his word,” said Antoinette Martinez, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.