An 11-hour City Council hearing was held via Zoom on Sept. 15 to discuss the long-debated Industry City rezoning plan, which includes $1 billion in private investment and expansion to 6.6 million square feet of rental space.
Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball discussed how the space would be used for academic purposes, additional neighborhood retail, green manufacturing, economic development and a total of 2,000 jobs.
He also addressed the need for additional space.
“Because we can’t have academic classrooms, we are only scratching the surface of what we can achieve by integrating colleges and universities into the campus to maximize the creation of on-ramps to the jobs of today and the future,” he said.
In addition, Kimball said that one out of every five people who live and work in Sunset Park are now working at Industry City.
Hundreds of speakers gave testimony during the day.
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who is against the proposal, asked if there is data accounting for the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce.
“If there is a lesson we’ve learned during this pandemic, it’s that a lot of businesses are discovering they can do businesses remotely,” she said. “Show me one rezoning that has taken place in New York City in the last 10-15 years that has proven that those promises that were made were kept.”
Pat Whelan, managing director of Sahadi Fine Foods Inc., said there is a greater need than ever for the plan.
“During this very long and extensive process, I have discovered a small group that supposedly represents our community trying to hijack this process,” he said. “I’m disgusted that outright lies and personal attacks replaced healthy collaboration and common sense.”
Cesar Zuniga, chairperson of Community Board 7, said there had been a lack of community input during the process.
“The most critical issue in our district is the lack of affordable housing and displacement of long-term residents due to explosive rent increases,” he said. “This application does nothing to address that issue.”
“We need to move away from this extractive model of development that prioritizes the interests of private developers over decades of community-based planning, like the Green Resilient Industrial District proposal,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE.
Kenny Guan, a small business owner and longtime CB7 member, is in favor of the rezoning.
“Right now in our city and community, we need job creation during this COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “We lost a lot of jobs in small business. We have to figure out how to support this kind of privately owned investment.”
Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and former chairperson of CB7, said Industry City has delivered on its promises thus far, especially to the young people in the neighborhood.
“Opponents of the plan are being disingenuous by suggesting that the residents of Sunset Park, including its youth, won’t or can’t benefit from the jobs created at Industry City,” he said. “Saying they can’t benefit from the jobs at Industry City is just plain wrong and frankly sells these youths short.”