At Sunset Park Councilman’s Urging, Industry City May Dump Controversial Rezoning

Photo by Craig Hubert

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The developers behind Industry City are considering pulling the proposed rezoning of the sprawling Sunset Park complex after local elected officials have issued a number of “unreasonable” demands, a representative for the industrial campus said.

“A number of convergent factors are causing Industry City to question whether or not it should pursue the rezoning,” said Industry City spokesman Lee Silberstein in a statement, which was first reported by Politico. “First, the price of conditions set by elected officials in their attempt to appease even the most unreasonable constituents is very high. That, combined with the fact that companies allowed under current zoning continue to show interest in the campus, raises the question as to whether the application should be pulled.”

The developers’ Monday announcement comes just weeks before the City Planning Commission was set to vote on the rezoning application — which, if approved by the city, would allow for a 12-year, $1 billion redevelopment of the 35-acre facility that would add more retail, academic space, and offices.

The proposal has fiercely divided Sunset Park’s largely immigrant, working-class neighborhood — with supporters arguing that the development would bring desperately-needed jobs, and critics charging that renovation aims to lure large corporations, jacking up rents and displacing locals.

sunset park rezoning

Protesters took to the streets in 2019 to protest the Industry City rezoning plan and its failure to address climate change. Photo by Rose Adams

Among the rezoning’s critics is local Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who holds outsized power over the application’s passage in the City Council as the district’s representative. After initially saying he would support the rezoning if developers bent to a long list of conditions, he vowed on Tuesday to vote down the application, claiming that developers have failed to meet his demands.

“I made it very clear that I would not support Industry City’s rezoning unless certain conditions were met. These conditions were not met,” Menchaca said in a statement. “I strongly oppose this application and will vote no if it comes before the City Council.”

Menchaca’s conditions included the elimination of hotels from the application, a reduction in retail space, and the creation of a public technical high school, among many others. He also demanded last September that the mayor promise city funds for the community and that locals create a legally-binding community benefits agreement — all before developers submitted their rezoning application to the city.

industry city

Map via Department of City Planning

Industry City’s owners — a partnership between Jamestown, Angelo Gordon, and Belvedere Capital — agreed to bow to Menchaca’s demands in September. But the owners, who had already delayed the application’s submission for months at Menchaca’s request, submitted the application in October before Menchaca’s last two conditions were met, kicking off the city’s seven-month land use review process known as ULURP.

As of July 27, the Sunset Park councilman still had not received a funding promise from the mayor or a finalized community benefits agreement from locals, prompting him to ask developers to pull their rezoning application.

“I am asking that Industry City officially remove their rezoning application before the mayor restarts the ULURP clock next month,” Menchaca said.

An Industry City representative implied that developers won’t seek another rezoning if they decide to pull their current application, but will continue their planned redevelopment of the space, which now houses light manufacturing companies and job training and placement services tailored for locals.

industry city zoning meeting

A community meeting in 2019. Photo by Craig Hubert

This time, though, developers can pursue significant as-of-right renovations without any community benefits or input. While the current zoning forbids Industry City’s owners from building on top of the existing structures or leasing space to hotels and department stores, developers can still conduct internal renovations without having to answer to the community.

“Reactivation will continue with as-of-right uses, but that leaves no requirement to preserve manufacturing, operate Innovation Lab or other job training programs, recruit neighborhood residents for available jobs, or support local initiatives,” Silberstein said. “The [community benefits agreement] that is being drafted would not move forward. Beyond that, no reason to speculate on future actions.”

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran on Brownstoner sister pub Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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