Sunset Park Community Divided on Industry City’s Rezoning at Public Hearing

Photo by Craig Hubert


At a public hearing Monday night, a divided audience debated rezoning the Industry City complex in Sunset Park. Although public review has only just kicked off, it’s already been a long and contentious process.

Held at Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope, the meeting, hosted by Community Board 7, seemed split down the middle: on one side longtime residents and activists who were against the proposal, on the other side Industry City tenants and local union members who supported the rezoning.

“They have shown concern for community needs,” said Rubén Colón, a representative for The New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters, who was raised in Sunset Park. “We can not afford to squander this opportunity.”

industry city zoning meeting

Photo by Craig Hubert

Others didn’t see any benefit in what Industry City was offering. The rezoning proposal “threatens the working-class character, affordability and social cohesion of the Sunset Park community,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, the Executive Director of local activist group UPROSE. “If Industry City wants to develop in Sunset Park they must do so in context.” She recommended the proposal be amended and that Industry City officials work with local residents on a revised version, called the GRID proposal (Green Resilient Industrial District), which they have already drafted and will address environmental concerns in the area.

The proposed expansion, as it exists now according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, would increase Industry City’s presence to approximately 6.6 million gross square feet in total. This includes approximately 1.33 million gross square feet of manufacturing and office, 700,000 gross square feet of retail, 387,000 gross square feet of new academic use, 272,000 gross square feet of new hotel use and 33,000 gross square feet of event space.

Map via Department of City Planning

But Industry City officials are open to some changes. During their presentation, they confirmed that they have already agreed to remove hotels from the proposal.

And they came with supporters. Industry City tenants were joined by members of both the Carpenter’s Union and 32BJ, the nation’s largest union of property service workers, speaking in favor of the proposal.

“They made it possible for me to survive,” said Robert Mason, the owner of Mason Woodworks, which has been located at Industry City for five years.

industry city

Photo by Susan De Vries

There’s no signs of these debates evaporating in the future. The Department of City Planning officially kicked off the public review process for the controversial rezoning of the industrial waterfront complex when it certified an application from owner Bush Terminal in late October. The next step in the review process called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, will be the Community Board’s vote, which is happening on December 18, followed by the Borough President’s public hearing, which is scheduled for January 8.

Some think there is a meeting place between the two sides. Sander Hicks — the former owner of once-popular Ditmas Park hang-out Vox Pop, founder of indie publisher Soft Skull Press, and carpenter who once attempted to run for Congress — said he was against the proposal, wishing it had “components of real workplace democracy” and more “climate change consciousness.” But at the same time, he added, he isn’t against Industry City. He loves the game room. “I’m here to say there should be a middle way.”

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