Can Industry City Deliver on Promised Jobs in Upcoming Rezoning Proposal?

Photo by Craig Hubert

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Is there a way to guarantee new jobs at Industry City?

There seems to be some debate on this issue. Despite the promise by the Sunset Park complex’s CEO Andrew Kimball of 20,000 new jobs as part of a proposed rezoning—the topic of a public hearing yesterday hosted by the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises—many in the local community feel that, in addition to the speculative nature of that promise, there needs to be greater accountability and admission of long term impacts that zoning changes at Industry City will cause on the surrounding neighborhood.

“Promises by major developers are broken every day,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who has been outspoken in his rejection of the current proposal to rezone.

Photo by NYC City Council

It turns out that the estimate of 20,000 jobs that has been thrown around by Industry City officials, as well as like-minded local politicians in editorials last month in the pages of the New York Daily News, is just a guess. “I don’t think anybody can make that guarantee,” Kimball said when pressed repeatedly about the numbers.

He agreed to work with a city agency to bring more transparency to those numbers, as well as that the jobs go to local residents if the proposal is passed.

But in the midst of COVID-19, the question of jobs has become even more urgent. Nearly 200 people signed up to speak at the virtual public hearing, roughly split down the middle in their support or opposition to the proposal. Prior to the meeting, members of the Brooklyn Democratic Party signed a letter urging the City Council to vote in line with Menchaca.

The proposed expansion, 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.

Kimball, as he has said previously, stated that they would drop the hotels from the proposal if it’s approved.

sunset park industry city proposed rezoning

Renderings via Industry City

“We are suffering. Small businesses need help,” said local resident David Estrada, who was against the current proposal. “Can we set a new example to this city for how to do this together?”

For residents and the developer behind Industry City to work together, many in the neighborhood feel that what is needed is a strong, legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement. But as the process has dragged on, others feel that what is most urgent is not letting a plan slip through the cracks.

“What has become pretty apparent in the past weeks is ensuring that we avoid a worst-case scenario, which is the application moving forward without modifications,” said Liliana Polo-McKenna. “Knowing that the modifications alone would not be sufficient.” They, along with Menchaca, advocated for more time to develop a more stable CBA.

More time might not arrive. Racing through the ULURP process, this proposal could go in front of the City Council for a vote by the end of October.

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