A transformative rezoning put forward by Industry City has officially begun the city’s seven-month review process, despite fierce pushback from Sunset Park advocates and the area’s City Council member.
The City Planning Commission green-lighted an application by the 16-building waterfront complex Monday, initiating the seven-month long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Neighborhood groups and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca have blasted the land use process as deeply “flawed” and called on Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball to hold off on the process until locals and the Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.-owned campus agreed on a path forward.
But just over a month after Kimball reluctantly agreed to delay the official review—for the second time—Industry City has pressed forward with the ULURP process. Now, after months of anticipation, Menchaca has declared that he will vote against the rezoning.
“I am prepared to vote ‘no’ because I do not believe starting ULURP today is enough time to craft a rezoning plan that protects and uplifts our most vulnerable neighbors,” Menchaca said Monday. “Remember, we are contemplating an enormous rezoning because of one private developer’s interests, not because our neighborhood has called for it.”
For years, Industry City has mulled a rezoning to further transform the complex from an industrial space into a mixed-use destination. Locals argued that Industry City’s push to increase its footprint and allow for an additional 900,000 square feet of retail space, 600,000 square feet for educational facilities, and a pair of hotels with more than 400 rooms, would ramp up rents and push out long-time neighbors.
Menchaca, whose voice carries major weight over whether the plan will pass a final Council vote, called on Industry City in September to dramatically amend the proposal, chiefly by nixing a pair of hotels it aimed to build, reducing the amount of retail space it seeks, and devoting space to a new manufacturing hub and a public technical high school. Kimball initially agreed to those stipulations, and to memorialize those commitments in a legally binding community benefits agreement (CBA).
But Menchaca says he finds Monday’s ULURP certification “troubling” and believes it “reflects an unwillingness to continue following the Sunset Park community’s lead.”
“These conditions represent a framework for achieving a modified rezoning that brings the Sunset Park community to the table while avoiding the worst consequences of the status quo,” Menchaca’s statement continues. “To their credit, Industry City initially agreed to this vision. However, their decision to seek certification today is a departure from that vision to truly partner with the Sunset Park community.”
Friday’s application does not include changes based on the conditions spelled out by Menchaca. Those changes, according to an Industry City representative, will need to be made during the application’s review. The developers expect those changes to be finalized within the application before it reaches the City Council.
“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,” Kimball said in a statement.
Outright opponents to the rezoning, such as the Protect Sunset Park Coalition, have long-called on Menchaca to reject the rezoning all-together. Kimball warned in a March letter to Menchaca that if the Councilmember blocks the application, it would force Industry City’s hand into entirely commercial development—what the complex is able to move forward with under the property’s existing zoning.
“This is a bad faith start to a process that is inherently flawed and has kept Sunset Park tenants and small business owners in a state of constant anxiety and distress,” the Protect Sunset Park Coalition said in a statement.
Menchaca says he will continue to monitor a coalition of locals’ attempts to create a CBA with Industry City, and will continue his talks with locals and the developers on the future of the rezoning.
“It is now on Industry City to prove that we can achieve a rezoning that protects and uplifts our most vulnerable neighbors,” Menchaca said.