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Sunset Park’s future debated at Industry City rezoning hearing

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Residents faced off over the plan during the review process’s first official hearing

Industry City seeks to rezone its waterfront campus in Sunset Park.
Nathan Kensinger

Residents clashed over the fate of Sunset Park’s waterfront at the first hearing in the seven month-long public review of Industry City’s contested rezoning proposal.

The three-hour long forum was the latest in a series of community meetings debating a private rezoning application that seeks to dramatically expand the 16-building campus—owned by Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.—with new retail, educational space, and the creation of a “Special Sunset Park Innovation District” to design and develop new products. If approved, it would kicked off a 12-year, $1 billion redevelopment of the 35-acre campus, and some neighbors fear it will open the floods gates of gentrifications for the neighborhood.

“They want our homes and we are not going to let them have it,” said Marcela Mitaynes, a tenant organizer with Neighbors Helping Neighbors who is running for the State Assembly in District 51.

Mitaynes quoted a real estate pamphlet touting Industry City’s expansion, and says tenants she deals with in the area are more frequently experiencing rent hikes and harassment. “We are a target,” she said. “They need to make money and they’re looking at our homes.”

Even before officially entering the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), Industry City’s proposal to add more than 1.4 million square feet to the complex has faced heavy scrutiny from community advocates, Brooklyn Community Board 7, and City Council member Carlos Menchaca. The Councilman called for a laundry list of changes and commitments at a September meeting in order to back the effort. As a result, Industry City says they will no longer pursue a pair of hotels under the rezoning and have vowed to work with locals toward a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)—concessions in exchange for support.

“[We believe] the rezoning with concessions and a CBA will results in greater benefits for the community than as of right development,” Kimball said Monday. “A rezoning will create career pathways for today’s students and for generations to come.”

But many remain skeptical of Industry City’s plans. Officials with the private complex only heightened those concerns when they suddenly filed their land use application with the city in October, starting the clock on the ULURP process. The move came after the complex twice agreed to delay the rezoning to continue talks with neighbors.

At Monday’s hearing, hundreds packed into the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope—which is within Community Board 7 but a neighborhood removed from Industry City—to vent their concerns or, in the case of several Industry City tenants and union members, lend their support for a project Kimball says would bring some 15,000 new jobs to the area.

“They have shown concern for the community and have been in good faith discussions with organized labor for some time now,” said Ruben Colon, a representative for the District Council of Carpenters and a life-long Sunset Park resident. “We cannot afford to squander this opportunity.”

Amid the back and forth members of Protect Sunset Park, a grassroots group that staunchly opposes the rezoning, held up posters scrawled with “rezoning = real estate speculation” and “climate jobs.” The latter is a nod to an 88-page plan put forward by Uprose that calls for the creation of the Green Resilient Industrial District (GRID). The plan seeks to preserve the industrial and maritime character of the neighborhood and foster the creation and retention of well-paying blue-collar jobs with supportive training. It also looks to support green industrial innovation and to promote climate resiliency.

“What Industry City is doing in Sunset Park has been done all over the city; the city’s invaluable industrial manufacturing spaces have become sacrificial for developers greed,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, the executive director of Uprose. “If Industry City wants to develop and make a profit in Sunset Park they need to follow the community led vision.”