A battle is brewing over a waterfront rezoning in Sunset Park.
City Council member Carlos Menchaca has threatened to sink an Industry City rezoning proposal if the complex doesn’t delay the process to allow additional time for review. Now, the company’s CEO, Andrew Kimball, has shot back, noting that for years they’ve engaged with locals in anticipation of the rezoning. He warned the lawmaker that blocking the application would force their hand into entirely commercial development.
“You have the opportunity here to support the type of good paying, accessible job-generating project that so far has resulted in 5,500 new jobs, or 100 new jobs a month, and will lead to 15,000 jobs with a unique mix-use ecosystem of commercial academic and industrial uses,” Kimball wrote in a Wednesday rebuttal to a letter authored by Menchaca and Cesar Zuniga, the chairman of Community Board 7. “Or you can slow job creation and force the project to turn entirely to commercial office-type tenants, all as of right under the current archaic heavy M3 zoning.”
Menchaca and Zuniga argued that their offices require additional time to evaluate the rezoning’s impact on the community and requested additional measures from Industry City, including an explanation on how the “rezoning proposal will mitigate displacement, gentrification, rising rents, congestion, and the effects of climate change.”
But Kimball said that after years of interacting with the community before initially announcing its rezoning plan in 2015, and then years still of engagement with residents and businesses before formally filing the application, that Industry City is ready to move forward with the process.
“In the four years since we filed this application, we have initiated unprecedented engagement, transparency, consultation, and local workforce development initiatives,” Kimball continued. “Just this past summer and fall we participated in five Community Board Town Halls. As far as I know, this is something unprecedented in the history of rezonings.”
Industry City’s owner—a partnership between Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.—has long-sought to reshape its 32-acre property. Under the proposed rezoning, Industry City could develop two hotels, its footprint would increase by more than 1 million square feet, and the campus would include new space for retail and classrooms. The application, which was filed late last month, initiates the months-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
In a letter provided by Industry City, 74 businesses jointly lauded the complex and the economic growth the rezoning represents for the area.
But Menchaca and Zuniga argue that ULURP isn’t sufficient to review the project and its implications, noting that had plans for Amazon’s second North American headquarters in Queens went through ULURP, the process would not have been adequate to address the massive plan and its ramifications.
“As the Amazon HQ deal highlighted—and as urban planners, environmentalists, and Sunset Park leaders have understood for a long time—ULURP is insufficient for evaluating displacement, gentrification, and the effects of climate change,” reads the joint letter penned by Menchaca and Zuniga
Kimball countered by pointing out that the City Council pushed for transparency on Amazon’s HQ2 plans before the company withdrew, and said that unlike the e-commerce giant’s project, Industry City has sought to involve the community throughout the process.
“Whatever one thinks about the apparent loss of 25,000-40,000 jobs, the clear message from the City Council appeared to be that it wanted a transparent process with significant community engagement,” wrote Kimball. “We’ve had six years of that at Industry City and now is the time to enter ULURP.”