Industry City has acquiesced to City Council member Carlos Menchaca’s stipulations for a contested rezoning and is delaying the process after a heated week of back-and-forth talks.
Menchaca unveiled his position on the fiercely debated rezoning proposal, after a fraught six-month delay, last week, declaring that he would only let the effort proceed unless the 16-building complex agreed to a cadre of conditions. Chiefly among them are axing a pair of hotels from the plan, reducing the amount of retail space it seeks, and establishing a minimum amount of space that is restricted for industrial uses within the Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.-owned complex. On Friday, Industry City said it has yet again agreed to delay the rezoning as it reworks its proposal.
“We met with Council Member Menchaca and his Working Group this morning, and once again agreed to delay certification into the [land use review] process,” Lisa Serbaniewicz, an Industry City spokesperson said in a Friday statement. “Following the path forward outlined by Council Member Menchaca earlier this week, Industry City has agreed to every request made by the Council Member.”
Locals have long-feared the former manufacturing hub’s transformation and have decried plans to double its retail footprint, build space for educational facilities, and erect a pair of hotels with 400 rooms as a harbinger of gentrification that will push out long-time residents. Menchaca has said he believes a reimagined Industry City will benefit Sunset Park—but not without major modifications to the proposal.
“You are one of many neighbors here in the community, yet your activities have a disproportionate impact on our future,” the Brooklyn Councilmember wrote to Industry City’s CEO Andrew Kimball in a September 17 letter. “You must transform your business plan so we can address these issues that affect all of us.”
Menchaca also called for several community perks, including the creation of a manufacturing hub run by a non-profit at the complex, a new technical high school, and shelling out cash to support tenant organizing in Sunset Park.
Kimball’s response came two days later with a letter agreeing to nix hotels from the proposal, among other concessions, and said Industry City is prepared to negotiate a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement—which is typically done during and not before the multi-month land use review process—to memorialize the company’s commitments before re-filing its rezoning application with the Department of City Planning.
The delay is the latest chapter in the unconventional path Industry City’s rezoning application has taken prior to the start of the official Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) where changes are usually made to land use actions set to reshape neighborhoods.
Menchaca is openly weary of ULURP and in his September 17 letter called the process “flawed” and that it “behaves like a back-door negotiation rather than an open fact-finding mission.” Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Community Board 7 has hosted several meetings prior to the start of ULURP to ramp up community transparency on the plan and its process, and hired a series of studies to review the housing, education, and transportation side-affects such an undertaking could have on the Brooklyn neighborhood. Industry City’s current proposal was slated to go before the City Planning Commission on September 23, but was laid over for a future date as the company continues talks with Menchaca and locals over the complex’s future.
“It is clear to me that you and I desire the same outcome for what the activation of Industry City could and should mean for Sunset Park,” Kimball wrote in a September 19 letter in response to Menchaca’s demands. “I am confident that the regulatory changes sought through a rezoning create an opportunity to achieve significantly greater results working together that are sustainable in the long-term.”
Despite Industry City’s vows to change its plans, Menchaca slammed Kimball for beating around the bush when it comes to assembling a committee of neighborhood leaders and groups to help negotiate that community benefits agreement.
“I am deeply disappointed with Industry City’s response. While I commend Mr. Kimball for agreeing to modify Industry City’s application, and expressing shared values, he failed to acknowledge the most important value of all, the one underwriting my conditions for success: accountability,” Menchaca said in a statement.
It’s unclear how how long establishing such a group and negotiating those agreements could take, and if that body would push for additional commitments from Industry City. The rezoning process will likely face several weeks, or even months, of delays over the modifications and benefits negotiations.