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Contested Industry City rezoning splits community board vote

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The convoluted vote unfolded during a nearly five hour hearing

Max Touhey

After nearly five hours of deliberation, Brooklyn’s Community Board 7 failed to reach a consensus on parts of a hotly debated rezoning proposal for Industry City.

The developers of the waterfront complex requested four land use changes for a $1 billion redevelopment that would add new retail, hotels, and academic space to the 16-building campus. On two of the four land use items, CB7 voted to disapprove unless certain conditions are met by the developers (a partnership of Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.). But the board was unable to reach a decision on the two other requested changes and, officially, has no position on those two items.

Cesar Zuniga, the board’s chair, said the split vote is indicative of the local schism that has emerged over the plan and its implications for the working-class, immigrant neighborhood.

“I hope that this is going to be a message to the developer, to city planning, and to the administration that the application is highly fraught,” Zuniga said after the marathon meeting. “We are not just going to rubber stamp unmitigated development to the detriment of our community.”

The board recommended disapproval of a special zoning permit unless a series of stipulations were met, including a commitment that buildings won’t rise higher than 110 feet in order to “maintain view corridors” of New York Harbor. The board also shot down a change that would have demapped, an action that officially removes a street from the city map, part of 40th Street unless the developers adhere to another laundry list of community-centric conditions.

Community board members found themselves at a deadlock when it came to voting on the mapping of a new special district and the creation of the actual zoning text for that district, perhaps the most crucial measure that breaks down what is and is not permissible. In both instances, an amendment to approve with conditions failed to reach a majority. Since the body could not reach a decision on either change, the board has, in essence, chosen not to take a stance on those components of the rezoning application.

Industry City did not return requests for comment on the community board’s vote.

The lengthy, at times convoluted, meeting concluded the community board’s role in the review process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, and capped years of heated late-night fourms, studies, and community engagement efforts leading up to the vote. Now the board’s recommendations will be submitted to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adam’s office and the City Planning Commission for consideration as they mull Industry City’s rezoning application. The process will conclude with a make-or-break City Council vote.

Sunset Park Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, whose vote on the effort is considered decisive, says he will only support the project with concessions from Industry City, which the complex says it's willing to negotiate, and additional community investment from City Hall. Anita Laremont, the executive director of the Department of City Planning rebuffed that request in a December letter.

“We are extremely disappointed by [the city’s] lack of urgency, and the offensive implication that there is no role for the City to play simply because Industry City’s rezoning proposal is a private application—even though private applications are developed with the Department of City Planning’s guidance,” Menchaca and Zuniga said in a recent statement.

Opponents of the plan, perhaps most vocally the Protect Sunset Park Coalition, argue that the rezoning will dramatically reshape Sunset Park and worsen displacement and gentrification in the neighborhood. Instead, they would like to see greater public control over the waterfront.

“Sunset Park just spoke up to reject [part of] Industry City’s waterfront rezoning,” the Protect Sunset Park Coalition said in a statement. “Now Council Member Menchaca must listen and veto this private waterfront plan outright.”