Brooklyn Democratic Party members sign letter against Industry City rezoning

industry city
Industry City.
Courtesy of Industry City

Nearly 40 members of the Brooklyn Democratic Party have signed onto a letter calling on City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to vote down the controversial Industry City rezoning ahead of a crucial Council hearing on Tuesday about the scheme.

The letter — signed by 43 newly-elected members county committee members from Sunset Park — urged Johnson to vote in line with the local councilman, the community board, and many locals against the application’s passage.  

“We ask you to vote this proposal down,” the letter reads. “More than four thousand Sunset Park residents signed a local petition categorically rejecting the rezoning, believing it is clearly not in their benefit.”

The letter comes just as the Council is set to hear testimony on Tuesday from the industrial complex’s developers and community members about the proposed rezoning — which, if approved, would pave the way for a $2 billion redevelopment that would add retail and academic space to the 35-acre property.

Councilman Carlos Menchaca announced in July that he was going to vote down the rezoning after he said Industry City leaders failed to meet his some of his demands. Menchaca’s no vote would usually kill the proposal — since the City Council has a long tradition of deferring to the local elected on land use votes — but several other representatives have since announced their support of the rezoning.

Among them are Bedford-Stuyvesant Councilman Robert Cornegy, Bronx Councilman Richie Torres, Queens Councilman Donovan Richards. The application, which the Council must vote on by early November, needs 26 votes to pass.

The supporters claim that the rezoning and subsequent redevelopment will bring $100 million dollars in tax revenue and create thousands of jobs, providing a needed boost to the city’s economy beyond just Sunset Park. The projection follows a pattern of community investment, Industry City’s owners say: Since 2013, the number of businesses has grown from 150 to more than 550, and that jobs have increased from 1,900 to 8,000, according to the complex’s website

But local members of the Brooklyn Democratic Party argue that Industry City’s projected job creation numbers and existing data prove difficult to fact-check.

The bottom line is that all the information regarding Industry City’s workforce is proprietary, we don’t know how many jobs on the campus are new, we don’t have any comprehensive salary data or benefits data,” said John Santore, a county committee member from Sunset Park’s 51st Assembly District. “I’ve tried to follow these for years in the community, and I don’t have answers to any of these questions.”

Industry City’s owners have also argued that if they can’t rezone the property, they will have to expand office space and last-mile distribution hubs — uses that they admit are less desirable for Sunset Park’s businesses and working-class community. 

But Santore, who runs a blog that follows the rezoning called Sunset Park Reports, argues that the owners have already tried to turn a significant portion of the property into office space. In 2017, Industry City’s owners sent the city a proposal offering to turn four million square feet into Amazon offices — but Amazon chose to pursue a Long Island City site instead.  

Industry City executive Andrew Kimball said the owners submitted the Amazon proposal because office space is one of the few uses available under the current zoning, but Santore said the move makes him question the owners’ stated plans.

Industry City has stated again and again that the rezoning would prevent it from moving in an office direction,” he said. “Then why did they offer Amazon four million square feet for the nation’s most high profile office project?”

Other county committee members who signed the letter said that the rezoning will bring tenants who will drive up rents and displace Sunset Park’s largely immigrant population. 

“The Industry City rezoning is the wrong kind of development at the wrong time,” said Katherine Walsh, the chair of the Assembly District 51 county committee and a recent candidate in Sunset Park’s Assembly race.”Why are we leaving this to City Council members who don’t represent the district and who don’t represent the community and who aren’t even part of this borough?”

A representative from Industry City stood by the projected job creation figures and said that the city needs the redevelopment’s economic boost now than ever before. 

“With one in five New Yorkers out of work, true leadership demands thoughtful consideration of this plan – the largest jobs plan in front of the City Council – to create 20,000 jobs, attract $1 billion in private investment, and generate $100 million annually in much needed tax revenues,” said Vanessa Figueroa.

When reached for comment, Corey Johnson spokesman Juan Soto did not elaborate on the speaker’s stance, but said that he is “looking forward to reviewing the community feedback” that will be presented at Tuesday’s hearing. 

This article has been updated with a statement from Industry City.