Cash for locals part of likely Marine Terminal deal

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It’s the lease they could do.

The group aiming to lease out a city-owned shipping terminal in Sunset Park says it will give some of its revenue back to the community.

The Economic Development Corporation — a quasi-governmental agency tasked with growing the city’s economy — is expected to enter a 39-year master lease for the city’s South Brooklyn Marine Terminal this summer. Under that lease, the corporation would sublet the land to shipping and manufacturing tenants and collect rent without Council oversight.

The city and the corporation nearly reached a lease deal late last year, but Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) put the kibosh on the plan, citing a lack of community benefit. So the corporation is offering to kick some of the cash to the locals — including a revenue-sharing plan and a pledge to spruce up some area parks — and now the lease proposal is sailing through the public-review process with Menchaca’s blessing. The revised deal sets a precedent, the freshman councilman said.

“For too long, we have approached planning and strategy for each of our city-managed industrial real estate assets in silos, but the framework we have today sets our community on a new and collaborative path with EDC,” Menchaca said during a May 19 committee hearing.

Corporation honchos testified at the hearing that it would set aside five percent of terminal-generated revenue to fund a “community task force” that would act as a liaison between locals and the corporation, as well as facilitate job-training for locals seeking work with companies operating at the terminal, officials said.

The task force will also help draft calls for future tenants and have a role in the reviewing potential sub-lessees, according to a Menchaca spokeswoman. And the councilman will have a role in appointing members of the task force, she said.

In addition to the revenue sharing, the Economic Development Corporation is promising a new entrance to Bush Terminal Park and improvements to Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier 4, Menchaca said.

A critic of the plan is skeptical the benefits will flow quickly.

“EDC took eight years to open the waterfront park and only opened 11 acres and one hard-to-reach entrance,” said neighborhood activist Tony Giordano, referring to the long-delayed Bush Terminal Park.

The park is 22 acres, according to information from the Parks Department.

The city previously leased the marine terminal land directly to businesses, but using a master-lease system is safer, according to an Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman. The last tenant, Axis Group, went belly-up in 2012, and the city almost lost the land in bankruptcy proceedings, she said.

Once it signs the master lease, the corporation will draft a request for proposals outlining what it is looking for in a tenant. Executives at adjacent Industry City have expressed interest in using part of the land as a parking lot.

City Council still has to sign off on the deal — something that is largely perfunctory, because legislators typically vote lock-step with the local pol on similar proposals, council sources said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeg[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Empty, but not for long: The city is close to cutting a deal wherein the Economic Development Corporation would control and lease out the 88-acre, mostly fallow South Brooklyn Marine Terminal for 39 years — but critics say the plan lacks oversight.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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