More than a hundred disgruntled constituents gathered in front of Councilman Carlos Menchaca’s Fourth Avenue district office last Thursday to demand his support in preventing Industry City’s scheme to rezone the area and expand its already massive manufacturing complex.
If approved, the rezoning would pave the way for a billion dollar, 10-year renovation of Industry City, adding two hotels, department stores, and more than 25 football fields’ worth of space to the 30-acre complex, which activists fear will lead to sweeping gentrification, raising rents, displacing low-income residents, and crippling local businesses.
“We will not accept a developer-led rezoning so that we can clean hotel rooms for the rich until we are displaced,” said Colleen Peabody-Diez, who lives nearby Industry City. “We reject ULURP and will only support a community-based model to discuss any change in land use anywhere in our neighborhood.”
Menchaca lingered in the back of the crowd during much of the protest, only briefly taking the microphone to thank the crowd and accept a petition with 2,400 signatures, before hopping on his bike and pedaling away, angering protesters who had wanted him to voice his opposition to the rezoning.
“What side are you on, Carlos? What side are you on?” the protestors chanted.
The protest came at the end of the six-month hiatus on the rezoning proposal, which Menchaca earned after vowing to vote down Industry City’s rezoning scheme if Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kimball didn’t hold off on submitting the application to the City Planning Commission in March.
Peabody-Diez implied that the scheme to expand reflected a desire to drive out the neighborhood’s East Asian and Latino populations. “How come they didn’t go to white communities?” she asked the crowd. “Why… a brown, immigrant community?”
Protesters also dismissed Kimball’s claims that the redevelopment will create thousands of jobs for locals and help neighborhood business, arguing that developers have delivered false promises to community activists before.
“This is not a wait and see situation,” said Gustavo Gordillo from the South Brooklyn Chapter of New York City Democratic Socialists. “Prove you are here for the many, not for the money!” he told Menchaca.
As the council member whose district encompasses the land affected by the rezoning application, Menchaca effectively controls how the city’s legislative body will vote on the matter, making his support key to the application’s success.
“The fate and the future of our waterfront is in Menchaca’s hands,” said Claudia Galicia, a member of a local political club.