The big wigs at Industry City submitted an application for a controversial rezoning with the city last week, beginning a seven-month-long game of chicken with Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who vowed to kill the proposal if executives at the maker space moved forward without his approval.
“Starting [this] week creates a high stakes pressure that is antithetical to sound community input in the face of a developer’s overwhelming resources,” said local Councilman Carlos Menchaca. “The developer’s decision reflects an unwillingness to continue following the Sunset Park community’s lead and I find that troubling.”
Bigwigs at the sprawling 35-acre industrial campus are looking to rewrite local zoning regulations to pave the way for a 12-year, $1 billion redevelopment plan of the complex, which would add more retail, academic space, and offices than the current zoning allows.
During the nearly year-long rezoning approval process, it is common for developers to fund community benefits in exchange for the regulatory windfall — but instead of bargaining for the concession during the public review process, Menchaca said he would vote down the rezoning application unless Industry City executives bowed to a list of demands before submitting their rezoning application.
Industry City executive Andrew Kimball quickly agreed to Menchaca’s conditions, removing hotels from the rezoning application, reducing the amount of requested retail space, and pitching in funds for a public high school, among other concessions.
Kimball also agreed to hold off on submitting the application in accordance with Menchaca’s two other demands — that Mayor Bill de Blasio sign a written contract promising city funds for the community, and that a community-based group create a legal document memorializing the community benefits.
But on Oct. 28, Kimball submitted the rezoning application to the Department of City Planning before Menchaca’s second two demands were met, prompting Menchaca to claim that he would reject the rezoning.
“I am prepared to vote ‘no’ because I do not believe starting ULURP today is enough time to craft a rezoning plan that protects and uplifts our most vulnerable neighbors,” Menchaca said in a statement on Monday.
Local leaders — who have long argued that the rezoning and subsequent redevelopment would displace low-income residents and hurt small businesses — also slammed Industry City for submitting the application before the demands were met, claiming that the move shows the developers’ disdain for the community.
“We share Council Member Menchaca’s outrage and believe that now is the time for him to commit to veto the rezoning application initiated by Industry City’s owners, regardless of whatever community benefits agreements Industry City may offer,” said leaders of a local advocacy organization, Protect Sunset Park. “Industry City’s owners have shown that they clearly can’t be trusted and don’t share our community’s values nor our best interests.”
Kimball defended the application’s submission, claiming that Industry City has participated in ongoing talks with the community about the rezoning for years.
“The Sunset Park neighborhood, with leadership from Councilman Carlos Menchaca and Community Board 7, undertook the most extensive community engagement process ever implemented in New York City for a proposal of this type,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that the benefits of this effort stay close to home.”