‘Industry’ slowdown: Leaders of Sunset Park’s commercial City delay efforts to rezone complex amid pushback

‘Industry’ slowdown: Leaders of Sunset Park’s commercial City delay efforts to rezone complex amid pushback
File photo by Sara Hylton

This industrial revolution will have to wait.

The owners of Industry City delayed the public-review process for their recently filed request to rezone the massive complex, bowing to pressure from local lawmakers and civic gurus who demanded they pump the brakes on the scheme.

“In consideration of the request made by our councilman and community board, Industry City has agreed to postpone public review of the proposed rezoning of the property,” Industry City spokeswoman Lisa Serbaniewicz said on Monday.

The commercial complex’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kimball last month filed an application with the city to begin the rezoning, which he and other honchos seek in order to add more than 25 football fields’ worth of space — including a pair of hotels with more than 400 rooms — to the 30 acres the complex already occupies as part of a billion-dollar, more than decade-long plan, according to reports.

But weeks later, Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) and local Community Board 7 Chairman Cesar Zuniga together penned a March 6 letter to Kimball, demanding he delay the public-review process for the scheme to rezone the site spanning 30th–36th streets between Second and Third avenues, which is required as part of the lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure the application must pass before any work can begin.

The local leaders alleged that the community board is not yet ready to officially weigh in on the scheme — which requires the panel to hold a public meeting about the proposal, vote on it, and then submit a purely advisory written recommendation to the City Planning Commission within 60 days of the agency’s certification of the rezoning application — because its members are in the midst of addressing “concerns about displacement and gentrification,” which would prevent them from voting on the rezoning within the required time frame.

Menchaca and Zuniga also listed several tasks they want to accomplish before the formal public review commences, including:

• Getting answers from Industry City reps about how the rezoning proposal will mitigate “displacement, gentrification, rising rents, congestion, and the effects of climate change.”

• Conducting a “community-based needs assessment” focused on the waterfront.

• Allowing Menchaca to present his own findings on what the rezoning and subsequent development would mean for the future of the waterfront.

• Hosting a CB7–led presentation on the information gathered at the panel’s series of gentrification and development-focused town halls last year.

• Conducting public reviews of both the board’s and Menchaca’s presentations.

The councilman in a separate statement warned that the rezoning application would be “dead on arrival” if Industry City leaders did not heed the demands to delay the public-review process — a threat that does not bode well for the scheme, since the pol would have an outsize influence over Council’s eventual vote on it, because the site sits within his district.

Two days after Menchaca and Zuniga sent their letter, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–Red Hook), along with state Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D–Crown Heights), fired off their own missive to Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago that echoed the demands of the councilman and CB7 leader.

The trio added that they worried the rezoning could “exacerbate real-estate pressures, displacement, rising rents, congestion, pollution, and forever shift the nature of the waterfront away from manufacturing to commercial tourism” if officials allowed it to proceed without thorough examination.

Serbaniewicz did not respond to an inquiry about how long Industry City honchos planned to delay the rezoning process, but she cited figures that she claimed represented the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue the complex has created since its 2013 founding, adding that her bosses intend to cooperate with the community when they resume the rezoning process.

“In the past five years, Industry City has generated tremendous economic activity, including investing more than $400 million in private funds to improve the complex, quadrupling the number of on-site jobs from 1,900 to more than 7,500, and growing the number of businesses from 150 to more than 500,” she said. “We fully appreciate the desire to continue that meaningful economic growth while ensuring it aligns with the broader needs of the entire community.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Flesh it out: Industry City chief executive officer Andrew Kimball must provide answers about how the requested rezoning would mitigate issues such as displacement and gentrification before moving forward with the scheme, according to local pols and leaders.
File photo by Sara Hylton