Letter from mayor pushes Menchaca towards “no” vote on Industry City rezoning: aide

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The city has declined to bow to a list of demands that Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca laid down to secure his approval for an application to rezone Industry City — increasing the lawmaker’s resolve to vote down the controversial rezoning scheme, according to a top aide. 

“It’s entrenching his skepticism that the best thing that could happen for the neighborhood could happen through the ULURP that kicked off in October,” said Anthony Chiarito, the councilman’s Director of Communications. 

Menchaca — whose support is necessary for Industry City’s rezoning application to succeed — said he would only approve the maker space’s aggressive 12-year, $1 billion expansion plan if Mayor de Blasio committed in writing to provide funding for a high school, affordable housing, and tenant programs benefiting Sunset Park residents.

However, in a Dec. 13 letter from the Department of City Planning, a rep for hizzoner claimed that the city would not provide the type of fiscal support Menchaca demanded in support of a private development through the city’s Neighborhood Development Fund, a $1 billion funding pool used to support neighborhoods earmarked for city-backed rezoning efforts, such as the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan being pushed by the Department of City Planning. 

“NDF cannot fund any investments related to private applications or non-residential rezonings,” wrote Anita Laremont, executive director of the Department of City Planning. 

But Menchaca claims that, whether public or private, the Industry City rezoning would have profound consequences on the surrounding neighborhood and that the city must extend its support to Sunset Park.

“This is not any run-of-the-mill private application. It is the largest private application to rezone an industrial waterfront property ever in New York City’s history,” he said in a statement. “It proposes the most significant change to an Industrial Business Zone ever contemplated — areas this administration has vowed to protect.”

The letter comes nearly two months after Industry City executive Andrew Kimball submitted the rezoning proposal to the city, which kickstarted the city’s seven-month land use review procedure. 

Prior to the application’s submission to the city, Menchaca announced his conditional support of the rezoning application, as long as Kimball bent to his demands. Menchaca requested that  Kimball eliminate hotels from the application, limit retail space, and hold off on submitting the application to the city until the mayor had promised funding for local initiatives and a group of residents had formed a legally-binding community benefits agreement, among other asks. 

Kimball initially said he would bend to Menchaca’s demands, only to submit an application to the city on Oct. 28 that ignored many of the lawmakers requests, prompting the councilman to say he would vote down the rezoning when it arrived to the city council for a vote. 

But in the past two months, Menchaca and residents have seemed to be searching for a compromise. Residents have formed a group to create a community benefits agreement, and Menchaca has tried to meet with the Mayor’s office to try to get their funding and support for community benefits.  

Still, progress has moved slowly. No community benefits agreements have been formed, and according to one of the group’s members on Dec. 9, the residents have not decided “if a [community benefits agreement] is even feasible given that the city council will vote on this proposal next June.”

The letter, which the city sent in response to Menchaca and Community Board Chair Cesar Zuniga’s Nov. 4 request to meet with the mayor, only further convinced Menchaca that the land use review process is ill-equipped to effectively handle the rezoning, according to his top aide.

“He was starting at a no because he didn’t feel that the process is correct,” said Chiarito. “This is only entrenching that position further.”