Planning Commission recommends approval of Industry City’s rezoning

industry city
Industry City.
Courtesy of Industry City

City planning honchos recommended the City Council approve the controversial rezoning application to expand Sunset Park’s Industry City on Wednesday — citing a need for jobs within New York City limits.

“We know that for our city to function, we need both warehousing space and space for job-dense uses close to where New Yorkers live,” said City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago in a statement. “The Industry City proposal can provide both – without public subsidies or public capital investments on the underutilized, privately-owned 30-acre facility — but only if we update our long-outdated zoning.”

The Planning Commission voted 11-to-1 in favor of the $1 billion redevelopment of the 35-acre facility that, if approved, would add more retail, academic space, and offices over the next 12 years. 

Just weeks before the Planning Commission issued its advisory opinion to the Council, news broke that developers were considering scrapping the rezoning plans altogether after Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca vowed to vote down the proposal on July 28. The pol, who holds outsized power over the application’s passage in the Council as the district’s representative, made the pledge after he said developers failed to meet his long list of conditions

“I made it very clear that I would not support Industry City’s rezoning unless certain conditions were met. These conditions were not met,” Menchaca said in a statement. “I strongly oppose this application and will vote no if it comes before the City Council.”

Critics like Menchaca claim Industry City’s development of Sunset Park’s waterfront will price out the neighborhood’s heavily immigrant, working-class population in favor of luxury condos and large corporate retailers. The pol’s conditions would eliminate hotels from the plans and include the construction of a public technical high school.

“This racist rezoning seeks to replace opportunities for our working-class communities of color on the industrial waterfront with consumers of inessential luxury retail and corporate office space.” said Jorge Muñiz, a Sunset Park resident “Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio could be working together to publicly plan our waterfront’s future instead of abandoning it to private interests.” 

But while an area’s local Council member has historically had essential veto power over any big rezoning in their districts, a group of legislators have challenged that precedent in the Industry City case — including Council members Robert Cornegy of Crown Heights, Donovan Richards of Queens, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. 

Those proponents of the rezoning effort contend that the expansion could help the city recover from a growing economic crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, Industry City executives — who claim approval of the plan would bring more than 20,000 jobs to Brooklyn and net around $100 million a year new tax revenue — say they’re committed to making their case before the Council in the final phase of their approval process.

“After considering the facts, including that the proposal will lead to the creation of 20,000 good paying jobs and generate $100 million in annual tax revenue, the City Planning Commission has now recommended that the plan be approved,” said Andrew Kimball, chief executive officer of Industry City. “We will continue to make the case for this proposal and look forward to working with the City Council and other community stakeholders as the approval process enters its final phase.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on Wednesday denounced City Planning’s decision.

“It’s true that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have framed in stark and urgent relief the need for job growth and revitalized and reimagined economic development in our city,” he said in a statement. “But the pandemic has also magnified existing structural issues and inequities that have long devastated communities, and this rezoning would be a continuation of those issues, not a cure.”