Undercover boss: Head of Industry City participated in town hall on waterfront development, but hid identity

Undercover boss: Head of Industry City participated in town hall on waterfront development, but hid identity
Fil photo by Elizabeth Graham

He was hiding in plain sight.

Sunset Parkers blasted Industry City chief executive officer Andrew Kimball for trying to blend into the crowd at a town hall on his waterfront development on July 23, and never telling fellow attendees that he was in charge of one of the main subjects of the discussion.

One local said that officials for Community Board 7, which organized the event, should have pointed Kimball out to the crowd when he failed to identify himself.

“They should’ve been called out, and that is the community board’s fault,” said Sunset Park resident Maria Roca, who arrived late and said she didn’t notice Kimball was there until the end. “Why didn’t they call them out? It could have been done very nicely.”

Kimball attended the event in the neighborhood’s temporary library at CB7’s Fourth Avenue office at 43rd Street, where board officials presented information on developments at Kimball’s mammoth manufacturing complex, Industry City, as well as the city-owned Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the Made in New York campus at Bush Terminal.

But CB7 officials specifically zeroed in on discussing the potential future of Industry City, due to the hub’s rezoning bid, which reps will apply for this fall with the hope of adding more retail and two hotels to the property. The community board would have the chance to weigh in on the rezoning in an advisory capacity as part of the city’s uniform land use review procedure.

But when town hall attendees broke off into small groups to discuss their opinions on the benefits and concerns of waterfront development generally — and the Industry City rezoning in particular — one board member who was in Kimball’s group said she was shocked when he weighed in on Industry City’s benefits to the local economy without revealing his obvious conflict of interest.

“In response to [the community board’s question about] what could this development bring to the area, he said jobs and partnerships with higher education and schools,” said Marcela Mitaynes. “He did give his input.”

But Mitaynes said that in the interest of transparency, Kimball should have identified himself — or been pointed out by the board so that locals knew who he was and why he was there. Mitaynes did not out him herself at the time, but rather thought it was the responsibility of the board if Kimball failed to do so himself.

“I don’t know how many people know who he is and what role he plays, and I think that’s a conversation that we need to have about wanting to be transparent, whether he identifies himself or the board identifies him,” she said.

The CB7 chairman, Cesar Zuniga, said that the board did not specifically invite Kimball to the event, but agreed that he should have identified the executive in front of the crowd, and pledged to do so if Kimball shows up at the board’s three upcoming town halls on the topic, slated for Aug. 13, Sept. 17, and Oct. 1 in the same location.

“I think maybe moving forward we will ask him to identify himself, because Industry City has a pretty large stake in this,” Zuniga said. “In the spirit of full disclosure and being transparent, it probably makes sense to disclose that he’s in the room.”

Kimball refused to answer a reporter’s questions after the event, and directed inquiries to a spokeswoman, who sent this paper a statement about the development’s role in the local economy but did not address why Kimball didn’t identify himself at the meeting or if he planned to identify himself at future town halls he attends.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.