Industry City CEO Defends Expansion to Skeptical Sunset Park Residents

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Council Member Carlos Menchaca addresses Community Board 7 in Sunset Park (Image by Sam Raskin/ Bklyner)

SUNSET PARK—Industry City’s CEO on Monday defended the complex’s planned expansion at a Sunset Park’s community board meeting, responding to neighborhood residents’ questions as they mulled the plan, which was put on hold earlier this year at the local City Council member’s request.   

At a Brooklyn Community Board 7 meeting, residents gathered to ask questions and express their thoughts about the proposed rezoning of Industry City. The campus is seeking City Council approval to expand the 16-building, 32-acre Sunset Park facility, in a project that would bring 2 hotels, new retail and educational space—a development that would add more than 1 million square feet of construction.  

The proposed rezoning of the area from heavy manufacturing to a middle ground between heavy and light manufacturing, which is needed to facilitate this plan, was put on hold in March, after Council Member Carlos Menchaca said the application was “dead on arrival” if the public review process kicked off officially before he and local residents had more time to think things over.   

In addition, Menchaca told Bklyner in May he wants to use the Industry City rezoning process to change the way New York City goes about rezonings, by allowing Council members and local residents—not developers and the city—to dictate the timeline of how land use proposals are reviewed.

On Monday, Industry City’s CEO Andrew Kimball took the opportunity to defend the planned expansion and its process, which drew suspicion from some residents, who said the expansion would accelerate gentrification and displacement elsewhere in Sunset Park, wouldn’t provide jobs to people currently living in the area, could set the stage for more tall discretionary developments in Sunset Park, and said Industry City hasn’t been forthcoming about its plans.  

“It is an extraordinary amount of transparency for a private application,” Kimball told the dozens who gathered at Brooklyn Public Library’s Sunset Park branch Monday evening. “I think you’d  be hard-pressed to find anywhere in New York City the kind of development entity that has created a space for the community.”

Kimball, as he has said in the past, argued that the as-of-right development option—meaning it would need to abide by the underlying rezoning— wouldn’t yield an outcome local advocates would be satisfied with. He also explained the rationale behind Industry City’s solicitation of Amazon to create offices at the site.  

“We are zoned M3, which is a fairly archaic zoning,” he said. “It is important for people to understand that, under M3, you can do unlimited office space.”

After the meeting, Kimball told reporters that, while gentrification has been taking place in Sunset Park and several other neighborhoods in the city, “the answer to gentrification is not slowing down or killing job creation, it is making sure that the jobs being created are best connected to the community and to schools that serve the community.”

Several attendees remained unconvinced.  

“I’m concerned about opening that door to building that tall on 3rd and 2nd avenues,” said María Roca, founder and chair of Friends of Sunset Park. “This is not going to be the only rezoning proposal that we are going to see in this community.”    

Marcela Mitaynes, an organizer with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, questioned whether Industry City would conduct local hiring.

“We don’t want to hear that you are a private company and don’t have to disclose that information,” she said.

Mitaynes also argued that Industry City has been changing the neighborhood and if the company expanded, it would further transform Sunset Park—a phenomenon she suggested Kimball failed to recognize.

“If you cannot admit what your presence is going to do to our community, the long-lasting impacts that it’s going to have, then we cannot have an honest discussion of whether it’s good or not,” she said.  

Others, however, talked up the potential expansion.

Giovanni Taveras, founder of the New York State Veterans Chamber of Commerce who has space at Industry City, sees the expansion as a way of further improving the neighborhood by adding jobs to it.

“I’m a lifelong Brooklyn resident. 15 years ago, this place was terrible,” Taveras told Bklyner. “Now, we see jobs coming back. … I’d like to see more jobs being created and more businesses being created in Sunset Park.”

Menchaca, who represents the potentially affected area, told reporters that he and the local residents are still considering the rezoning, which was first floated about four years ago, and that they don’t have enough information to come to a decision yet.

“Right now, we’re still on a fact-finding mission with the community,” he said. “The tone here is that there is no rezoning until we say it’s okay.”

“Each of these spaces the community board has created is going to help us dig deeper,” Menchaca, a Progressive Caucus member, then said to the crowd at the beginning of the event. “We are so blessed to be in a community that feels empowered.”

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Did Andrew Kimball really say that he’s got the answer to gentrification? And it’s … jobs? First off, this was exactly Amazon’s argument in LIC. And just like with Amazon, the jobs being created are not for people in the neighborhood and will ultimately drive up rents and displace neighborhood residents.

    Stop lying Andrew Kimball. Industry City rezoning is about one thing – increasing Jamestown’s property value.

  2. Exactly right! And just exactly what kind of jobs is he talking about? Because everybody knows that retail and hotel jobs are the lowest wages. No more IC in SP, they are the greatest force for gentrification of the neighborhood!

  3. I’m just happy Bklynr sent a reporter instead of taking money from Jamestown to print a version of events written by one of their PR firms like they usually do! it’s a great day for journalism!

  4. Just so I understand correctly, people are fighting a private company’s right to do what its purpose is to do? Aren’t they within their rights to do so? Hasn’t sunset park become a better place to live? Is the solution to stymie growth and to keep it “the way it was?”

    If someone adds on to their home or improves it in order to increase its worth on the open market, do people complain that they are being selfish and not considering the community? At least this comes with jobs and improvements to an otherwise desolate waterfront.

    Shaun, what would you like to see? Adding jobs isn’t always the answer, yes, but adding them in a way that employs some community members will help. The Wegman’s development is doing that. You can’t ask every single job to go toward the community members, but you can ask that some do. I think Kimball is totally oversimplifying Gentrification.

  5. I know plenty of fellow Sunset Parkers completely in favor of the Industry City planning.
    There are people here that blame Industry City for EVERYTHING wrong in the neighborhood – they tend to be given the largest soap boxes and the press always goes to the same people over and over for their input. I grew up here. I remember what it was like before IC brought community access, jobs, and places to enjoy in those buildings.
    IC the main force behind rising rents??? Nobody wants to face the inconvenient truth: rents have mostly been rising in the area because the Asian community has been exponentially expanding and tend to force all the old tenants out in order to illegally convert their property in order to justify high purchase prices. I have nothing against that community – Sunset Park’s entire history is about new immigrant groups coming in and old communities being forced out. It happened to the Scandinavians, the Irish, Italians 75+ years – was IC to blame for that too LOL
    Reminder: Industry City has ZERO housing and is not proposing any either.

  6. ask the people who are opposed to lower skilled jobs why they are also opposed to higher skilled jobs??? “People in Sunset Park don’t want hotel or retail jobs!” then “People in Sunset Park can’t qualify for higher skilled jobs!” I mean seriously, just say it: no jobs are acceptable for you, you just oppose the plan all logic aside! There are people here who qualify for all these jobs, give Sunset Parkers more jobs +opportunities!!!

  7. I have been in Sunset park for 50 years. I was born and raised here. As a child I had quality of life. I remember playing outside with my friends ( Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish, Scandinavian). It was diverse. It was clean. It was quiet. Until the 80s. It really isn’t diverse anymore. It’s not quiet. I remember the hookers on third avenue. The crack viles on the sidewalk. It’s slowly changing for the better. IC is helping to bring back that quality of life. Now I see people of different back grounds moving in as well as visiting and patronizing local businesses. I would like to see a clean fifth avenue. A quiet avenue. I’d like to see restaurants other than Chinese food, Taquerias and delis. Why do I have to drive 2 miles for sushi? Why is there a hair and nail salon on every block but no community book store? I would like to have the same quality of life as my neighbors in bay ridge or park slope. Manchaca is catering to one group. That group does not represent me. I know there are others like me that feel the same way. What did Uprose do to remove the hookers and improve the neighborhood ? Nothing. They mask themselves as an environmental group. What they really are is maintaining the status quo. Keeping quality of life at bay.

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