SUNSET PARK – Sunset Park Councilmember Carlos Menchaca sent a letter to Industry City (IC) yesterday outlining the conditions which need to be accommodated for him to support the company’s quest for rezoning.
If you are new to this, Industry City is a massive, mostly industrial private property on the waterfront in Sunset Park, and its owners would like to change some of the uses so they can expand the 16-building, 32-acre property. The proposed project would bring 2 hotels, new retail and educational space and add more than 1 million square feet of construction.
The City’s process for approving such changes is called ULURP, and Menchaca argues that it is flawed and does not give enough time or opportunity to provide meaningful feedback and engagement from the surrounding community affected by such large development.
Menchaca says in the letter that the IC’s current rezoning application would “exacerbate gentrification, displacement, and rising rents; leave the community unprepared for climate change; and fail to preserve or strengthen the manufacturing and industrial character of the waterfront,” and as the result, he cannot support it.
But he also does not like the future without negotiating of some kind of compromise, as he believes, having consulted just about every stakeholder in Sunset Park over the last six months, that if the developers were to proceed with using their property under current zoning, that too will exacerbate the above concerns.
On Monday, Menchaca held a community meeting to explain his reasoning and findings and outline the conditions that he thought would be beneficial for the community and allow IC to develop their property. That meeting was cut short by activists opposing the rezoning.
The councilman is asking the private developers to put greater community’s interest and terms at the center of their project. Is there a win-win outcome possible?
The terms Menchaca hopes to agree with IC in the next week are as follows:
- Remove hotels from the proposed Special District
- Establish an irreducible minimum amount of space restricted for industrial uses within the proposed Special District
- Further restrict total amount, size and location of retail uses within the proposed Special District
Menchaca also outlines two other conditions for rezoning to move ahead, that the developer must agree to even though they would have no control over it.
“The second condition is that the Mayor’s Office present to Sunset Park, in writing to me, that they are ready to work with us to make the necessary investments to address our workforce, education and housing challenges, such as investments for a public technical high school, affordable housing, and tenant support through organizers and legal services,” Menchaca writes – an ask from the Mayor.
And an ask from the community, and a binding community benefits agreement:
“The third and final condition is that a group in the Sunset Park community emerges to carry forward one end of a community benefits agreement. There must be an identifiable partner in such an agreement and proof that a legal team is present to negotiate and make legally binding commitments from Industry City to the rest of the Sunset Park community.
I want you to commit to working with this group, when they emerge, on the following items:
- Establishing a public technical high school and adult education center at Industry City;
- Expanding and enhancing the Innovation Lab to connect more Sunset Park residents to jobs, support worker cooperatives, and provide training and research around green manufacturing;
- Establishing a manufacturing hub that is managed by a mission-driven non-profit to ensure industrial businesses—including those focused on climate resilience and adaptation—have long term access to space and support in Sunset Park;
- Promoting existing Sunset Park businesses through your tenanting process, and establishing programs to incentivize Industry City tenants to source locally;
- Providing Industry City roof space to expand the Sunset Park Solar Cooperative; and
- Providing funds to support and expand tenant organizing, education and advocacy efforts in Sunset Park.”
Lisa Serbaniewicz, a spokesperson for Industry City had this to say earlier today: “We look forward to working with Council Member Menchaca and our neighbors in Sunset Park to conclude an agreement that will allow the job-creating effort that is already underway to continue and grow.”