Menchaca Wants A Radical Rethinking Of Rezonings

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Industry City via Instagram

SUNSET PARK – With the expansion of Sunset Park’s Industry City in flux, the local City Council member hopes pumping the brakes on the project’s approval process will serve as a model that shifts the land use politics paradigm in the city.

On Sunday, Council Member Carlos Menchaca told Bklyner that he wants to spur a “radical” change “away from the status quo” on discretionary development.

Industry City, a 16-building, approximately 500-business complex in Southwest Brooklyn, is seeking a zoning change that would allow it to add retail and educational space, as well as two hotels with more than 400 rooms to its more than 5 million-square-foot campus. Industry City’s 10-year, $1 billion redevelopment plan, which requires a rezoning of the M3 area to be built, promises to create 15,000 jobs and bring an economic boon to the neighborhood.

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Predictably, the proposed development in the changing, historically industrial pocket of the city prompted gentrification fears. And about four years after Industry City’s expansion was first floated, the proposal was put on ice in March, when Menchaca, who represents the area, vowed to kill the project unless Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball delayed the application, which he begrudgingly agreed to do.     

Menchaca at first argued he and neighborhood advocates needed more time to mull over the proposal than the city’s land use review process allots, and soon after floated the possibility of not allowing an expansion at all.

Menchaca told Community Board 7 in March that he’s “not sure that a rezoning is at all necessary now,” Curbed reported. Last month, Menchaca told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that “the best-case scenario may be no rezoning.”

At an unrelated press conference in March, Mayor Bill de Blasio touted the redevelopment’s job-creating potential. “This is about … ensuring that there are jobs for people in working communities,” he said. “I understand that there are concerns about gentrification and those are honest and those are real, but the irony to me is that this particular initiative was aimed at creating jobs for working people, for the community and [people] from surrounding communities.”

Kimball, in a letter responding to the local community board’s chair and Menchaca, talked up the benefits of Industry City’s plan and said the no-rezoning option wouldn’t yield the outcome expansion skeptics desire.  

“You have the opportunity here to support the type of good paying, accessible job-generating project that so far has resulted in 5,500 new jobs, or 100 new jobs a month, and will lead to 15,000 jobs with a unique mix-use ecosystem of commercial academic and industrial uses,” Kimball wrote. “Or you can slow job creation and force the project to turn entirely to commercial office-type tenants, all as of right under the current archaic heavy M3 zoning.”

Lisa Serbaniewicz, a spokesperson for Industry City, said since there are “four times as many jobs and three times as many businesses” at Industry City currently than there were in 2013  the case for the rezoning is made clear,” no matter the process.

But Menchaca says the way he’s approaching Industry City’s potential growth is about far more than just addressing this particular proposed expansion.

“I’m very committed to building out that sense of leadership, so that other Council members feel like they can take this on,” he said Sunday, of his efforts to establish a model in which the local member has more control over development bids.

Menchaca noted he is bringing in outside experts to assess the likely impacts of Industry City’s expansion, explaining that he doesn’t trust City Planning to accurately measure ensuing displacement and gentrification.

“We have a large burden as a community and as a city to think through some of that, otherwise it’s going to be developers running the show, being in the driver’s seat,” he added.

Taking things slowly and carefully this time around, he says, will play a part in ensuring past mistakes are not repeated.

“Every single rezoning has been difficult [and] has left a bad taste in communities’ mouths,” he explained. “That’s not what we deserve. … That’s not the only way to do rezonings and to do development in the city.”  

By September, Menchaca says he and neighborhood advocates with whom he’s been consulting will come to a decision on whether or not they will begin a land use process or nix the buildout —an outcome Menchaca sounded warm to. He said a no-rezoning scenario is a “viable option” and that it presented “a lot of good possibilities for things to just keep growing” in Sunset Park, which he wants to keep a “walk-to-work neighborhood.”

“This isn’t the last time Sunset Park will be met with the forces of capitalism and greed that are hitting so many cities,” he said, “and we need to stay stronger.”  

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I am liberal democrat that has lived in Sunset Park for years. I have met Carlos several times in person and generally agree with his social policies. Unfortunately Mr. Menchaca is an economic illiterate.

  2. Sounds like Amazon HQ2 redux. The local elected official raises the red herring of gentrification to deter the growth of employment opportunity for his constituents, in order to sound like he’s “protecting” the neighborhood. Someone should point out to Mr. Menchaca that even though LIC lost HQ2, gentrification is continuing, albeit without the employment and business growth HQ2 would have brought.

  3. Menchaca and Elizabeth Y from Uprose use the same logic that reminds me of trump supporters in the Deep South who want to halt progress and growth because they want to keep things as they are. I live in the community and love the changes!! As a native New Yorker I want to be able to walk to work, like he says he is protecting. But who is he protecting?? It’s not me! I’m in favor of this and so are SO many people!! Industry City IS A WALK to work complex. I applaud Kimball for highlighting things can just continue as they are, then stopping the progress is short sighted.

  4. I agree with Councilman Menchaca. Why not take some time for all those involved in their community to really look at the changes that Kimball suggests? what is the big rush? gentrification really does displace the people who live there and do they really need two more gigantic hotels in industry city? who knows….? change should proceed slowly, let the residents, along with menchaca, research these suggested changes, but with restraint and lots of caution, then look into the impact it will have on the neighborhood. a lot of people have comments, and ideas, but i assure you many do not live in sunset park, only the residents of sunset park should be able to voice their concerns to the powers that be since this IS their neighborhood…..

  5. Menechaca is making this about himself. He is laying the ground work for political bids beyond his currant base. In simple English, he is FOS. I have lived here most of my life, I was born here. I’ have seen Industry city and that area go from a dynamic industrial/commercial hub to a ghost town and back. Menchaca would like to see it remain a ghost town so he can control it. This is all about him remaining king of the hill. Further, the area beyond the Highway has been distinct from the rest of the neighborhood b/c it is cut off and has always been largely non-residential. It’s non-residential b/c that’s where the docks were. Docks equal warehouses and other commercial space.

  6. Sounds like CM Menchaca would prefer a system similar to Chicago, where you buy your local Alderman to get any zoning changes. Allowing any one councilmember gets to veto projects in their district is a recipe for disaster. The whole field of planning is about balancing competing interests, from a local site all the way up to a regional scale. Of course there may be some effects that come from rezoning that impact the local community, but those effects have to be balanced against the larger scale economic health of the boro and city. People seem to forget that NYC wasn’t always a booming jobs center and that we need to keep ahead of the game. CM Menchaca doesn’t get it.

  7. the problem is that these activists and groups that are studying the rezoning on behalf of menchaca/cb7 are biased and completely against industry city. i have gone to the hearings. they say rents are rising and then say it’s industry city’s fault – without any scientific proof of a correlation. any problem in sunset park is because of IC at these meetings. they always conveniently ignore that rents were rising before IC began redeveloping, Sunset Park has mass transit options that make it desirable, the immigrant population is booming (more demand, less supply), and that rents are rising everywhere – certainly rising rents in red hook, park slope, bed stuy, etc aren’t industry city’s fault, too??? i am a latinx, live in and love sunset park – i was born in this neighborhood! so many of my friends were like me – immigrant parents, we got a local education, and went to college. many of them left Sunset because there weren’t local middle class jobs or safe, fun places to go with their family – certainly not derelict, drug infested bush terminal. now there is finally an opportunity to improve things and our elected official – who did not spend a day in Sunset Park before being elected – wants to shut down a project that will bring thousands of jobs to our neighborhood and stop the Sunset Park brain drain?? Nearly everyone I know supports this project, but Uprose (who most locals think of as a completely radical nimby group that just makes a lot of noise) is against it, so the project might get killed. PLEASE! – the people who have lived in sunset through the bad, rough years see a lot of hope in Industry City!!! Let this plan move forward!!!

  8. I agree with Councilman Menchaca. Why not take some time for all those involved in their community to really look at the changes that Andrew Kimball suggests? what is the big rush? gentrification really does displace the people who live there and do they really need two more gigantic hotels in industry city? who knows….? change should proceed slowly, let the residents, along with menchaca, research these suggested changes, but with restraint and lots of caution, then look into the impact it will have on the neighborhood. a lot of people have comments, and ideas, but i assure you many do not live in sunset park, only the residents of sunset park should be able to voice their concerns to the powers that be since this IS their neighborhood…..

  9. I’d like to understand how the Industry City people say they have been having public meetings about this for four years, and the councilman only makes an issue of it this year? What happened to government oversight the other years? I do understand that there is a time schedule that ULURPS follow, but for one this scale you would think that both sides would get together before this. And are they getting together? This article doesn’t address that.

  10. just to show how those opposed to this project work: boy do “victoria from sunset park” and “Eddie from Gravesend” seem to have similar feelings… lol
    uprose recently had this big march and protest through sunset park against industry city, they plastered (littered) sunset with flyers about it. maybe 15 people showed up, some of whom i’ve never seen in the neighborhood in my life. now opposition is resorting to spamming comment sections in order to seem they have more support than they do! living in Sunset Park, i know 10 people who support industry city for every 1 that opposes. these people are too busy with work and family to attend and kick and scream at every community board meeting or organize weekly protests. they aren’t on the rolodex of local news outlets, all of whom call the same three people for input on this issue: uprose, neighbors helping nighbors, and menchaca – all of whom, of course, oppose the project.
    the fact that menchaca almost explicitly states that he is merely trying to make an example out of industry city so that future rezonings are done a certain way is extremely disturbing as a citizen and voter. shouldn’t proejcts like this be judged on their merits? our community cannot afford to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and THOUSANDS of job opportunities for residents just to “send a message.”
    George: that’s a great point! and yes, there have been meetings and presentations about this for YEARS – at various locations, with various community groups co-sponsoring events, and in various languages! the fact that this was even delayed is ridiculous.

  11. “only the residents of sunset park should be able to voice their concerns to the powers that be since this IS their neighborhood…..”

    Says “Eddie from Gravesend”. LOOOOOL

  12. no one has addressed the issue of the infrastructure in this neighborhood — can the area be able to support this massive proposal… ? have studies been done?

  13. I would like to know what industries those who support the project work in, and if they are aware of the limited types of businesses that currently exist at IC. I honestly see droves of people walking to the 36th St. subway at the end of the workday coming from IC, these are not “local working folk” they look to me just like the crowds of commuters going to SoHo or Midtown, not “walk to work” areas. In IC there’s an expensive barbershop with hipsters, petco, costco, and then Restoration hardware outlets and other very high end furnishings and 3D design studios. The existing eateries at IC are mostly visited by those that also already work there as its inconvenient even for those that live in Sunset Park to possibly pick up food / way too expensive. Many of the businesses at IC are design focused, which unless you have a degree from an arts program, and/or in addition to graduate studies, you will not be hired there period. The other jobs (petco, costco, etc) are service industry jobs which pay minimum wage and generally hire low skilled workers. So again, I’m wondering, what jobs are actually being created for the CURRENT workforce in IC, or are Sunset Park residents getting free art and design educations now?

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