Amid growing support amongst city council members, Industry City officials yesterday indicated they will move forward with their rezoning application, despite opposition from City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook), who represents the waterfront district where Industry City – the city’s largest privately-owned industrial complex – is located.
At stake is an economic development engine that could help the city dig out of a massive hole as the COVID pandemic has left the city with a roughly $9 billion budget deficit, an unemployment rate of over 20%, a growing number of businesses permanently closed, residents fleeing the state and a sharp uptick in crime.
Menchaca’s decision to not support the rezoning carries a lot of weight as the City Council – which needs to sign off on all rezoning applications – traditionally follows the lead decision of the local city council member,. However, City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) is leading a growing council effort to support the rezoning on the grounds the city is facing a growing existential crisis.
“We find ourselves at a historically precarious junction and it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the City Council is now faced with a decision that will help to determine which economic path we ultimately take. And if we’ve learned one thing over the past
several months, it’s that in a crisis of generational proportions, the City and its institutions can no longer afford to default to ‘well, that’s the way we’ve always done it,'” wrote Cornegy in a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan).
“This pandemic has forced us to think anew about what’s best for the greater good of our City and all of our residents and within that context we believe the choice for the City Council on Industry City’s proposal should be clear,” he added.
Cornegy’s letter comes as City Council Members Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) and Donovan Richards (D-Queens) wrote an editorial in the Daily News also supporting the project and warning it shouldn’t fall by the wayside like the failed proposed Amazon Headquarters deal in Long Island City, in which the giant on-line retailer pulled out of a deal worth thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue after progressive activists and lawmakers shouted down any negotiations.
“The potential for mass job creation at Industry City, a rare oasis of manufacturing, is one of the few glimmers of hope in a moment of despair. And yet, the city we love is in danger of sacrificing 20,000 jobs and $100 million a year in tax revenue — all in the middle of an economic depression,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We cannot afford to sin twice against job creation for tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Even more cruelly, the city is threatening to do so at the worst possible time, when the job gains of the last decade have all but disappeared, when 1.4 million New Yorkers have filed for unemployment, and when as many as one-third of small businesses have gone under.”
Meanwhile, the City Planning Commission (CPC) yesterday picked up from where it left off on Wednesday, Feb. 13, before the executive order to lock down the city due to the coronavirus outbreak forced a rescheduling of all city affairs including all rezoning applications going through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
At the meeting, Connie Chan of the Brooklyn Borough Office reviewed details of the project for the commissioners. She gave an in-depth presentation on the applicant’s proposal as it stands and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adam’s recommendations to the project.
During the public hearing in February, said Chan, rezoning for hotel use was expressly argued against by the Community Board, city officials, and the public, citing instances of hotels being converted into homeless shelters.
The developers, who are Industry City’s owners Jamestown, Angelo Gordon, and Belvedere Capital, still included hotel information in the proposal, but agreed to eliminate hotels from the application in compliance with public outcry.
Chan said that the proposal goes above and beyond with over $400 million invested in waterfront regulations in regards to public access areas, approaches to sustainability and resiliency infrastructure, and floodplain requirements. Plans have been made to modernize electric outfitting, green spaces, and build at least two feet above the floodplain line while utilizing reusable and renewable materials.
The proposal also aims to maintain mixed uses of manufacturing and contemporary office spaces that are currently ‘as of right’ and won’t impact existing access to ports or public areas or ongoing projects, like the East Side Coastal Resiliency project that reduces the flood risk from coastal storms.
From a public hearing held on January 8, BP Adams’ submitted his recommendations back in March that largely incorporated the Community Board’s recommendations, said Chan. He proposed a myriad of restrictions on the developer’s plans, such as eliminating hotels, storage and warehousing, trucking terminals and freight stations, and the capacity of eating and drinking establishments that would have dancing and large crowds.
Other community suggestions and benefits from BP Adams to local entities included minority and women-run business initiatives, a technical high school or education program, funding broadband for surrounding neighborhoods, allow for affordable housing units, and preservation of local landlords and homeowners to reduce displacement.
On March 13, said Chan, the developers agreed to absorb some of the recommendations and suggestions for community benefits stated, but has shown no intention at this time to withdraw the proposal and application.
Industry City Spokesperson Lee Silberstein said CPC’s thoughtful approach in considering IC’s application is exactly what is needed. “We are still hopeful, despite comments made last night on NY1, that the leadership needed to move this forward will emerge,” he said.
Should the application, with probable changes, move forward from the CPC, it will go to the full city council for a final vote.
A source in Johnson’s office said the speaker will have no comment until the application gets to this stage.