Johnson Noncommittal As Battle Lines Drawn on Industry City Rezoning


The words ‘public hearing’ on Industry City’s proposed rezoning of a portion of the Sunset Park waterfront was barely out of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson‘s (D-Manhattan) mouth yesterday and opponents were already attacking him as a sellout to corporate landlords and ignoring the Black and Brown communities.

Johnson announced he would hold the hearing next month on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer’s Show after two callers – one for the rezoning and one against it – called into the show. He said the hearing would allow all sides to express their views and that the City Council by law has to vote on the rezoning application as part of the Uniform Land Use Procedure (ULURP).

The City Planning Commission approved the application and now it comes before the city council, and they [the applicants] are legally entitled to a hearing and people will have the ability to speak and talk about their concerns,” said Johnson.

Established in 2013 on the long-abandoned Sunset Park waterfront, Industry City is the city’s largest privately-owned industrial complex comprising 16-buildings. It currently houses hundreds of businesses including in light manufacturing, retail, technology and events employing more than 7,500 people and has invested more than $80 million on Brooklyn-based businesses.

In late October of last year, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball and the Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.-owned campus put in a rezoning application to change part of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone to expand to accommodate up to 900,000 square feet of retail space, build two hotels totaling 275,000 square feet, use 600,000 square feet for academic classrooms, and develop up to 1.3 million square feet of additional commercial space.

Industry City officials estimate the further development will create about 20,000 jobs and they already own the property in question and can do most of the plan as-of-right. However, they have had numerous meetings with the local community with some local residents in favor of the plan and others opposing it.

Johnson said on Lehrer’s show that while there are valid concerns about possible displacement and gentrification, they must also be weighed against the city going through unprecedented unemployment, and a fiscal crisis largely due to the COVID pandemic.

“We have to listen to concerns and see if there is a way to bridge concerns. We have to make sure anything promised is legally enforced. Any develop[ment coming out of the pandemic needs to be focussed on recovery and can’t have empty promises,” said Johnson.

Opponents of the plan include the organization Protect Sunset Park with the strong backing of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), who have held several meetings on Industry City and who was largely responsible for Amazon walking away from moving a second headquarters to Long Island City Queens.

The Amazon development held the promise of millions of dollars in tax revenue and thousands of jobs and spinoff small business opportunities for local Queens residents including those living in the Queensbridge Houses, one of the largest public housing developments in the city, which is near where Amazon wanted to develop their headquarters.

“Speaker Corey Johnson revealed today who he’s trying to include in the conversation about our waterfront’s future,” said Jorge Muñiz, a Sunset Park resident and spokesperson for Protect Sunset park.” Instead of listening to the thousands of community voices asking him to say no to this private waterfront plan the City Council leader chose to calendar a hearing for the corporate landlords without announcing any details of how immigrant and working-class folks can actually participate.”

But not all Sunset Park residents are against the plan

“Industry City has provided my business a network of connections and partnerships right here in the neighborhood that I’ve always called home,” said Ana Diaz, president of Diaz Electric. “The number of opportunities created by Industry City for my business and my neighbors have been countless and the campus has become vital to the future of Sunset Park.”

 The plan for Industry City is expected to be voted on in the NYC Council within the next 45 days.