Plans to rezone Industry City are, once again, dead on arrival — should the developer decide to move forward.
Brooklyn Council member Carlos Menchaca said in an Instagram video posted Tuesday that he “strongly opposes” the rezoning. Under City Council custom, as the local member, he has the power to make or break the proposal.
“I made it very clear that I would not support Industry City’s rezoning unless certain conditions were met. Those conditions were not met,” Menchaca said, likely referring in part to the developers’ failure to remove hotels from the application. “Industry City’s rezoning will make it more difficult for working people to live in Sunset Park. And our city’s land use process? Well, it favors corporate developers as they profit off the displacement of working-class workers.”
Representatives for the development team — a partnership between Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, Cammeby’s International and Angelo, Gordon & Co. — had told Politico New York on Monday that it was considering pulling its $1 billion rezoning plans because of “a number of convergent factors” — that the concessions Menchaca was seeking were too steep and that the industrial campus is proving to be attractive to tenants under the current zoning.
But it is still unclear whether the application will be pulled, Lee Silberstein, a spokesperson for the developers, told The Real Deal Tuesday. Citing the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, he said, “Often, in times of great crisis, great leaders emerge. We are hoping that will be the case in our effort to work with city leaders to fully implement a plan to create 20,000 jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.”
Silberstein may have been expressing hope that City Council Speaker Corey Johnson would negotiate a rezoning and marshall support from Menchaca’s colleagues to approve it.
Traditionally, the local member’s position decides the fate of a rezoning as the other 50 members fall in line, in order to be afforded that same power on applications in their own districts. But on rare occasions, a speaker will override that, generally on matters that affect areas beyond the local member’s district.
Menchaca clearly expects to decide the fate of Industry City’s rezoning application. In March 2019, citing concerns over displacement and gentrification in Sunset Park, Menchaca warned that the application would be “dead on arrival” if the development team did not delay entering Ulurp.
Back in September, after delaying the process, Menchaca said the rezoning application could proceed if the development team made certain concessions. The application to rezone the 35-acre complex, which would allow for more retail, academic space and offices, as well as a pair of hotels, at the Third Avenue site, began the city’s seven-month land-use review process in October. Due to the coronavirus, the process has been halted since March and is expected to restart in September.
Since entering Ulurp, the application faced opposition from local community boards, while Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams supported certain aspects of the rezoning and opposed others. In a March letter to City Planning, Adams notes that Menchaca would lend his support to the rezoning only if hotels were removed from the application. Though Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball agreed to this condition, according to Adams, hotels remained part of the application.
For “technical, procedural” reasons, Silberstein said the plan was to remove hotels from the proposal once it moved to the City Council.
Typically, contentious negotiations between developers and the local member are decided at the end of the seven-month process, just before the vote. It is exceedingly rare for a member to declare an application dead midway through.
Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected].