Members of Congress slam Industry City rezoning

Campus tenants fire back at federal and state pols behind opposition letter

From left: Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, and Jerrold Nadler with Industry City (Photos via Getty; Industry City)
From left: Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, and Jerrold Nadler with Industry City (Photos via Getty; Industry City)

Nearly a dozen elected officials Tuesday urged the City Council to reject the proposed Industry City rezoning — and the land-use process itself.

In a letter, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velázquez, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke — who all represent Brooklyn — state that rezoning the 35-acre campus would “supercharge the displacement and gentrification that is undermining Sunset Park’s affordability and blue- collar job base.”

State Sens. Julia Salazar and Zellnor Myrie, as well as Assembly members Jo Anne Simon, Robert Carroll and Diana Richardson, also signed the letter.

“The City’s Land Use Review Procedure is not the place where real planning occurs,” the letter states. “In many instances, developers endeavor to dictate terms to neighborhood residents even though the public is being asked to make a momentous public land use decision with far-reaching impacts. The pressures in that kind of process are chiefly transactional, with inadequate community input and consideration of what is the right fit for impacted neighborhoods.”

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It is unusual for members of Congress (and to a lesser extent state legislators) to wade into a debate over a local land-use decision. Their involvement could bolster Sunset Park Council member Carlos Menchaca’s efforts to kill the rezoning. During a press conference last week, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said it was “meaningful” that several Brooklyn elected officials opposed the plan.

Johnson emphasized that Menchaca isn’t alone in his opposition. The speaker has yet to publicly take a position on the proposal, but said he is also concerned that some of the promises made by the development team, led by Jamestown Properties, aren’t legally binding.

The Industry City owners — a partnership between Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, Cammeby’s International and Angelo, Gordon & Co. — seek to rezone the campus in order to allow for more retail and office. The team has offered to put off adding retail and new buildings until it has demonstrated that jobs created at the complex are going to local residents. Officials, however, have questioned whether the developers can deliver on other promises, such as building a vocational high school, which requires cooperation from the mayor’s office.

Representatives for the development team issued a statement from four Industry City business tenants in response to Tuesday’s letter.

“To make believe that there has not been an enormous amount of community engagement is just wrong,” the statement reads. “We know there has been, because we’ve been a part of it. Perhaps they should have been as well. The politicians should visit us now and see what they are opposing.”

Nadler has long championed the Sunset Park waterfront as an opportunity to bring the shipping industry back to Brooklyn, where it once supplied huge numbers of jobs. Citywide, manufacturing jobs have fallen to roughly 75,000 from a peak of about a million decades ago. Some of the land Industry City wants to rezone is set aside for heavy manufacturing.