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Industry City Pulls Plug On Rezoning After Political Pushback

A courtyard at Industry City in Brooklyn's Sunset Park where a rezoning attempt was called off in the face of community opposition

After a long battle in City Hall, Industry City's developers officially pulled the plug on their application to rezone the Sunset Park project late Tuesday night. 

Under the proposed rezoning, the area was set to undergo a $1B transformation led by developers Jamestown Properties, Belvedere Capital and Angelo Gordon & Co. that included office, hotel and retail space, according to the application. The project would have brought thousands of jobs to the neighborhood, the developers said.

“Sadly, in the context of one in five New Yorkers losing their jobs and the City’s fiscal crisis spiraling out of control, the leadership needed to approve this development failed to emerge,” Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball said in a statement. “Therefore, we have decided to withdraw our application and proceed with as-of-right leasing options.” 

The final straw for the controversial rezoning came after the application process was delayed amid the city’s shutdown this winter and spring. 

After the process started back up, Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park, vehemently opposed the application saying that despite the jobs the rezoning promised, they would be accompanied by gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood, pushing out the people who live there before they were able to reap the benefits.

Though Industry City reportedly discussed pulling the application then, developers began to hold out hope that the rezoning would go through, as other council members took the unusual step of opposing Menchaca and saying they would vote to push the rezoning along. By mid-August, the prospects for the application looked good as the city council’s Planning Commission endorsed the proposal, pushing it to a full council vote. 

Community activists opposed to the rezoning continued to speak out. On Sept. 10, over 100 protestors rallied outside City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s home to ask the politician not to approve the proposal. 

In the end, Industry City said it ultimately decided to withdraw the application. 

“Over and over, we have heard from key decision-makers that while the substance of the project is strong, the politics of the moment do not allow them to support any private development project,” Kimball said. 

Menchaca released a statement Wednesday calling the move a “huge win” for Sunset Park. 

“We are pleased [Industry City] saw the writing on the wall and finally pulled the application,” he said. “People power has triumphed. Our work continues as community voice drives future growth of our neighborhood. ”

Community activists who led the charge against the rezoning celebrated the move in a statement Wednesday, calling for a better plan. 

“Now it’s time for City Hall leaders to do their job,” Antoinette Martinez, an organizer with Protect Sunset Park and a Sunset Park resident, said in the statement. “Instead of prioritizing racist rezonings seeking to replace working-class communities we need a public waterfront plan to uplift working people throughout New York.” 

Meanwhile, business leaders and real estate players lamented the loss, saying that the city lost a huge opportunity to create jobs as its economy continues to falter. Many compared it to what happened in the months after Amazon declared intentions to build a 25,000-job hub in Long Island City, only to nix the plans altogether after progressive politicians blasted the $3B in tax breaks Amazon was due to receive.

“The failure of many politicians to support the expanded development of Industry City undermines their call for employers to bring people back to the office and pay higher taxes,” Partnership for New York City CEO Kathryn Wylde said. “Who can have confidence in leaders who are willing to forsake thousands of new jobs at a time when close to a million New Yorkers are or soon will be unemployed?”

Real Estate Board of New York President James Whelan railed at politicians — neither Johnson nor Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated public support for the proposal —  in a statement Tuesday.

“New York City has been failed by its political leadership across all levels of government,” he said. “One is left to consider how bad conditions in New York City must get before our political leaders realize that our recovery must be premised on job creation and private investment that will yield the tax revenue to pay for government services.”