Executives at Industry City will bow to a list of demands set forth by Councilman Carlos Menchaca to secure a key vote from the lawmaker ahead of a controversial rezoning scheme, bringing a revised version of the maker space’s expansion plan closer to fruition.
“We met with Council Member Menchaca and his Working Group this morning, and once again agreed to delay certification into the ULURP process,” said Lisa Serbaniewicz, a spokeswoman for Industry City. “Industry City has agreed to every request made by the council member.”
Shot callers at the sprawling 35-acres industrial campus are looking to rewrite local zoning regulations to pave the way for a 12-year, $1 billion redevelopment plan, which requires a nearly yearlong public review, during which it is common for developers to fund community benefits in exchange for the regulatory windfall.
However, instead of bargaining with Industry City during the review process, Menchaca — whose support is essential to the rezoning’s success — threatened to kill the effort if the manufacturing complex didn’t rewrite their application to his liking before submitting it to the city.
And Industry city agreed to the councilman’s demands — which included eliminating hotels from the application, reducing the amount of requested retail space, and pitching in funds for a public high school, among other things — in a letter Thursday, when Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kimball outlined his plan to submit the application on Sept. 23.
But the councilman’s dictates weren’t focused solely on Industry City — he also wants Mayor de Blasio to sign a written contract promising city funds for the community, in addition to forming a community watchdog group to oversee the agreement — and Menchaca fired off a response warning Kimball to hold off, or else.
“The establishment of a group who would sign one end of a community benefits agreement has yet to be established, let alone a facilitator or legal counsel identified. Any attempt to rush through a rezoning process without the community being fully prepared to hold Industry City accountable is something I will never support,” he said.
Kimball issued a reply Friday morning to say Industry City would wait to submit the application.
The rezoning proposal has become a hot-button issue amongst community members, with supporters arguing that the rezoning will bring needed jobs to the area, while critics claim the renovations will hike up rents and displace residents. During Monday’s community meeting, the debate came to a head as community activists hijacked the event, shouting “No rezoning! No conditions!” which prompted about half the crowd to exit the auditorium.
Once Menchaca announced his conditional support of the rezoning later that night, community activists blasted him, claiming he is “afraid” to stand up for the community.
“What we need is community control over the decisions in our neighborhood,” wrote the leaders of the community organization, Protect Sunset Park, in a statement. “We can’t plan for our future in a ‘deal’ that centers corporate welfare. We need a courageous Council Member who isn’t afraid to stand up to corporate bullies and who puts the community’s welfare first.”
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