Public Hearing on Contested Industry City Expansion

Map of Industry City Complex/Image Credit: Industry City Brochure

Despite two years of discussion, Industry City ownership unable to convince Council Member Menchaca and Community Board 7 to support expansion. On February 19, 2020, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on an application for four land use actions to expand bulk and use requirements for Industry City, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Industry City is a 5.3 million square feet mixed-use complex comprised of sixteen buildings with commercial, manufacturing, and community facility uses. Industry Park is located in an area bounded by 32nd Street to the north, 41st Street to the south, Third Avenue to the east, and the Brooklyn Waterfront to the west. The proposed actions will facilitate and support the redevelopment and expansion of Industry City. Industry City plans to construct three new buildings on the complex and include hotels, office spaces, academic centers, and more large scale retail establishments.

Industry City Complex

Map of the Industry City Complex/Image Credit: Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s Office

The Industry City complex is comprised of sixteen buildings located within two building clusters, the 39th Street Buildings cluster and the Finger Buildings cluster. The 39th Street Buildings cluster is bounded by 39th Street to the north, 41st Street to the south, 2nd Avenue to the east, and the Brooklyn Waterfront to the west. The Finger Buildings cluster is bounded by 32nd Street to the north, 37th Street to the south, and 2nd Avenue to the west. The buildings from 32nd Street to 35th Street extend out to front 3rd Avenue to the east. The buildings from 35th Street to 37th Street extend out to part of the block. Directly north of the Finger Buildings cluster is Liberty View Industrial Plaza, another former four story industrial hub that was redeveloped into a mixed use development with manufacturing space and large scale retail such as Bye Bye Baby and Bed Bath and Beyond.

The buildings were once part of the former Bush Terminal, a privately owned industrial hub that was abandoned in the 1960s. The buildings were vacant and unused until the properties were bought by Industry City in 2013. In 2015, Industry City renovated the complex and brought in small and large scale retail stores, eating establishments, manufacturing spaces, office spaces, warehousing space, event space, and public open courtyards.

Land Use Actions

To facilitate Industry City’s expansion, Industry City proposes four land use actions. The land use actions will affect the Industry City complex and an additional ten lots located adjacent to the complex. Seven of the lots are located along 3rd Avenue on the northeast corner of 36th Street. One lot is located on the northwest corner of 1st Avenue and 39th Street. Industry City plans to acquire these lots and construct two new buildings on them. Two of the lots are located on the southeast corner of 36th Street and 3rd Avenue. These lots will remain in separate ownership and there are no plans to redevelop those lots.

The first action is to create a special district within the area. Special districts modify use and bulk regulations to meet and support the unique needs and characteristics of the area. Industry City proposes a special district in order to have flexible use and bulk regulations that support the complex’s mixed uses, protect the complex’s existing built form, and support a pedestrian friendly environment.

The second action is to rezone the area from a light manufacturing zoning district to a medium manufacturing zoning district. The current zoning only allows the complex to have manufacturing spaces, small scale retail space, offices, and a limited amount of large scale retail space. The rezoning will expand the permitted uses and bulk in the area to allow academic facilities, hotels, and more large scale retail establishments on the complex.

The third action is for a special permit to modify bulk, use, and other requirements. The fourth action is to demap 40th Street, a privately owned unused street, in order to create more floor area for new construction.

Map of Proposed Construction of Three New Buildings on Industry City’s complex./Image Credit: Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s Office

As a part of the expansion, Industry City plans to construct three new buildings: Building 11, a thirteen story building, Gateway Building, a twelve story building, and Building 21, a ten story building. The construction would add about 1.45 million square feet to the existing development. Building 11 and the Gateway Building will be built on the Finger Buildings cluster. Building 11 is proposed to have two floors of retail space, three floors of parking space, and eight floors of academic space. The Gateway Building is proposed to have ground floor retail space and eleven floors for a hotel. Building 21 will be built on the 39th Street Buildings cluster and is proposed to have two floors of retail space, three floors of parking, three floors of manufacturing, production, and office spaces, and five floors for a hotel.

Public Review

In September 2017, Industry City announced their plans to expand Industry City and the community was concerned about the project’s impact on gentrification and displacement, manufacturing and industrial jobs, traffic and congestion in the community, and access to the Sunset Park waterfront. This resulted in two years of working group meetings and public hearings between local Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Brooklyn Community Board 7, and Industry City from Summer 2018 to Fall 2019 to discuss those concerns.

Originally, Industry City submitted their land use application to City Planning to begin the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) in March 2019; however, Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Brooklyn Community Board 7 Chair Cesar Zuniga urged Industry City to withdraw their application because the Community Board still needed more time to evaluate the project and address community concerns before the application enters the ULURP process. In response, Industry City withdrew their application and discussions continued between the Council Member, Community Board, and Industry City.

On September 17, 2019, Council Member Menchaca sent a letter to Industry City with a set of modifications for Industry City to include in their application. Modifications included removing hotels from the complex, creating more space for industrial and manufacturing uses, restricting retail uses, and creating a public technical high school at Industry City. He also stated that there needs to be a Community Benefits Agreement between the local community and Industry City. The Community Benefits Agreement would legally bind Industry City and future tenants to follow through with community commitments. On September 19, 2019, Industry City agreed to the Council Member’s terms and planned to resubmit the application to City Planning on September 23rd. On the same day, Council Member Menchaca responded that while Industry City agreed to his terms, more time was needed to come up with a fully negotiated Community Benefits Agreement that would work for the community. This led to Industry City postponing their application submission again.

On October 28, 2019, Industry City submitted their application and it was certified by City Planning. Industry City explained in a letter to Council Member Menchaca and Cesar Zuniga that they submitted the application because they felt that the past delays were enough time for the community to have some framework for a Community Benefits Agreement and stated that the community concerns could be adequately addressed during the ULURP process. In response to the certification, Council Member Menchaca stated that he is prepared to vote against the application when it comes before the City Council.

On January 15, 2020, Brooklyn Community Board 7 was divided on the creation of the special district and the rezoning and the Board took no action on the two land use actions. However, they disapproved the special permit and the demapping of 40th Street. The Community Board explained that the special permit will exempt Industry City from complying with certain bulk and use regulations that will protect waterfront access, prohibit self-storage uses, and require new construction to align with the street wall. The Board wants Industry City to be exempt from those regulations. The Community Board did not explain their decision to disapprove the demapping.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams has not released his final recommendation on the application.

At the February 19th City Planning Hearing, Industry City was represented by Andrew Kimball, CEO, Jesse Masyr, Land Use Council, and Crystal Rivera, Community Engagement Director, talked about how Industry City has turned into an economic opportunity area that has created jobs, provided workforce development, supported small businesses in the neighborhood. Kimball stated that the expansion would allow the team to continue this progress and provide about 20,000 new jobs and more amenities for Sunset Park.

In response to Vice Chair Kenneth J. Knuckles’s question about how Industry City’s expansion would create new jobs at Industry City, Kimball stated that the rezoning would allow Industry City to create new retail spaces, office spaces, and academic facilities in the complex and the creation of these spaces would expand the types of jobs available including entry level retail jobs, manufacturing jobs, and security positions.

John Fontillas, Brooklyn Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee Chair, and Cesar Zuniga, Brooklyn Community Board 7 Chair, testified on behalf of the Board. Both Fontillas and Zuniga expressed their frustration with the limited amount of time the Board had to fully understand and come up with a decision on a large, complex project like Industry City. Fontillas later told CityLand that although the Board had time to review a draft scoping document prior to certification, the final application was not submitted to the Board until early November 2019. He explained that this did not give the Board enough time to review, learn about, and evaluate a 3000 page application in the midst of the holiday season.

Fontillas also testified that the final application did not reflect community requests such as limiting the amount of retail and office spaces to increase more manufacturing and industrial spaces and removing hotels from the complex.

Supporters of the project, which include Industry City tenants and members of labor union, 32BJ SEIU, testified that Industry City’s expansion will bring more jobs, bring more educational and vocational training opportunities, provide resources for small businesses, and create infrastructure improvements to Sunset Park.

Opponents of the project, which include some local residents and organizers from Protect Sunset Park and UPROSE, two Sunset Park based advocacy groups, testified that the expansion will contribute to the ongoing gentrification of Sunset Park, contribute to rising housing and commercial rents within the overall neighborhood, and take away industrial and manufacturing jobs by adding in more large scale retail and offices. Opponents are also concerned that the expansion does not include any climate adaption or mitigation components that would protect the Sunset Park community from climate change effects.

City Planning will vote on this application at a later date.


By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)



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