City Planning Votes to Approve Proposed Industry City Expansion

CPC Chair Marisa Lago speaks during the Industry City vote. Image Credit: CPC

The highly contested project was originally heard prior to the COVID-19 pause on the ULURP timeline. On August 18, 2020, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the application for four land use actions to expand bulk and use requirements for Industry City. Industry City is a 5.3 million square foot mixed-use complex with commercial, manufacturing and community uses in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The complex 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 application would create a special district to have flexible use and bulk regulations to support the mixed uses of the complex; adjust the zoning from a light manufacturing district to a medium manufacturing district; demap a street to create more floor area and approve a special permit to modify bulk, use and other requirements. The application would help facilitate the addition of three new buildings to the current 16 building complex.  The buildings would have various uses, from manufacturing, production, office and retail space, parking and eleven floors of one building for a hotel. The City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the application on February 19, 2020. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the Industry City application, click here.

The project was highly contested, with many in opposition voicing concerns about gentrification, rising rents, and debates over the extent of benefits the Sunset Park community would receive from the project.

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

At the time of the public hearing, it was unclear where elected officials stood on the project. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams did not release a recommendation until March 4th, two weeks after the public hearing, approving in part and disapproving in part with modifications.

Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who represents the district, had previously been in talks with the developers to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with the developer. While he had not taken an official stance at the time of the public hearing, Council Member Menchaca had previously indicated that he would be ready to vote no against the project after it was certified because he did not feel it could give the community enough time to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement. On July 28, 2020, Council Member Menchaca finally declared that he would not be supporting the Industry City application, stating that his requested conditions to support the project had not been met. Previous proposed modifications included removing hotels from the complex, increasing manufacturing space, creating a public technical high school, and restricting retail uses.

At the August 18th vote, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the application, with eleven votes in support, one against and one commissioner recused. Many commissioners voiced support for the project in light of the massive job loss across the City due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shared hopes that Industry City would be an economic benefit to Sunset Park. Commission Chair Marisa Lago stated that “it is fortuitous that the first major project to be voted on by the City Planning Commission since the COVID-19 pandemic is focused on job creation.” Chair Lago also spoke about the City’s ongoing investment into waterfront manufacturing and industrial spaces.

Commissioner David Burney, the only vote to disapprove, voiced concern about the failure to address the concerns of the community, and that this failure diminishes the role of the community in the public review process. A few other commissioners shared similar concerns as Commissioner Burney, but still voted to approve the project and encouraged the developer to continue to work with the community.

After the vote, Council Member Menchaca responded over Twitter, stating, “Today, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the Industry City Rezoning, This, by itself, is unsurprising. What IS remarkable, and deeply offensive to the Sunset Park community, is how they defended their decision with weak reasoning and glaring omissions.” Council Member Menchaca criticized the CPC’s claim that the rezoning would bring jobs to Sunset Park, stating, “not a single commissioner thought to ask, ‘jobs for who?”, and asked why Industry City hasn’t already brought thousands of jobs to the area without the rezoning when they have room to develop without required approval. The Council Member continued, stating, “Nowhere was there an acknowledgment of the Sunset Park community’s deepest concern, which is that the rezoning will cause a rise in rents and displacement of its working-class immigrant neighbors.”

The application will now be reviewed by the City Council.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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