Skip to main content

Crain’s New York

Eddie Small, 9.23.20

Business and real estate leaders voiced widespread frustration with the collapse of the Industry City rezoning plan, framing it as a lost opportunity for a city in dire need of jobs and tax revenue.

Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball announced late Tuesday that the development team was withdrawing its rezoning proposal, saying that the current political environment would prevent the project from happening. The move almost certainly puts an end to years of often contentious negotiations between the developers and the community.

The Real Estate Board of New York blamed political posturing for the project’s failure.

“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,” REBNY President James Whelan said.

The rezoning’s collapse comes at an already tense time between New York’s elected officials and its business community. The Partnership for the City of New York published a letter addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sept. 10, signed by 150 business leaders, expressing displeasure with how his administration has handled the Covid-19 pandemic and warning about a decline in the city’s quality of life.

Partnership CEO Kathryn Wylde expressed similar frustrations in a statement about Industry City.

“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,” 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?”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and de Blasio both said at separate news conferences Wednesday that communities had become extremely skeptical of developers in recent years. The mayor blamed “sweetheart deals” for real estate companies that were supposed to provide benefits such as jobs and affordable housing but never did. Johnson said years of gentrification and rising rents had prompted communities to view real estate firms with suspicion.

Several members of the City Council bucked the tradition of member deference by expressing support for the Industry City plan even after local Councilman Carlos Menchaca came out against it, but Johnson stressed the need to listen to elected officials who represent the areas where developers want to build.

“I wouldn’t have felt comfortable overruling them,” Johnson said, when asked about his own support for the Industry City rezoning. “I would not have felt comfortable saying, ‘I know better than every local elected official.’”

Despite the standstill that the Industry City developers and the Sunset Park community now find themselves in, Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress, said he remained optimistic that a major project could still come together at the campus.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m even more ready for the next steps than I’ve ever been,” Scissura said. “I think this is an opportunity to go back to the table, to really bring everybody together.”

Published on

Sep 23, 2020 by New York Building Congress