A host of progressive politicians and community groups in Brooklyn recently killed a major business project that would have created as many as 20,000 jobs in the city at a time when it is struggling to regain its footing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
What are the details?
The project — approved by the city planning commission — which called for rezoning and expanding the Industry City complex on the Brooklyn waterfront in Sunset Park into a burgeoning retail space, was yanked this week amid a pressure campaign from the left.
Why were progressives so outraged over the job-creating project? Because it would have led to more “displacement and gentrification” among the working-class community, a group of 10 Democratic lawmakers, including members of Congress, argued in an opposition letter this week.
Even the New York Times took note of the unfortunate politics at play in a recent write-up on the news:
It was slated to be one of the biggest real estate projects in New York City in years, a major expansion of the Industry City complex on the Brooklyn waterfront that could have created as many as 20,000 jobs at a time when local unemployment has soared because of the pandemic.
But on Tuesday night, the project’s owner canceled the expansion in the face of fierce opposition from left-leaning Democrats, ending the biggest clash over development in the city since the collapse of the Amazon deal in Queens last year, and highlighting the growing influence of the left in local politics.
What are they saying?
In a statement announcing the withdrawal of the application, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball blamed “the current political environment and a lack of leadership” for the project’s failure.
“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, according to the Gothamist. “Even the historic nature of our commitments — which significantly elevated the bar for future development projects — and a seven-year record of creating jobs and opportunity weren’t enough to overcome purely political considerations.”
“If a project like this can’t succeed, it concerns me very much about the future of New York City — a place I’ve spent my whole life,” Kimball added in an interview with the Times on Wednesday.
Far from concerned, Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca championed the project’s defeat as “a win” for the community.
Menchaca had come out against the rezoning months ago and, on Tuesday, he was joined by other Democratic New York lawmakers, including Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clark, and Hakeem Jeffries.
The group wrote in the opposition letter that the project “would further exacerbate real estate pressures, displacement, rising rents, and forever shift the nature of the waterfront away from one of the few remaining manufacturing hubs to commercial tourism and service economy.”
Another city councilman, Eric Ulrich of Queens, disagreed. He told a Times reporter: “We are sending such a terrible message to the rest of the country that we’re not open for business, and we’re not open to economic development and new jobs.”
He was even more straightforward on Twitter, writing, “NYC is going to s**t. God save us!”
New York City is projected to lose at least half a million jobs this year as a result of the coronavirus-related economic shutdowns, and the city’s unemployment rate is currently 16%. It is estimated that low-income workers of color are being disproportionately affected by the downturn.
Yet even so, progressives in the city have proven themselves to be more concerned with gentrification than job creation.