In a decision that many in the world of New York City real estate and politics are calling Amazon HQ 2.0, the developers of Industry City have yanked plans to rezone the waterfront neighborhood.
Predictably, those in favor of the rezoning, which proposed a build-out that would have allowed developers to add more space for businesses, retail and “academic centers,” are decrying the decision as a surrender to woke, NIMBY leftists, while blaming activists for prolonging our historic, pandemic-induced unemployment.
Here’s my theory: the developers, led by CEO Andrew Kimball, aren’t simply caving to political pressure. They see the writing on the exposed brick wall and have realized that such an ambitious project is simply not feasible in this day and age.
At a time when the city is on the brink of insolvency, partially due to the boondoggle that is Hudson Yards, the developers must know that they wouldn’t have been able to secure the necessary tax breaks to make this project a reality. They must realize that retail, pandemic or not, is not a promising investment. They must see the steep discounts that have been made to the glut of ultra-luxury condos that have sprung up throughout the city, and the struggling real estate market as a whole.
Yes, the country, and New York City in particular, is staring down record unemployment, but the promise of 15,000 jobs at some point in the future — note that it took at least seven years for the area to see 8,000 new jobs created, and that was during a booming economy — is not going to help the people and small businesses who need it right now.
Why don’t we talk about shoring up the garment industry that’s already based there instead of continuing to rely on a global supply chain that has been challenged by the pandemic? Or perhaps look into bringing manufacturing of products, such as enamel pins, that can only be made in China, to the U.S.? Maybe we should consider the technology necessary for businesses to comply with the ambitious Climate Mobilization Act, which will surely have an impact on the city’s economy in the years to come.
Now certainly doesn’t seem like the best time to take the familiar road of rezoning and transforming industrial neighborhoods into bourgeois playgrounds. Now is the time to get creative and consider more sustainable and affordable development that could support the people who currently call Sunset Park home.