Industry City Developer Thinks Sunset Park Waterfront Needs More Parking

The owner of Industry City, in background, says Sunset Park needs more parking. Photo: Google Maps
The owner of Industry City says Sunset Park needs more parking lots. Photo: Google Maps

A Sunset Park developer wants to use city land for a giant new parking lot, in what’s shaping up to be a test for Council Member Carlos Menchaca and the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

Industry City, which has 6 million square feet of industrial, office, and retail space in 16 buildings across more than 30 acres on the Sunset Park waterfront, is owned by a group of investors led by real estate firm Jamestown. Yesterday, the group announced a $1 billion redevelopment plan to attract employers in media, technology, fashion, and small-scale manufacturing.

The developers are asking for zoning changes to allow academic facilities, additional retail, and hotel uses at Industry City, which is zoned for manufacturing. They also have their eyes set on adding lots more parking.

The area has decent transit access, but it could be better. Industry City is near the express subway stop at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue and is served by three bus routes, including the crosstown B35 to Brownsville. That route has been identified as a priority for Select Bus Service expansion. Industry City is also right next to the planned Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route and is a potential candidate for ferry service, though it was skipped over in the ferry network Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month.

What the developers are focused on, though, is parking.

Industry City sits across the street from the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which already leases parking space to its neighbors, including 450 spots to Industry City. The development’s owners are looking to carve out up to five more acres for car storage in a corner of the 88-acre terminal site. According to back-of-the-envelope calculations by The Brooklyn Paper, that area — equal to the size of four football fields — could result in as many as 750 parking spaces.

Industry City President Andrew Kimball told The Brooklyn Paper that “this is an under-parked area,” but before Industry City adds more car storage (and traffic) to the neighborhood, it might be worth looking at the parking that’s already available.

A rendering of a restored Industry City from a parking lot in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Image: Industry City
A rendering of a restored Industry City from a parking lot in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Image: Industry City

Costco and its 475-space, 4.5-acre accessory parking lot opened in 1996 right next to Industry City. There are also 644 spaces in the median of Third Avenue beneath the Gowanus Expressway between 20th and 40th Streets, according to a 2011 report from Community Board 7 [PDF]. Of those, 324 are metered spaces, which are temporarily closed, according to DOT.

Just to the north of Industry City, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has barricaded all of 29th Street between Second and Third Avenues in order to create a private parking lot for its employees. And, of course, there’s on-street parking throughout Industry City — some of which is used as storage for big-rigs.

Working with DOT, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Costco, and Industry City’s other neighbors to come up with a plan for the neighborhood’s existing parking spots would be a better choice than just asking the city to create more parking and more traffic.

Industry City’s preferred changes to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will be subject to ongoing negotiations between EDC and Menchaca. In December, EDC abandoned a plan to lease the terminal to a cargo shipper and recycling facility after Menchaca said there should be more local benefits and neighborhood control over decision-making at the site.

Menchaca seemed to support Industry City’s parking request, according to The Brooklyn Paper. “Really what we need is a Sunset Park industrial parking plan,” he said. “But immediately, I think we need to look at granting that kind of support for Industry City today with the commitment to plan for what’s coming.”

Menchaca’s office has received requests from both Industry City and its neighbor, Liberty View Industrial Plaza [PDF], to lease out more parking space on the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal site.

“While I am enthusiastic about local job creation and the activation of production space at Industry City, the proposal raises complex land use issues. One of those issues relates to parking,” Menchaca said in a statement. “I am calling on City agency partners to look carefully at the parking needs for this stretch of the industrial waterfront to serve both industrial employers and retail businesses in the area. In the meantime, South Brooklyn Marine Terminal presents one possible, temporary solution, though I am aware that parking, even for a small area of SBMT, presents a slippery slope. This area must be retained for job-intensive maritime and industrial uses.”

In addition to addressing parking concerns, Menchaca said the area also requires improved pedestrian connections, bus service, ferry access, and bike lanes, including an extension of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Gobbling up acres of city-owned waterfront industrial land for more car storage will have negative consequences. Even the CB 7 report, which placed a high priority on adding more parking, had a word of warning.

“While there is general agreement on the need for additional parking in the area, there is also concern that this will bring more cars into the neighborhood and increase traffic congestion,” the report says. “Improving mass transit access and intermodal connections instead of providing more parking could improve circulation and travel times without creating as much traffic.”

EDC and Industry City did not respond to requests for comment.

Post updated at 7:45 p.m. with a statement from Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

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