It's an echo of New York's industrial past, a complex of warehouse buildings once known as Bush Terminal on the Brooklyn waterfront.
But a developer's plan to turn it into a symbol of the city's future is in doubt, after the local councilman Carlos Menchaca announced he opposes the rezoning the project needs.
"This is not the time for a luxury mall to rise up and grow on the working waterfront in an industrial zone,” Councilman Menchaca said.
Now known as Industry City, the complex has been renovated, building by building to attract retail outlets, tech companies, food manufacturers and the Brooklyn Nets training center.
Industry City wants to expand beyond its 16 buildings and needs a rezoning to make that happen.
“We hope at some point in the future when the economy starts to come back we can build ground up buildings that would be similar in size and shape and height of the existing buildings today and take us from 8,000 jobs to over 20,000 jobs," said Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City.
Progressives say the plan for retail and hotels in the working class neighborhood is outdated, particularly with the coronavirus pandemic, and that similar economic development promises made by other mega projects like Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards were never realized. The community group UPROSE opposes the project. It says jobs related to climate change should be created there.
"The future of offices and retail and high end luxury hotels shouldn't exist in an industrial sector," said Elizabeth Yeampierre, the Executive Director of UPROSE. “That should be happening in other parts of the city. And our industrial sector really should be building for that climate future."
The Council's approval is required under the city's land-use review process. Industry City says given the job losses in the pandemic, the project is too important to die. It's submitting letters to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson urging his support.
"The corporate playbook is always going to disrespect local community interests," Menchaca said. “That's why they're going out and talking to the speaker and other city council members to get them on board. Not only is it disrespectful, it's also undemocratic."
Under Council custom, members can kill rezoning proposals in their districts.
But as speaker, Johnson can override a local council member's opposition.
One question is whether Johnson, eying a run for mayor, would be willing to anger progressive Democrats by pushing the project through.
The proposal goes before City Planning this month and may get to the Council as early as next month.