From the preservation of the sign to the glass-covered entryways meant to contextually blend the main building, developers and residents have debated nearly every square inch of the new plans for the Domino Sugar Factory. However, Marie Bindas, a twenty-year employee of the former factory, is excited by any plans to keep her old work site in use.
Marie, who was raised in the East Village and married in East New York, arrived in Greenpoint in the 1970s. She and her husband moved to the neighborhood while he worked at Consolidated Laundries, which was located at Eagle St. and Franklin St.
Shortly thereafter, Marie began working at the Domino Sugar Factory. She started her first day during the last strike of a series of work stoppages at the factory in 1980s. Her first job at the factory was packing five pound bags of sugar during the second shift. She then moved on to the section affectionately dubbed by workers as the ‘Cloud Department,’ which was where the packets of sugar were made. Marie’s final move was to the empty packaging department, where she became foreman of the division, which was a first for a woman in an area dominated by men.
The factory floor, where the meticulous detail work occurred, was dominated by women; whereas the men worked in the sugar refineries or operated the machinery.
The factory began transitioning to automation in the 1980s. Though there were not massive layoffs, the company began downsizing labor and machines began to displace many of the women who hand-wrapped the individual sugar packets. Marie recalls that many women began to apply for the machine operator jobs that had been originally filled by the men, who were less than thrilled by the new competition. “They had a hard time dealing with it, but we managed,” she remembers.
She retired from Domino in 2001, four years before the factory permanently closed the doors on its Williamsburg location. Marie is anticipating the development of the factory. While she was foreman for the empty packaging department, she worked in a building called the Aidan House. The fifth floor of the building housed the supplies for the department and overlooked the waterfront with views of the city. Back then, when she made her supply trips, Marie was often heard saying “I’m putting my name down if they ever turn these into condos.” When asked if she had signed up for New Domino housing, she immediately responds, “I have. Under the retiree section.”
As for the rest of the development of Greenpoint and the addition of more and more tight-jeaned residents overflowing from the southern neighborhoods, Marie welcomes it. “There are lot of young people on the block, they come and go,” she says, “I always like to know where they are from, mostly the Midwest.”
Marie is in her eighth year as the Treasurer for the 94th Precinct Community Council. The monthly meetings are about “bringing everybody together,” she says, “nothing earth-shattering, but people want to get something done.” She is also a member of Town Square and will help organize the movie series, which begins in McCarren Park in the spring. As for her hopes for McCarren Pool, she did not favor one proposal over another, she just wants to see the space utilized.
These days, Marie is still very busy, even without Domino. She works as a part-time sous chef for Cozy Royale Catering, helping to prepare Italian food for banquets and parties. An avid traveler, her list of visited countries spans all continents, and she is off for a two week trip to Japan in the coming weeks.