Greenpoint Gazette

Sugar Beat: Land Use Votes No

BY Juliet Linderman

On Tuesday night, the Community Board 1 Land Use Committee held a public review for the new incarnation of the Domino Sugar Factory, slated to be converted into a $1.2 million high-rise residential development on the Williamsburg waterfront, and voted against the plans, with a laundry list of modifications, 5-3.

The plan, put forth by Community Preservation Corporation, encompasses the rezoning of an 11.2 acre site on the Southside waterfront to include four 300-400 foot glass towers and 2,200 residential units—660 of which will be affordable—in addition to retail and commercial space, and more than four acres of open and green space. The plan includes a waterfront esplanade, a complete overhaul of the existing wharf and the preservation of the brick landmark Refinery complex, erected in 1882 and landmarked in 2007, as well as the famous Domino Sugar sign. In addition, the plan calls for a job training program, and expects to create upwards of 1,000 jobs for community residents.

Despite initial enthusiasm about the project, members of the CB1 Land Use Committee voiced a variety of concerns before ultimately deciding to reject the plans. The height and density of the towers proved to be the biggest strike against the New Domino plan, though issues such as the apparent lack of transportation necessary to support the expected influx of new residents was also one of the most pressing concerns discussed. In addition, though the ULURP Committee was pleased with CPC’s commitment to providing 30 per cent affordable housing, its members were discouraged by the 15 year expiration on affordable units and senior housing.

“This board is very concerned with affordable housing. The question is, at what cost,” said CB1 Land Use Committee Chair Ward Dennis. “You have transit impacts that are essentially unmitigated. This plan has major, major sacrifices in terms of good growth, and one of the big things for me is commitment.”

Representative from CPC explained that the height and density of the project, which is far larger than what the 2005 waterfront rezoning allows, is necessary in order to accomplish the goal of providing the maximum number of affordable housing units and open space possible.

“Our goal is to activate the site, and bring people to the space,” said Susan Pollack, Senior Vice President of CPC. “We know this project is greater than what was asked for in Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning, but we believe the density is required to make the program work. This will give the community 40 percent open space rather than 20 percent open space”

The committee also implored CPC to make a commitment to seek answers to all questions left unanswered, and create a plan that is truly transparent in terms of the details.

In the end, the conditions suggested by the committee—of which there were many—included a written commitment from CPC regarding a set number of affordable housing units, especially those for seniors; a comprehensive transportation study and a more specific sense of what kind of open space can be expected from the project’s outcome.

“I’m concerned that there is no commitment for senior housing, if and when section 8dries up, and that’s been a threat for a long time,” said CB1 member Del Teague. “I don’t see this as an absolute guarantee. As a community board, we are responsible for the entire community. “Fifteen years down the road I’m afraid we are going to look like a bunch of imbeciles who sold out the community. We are giving up the waterfront for a pittance of open space. Once it’s finished I’m afraid it’s going to be a joke.”

The plans for the New Domino development will go before the community board for a full vote on Tuesday, March 9th, before being passed along to the Borough President’s office for review on March 11.

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