The land use process for the Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment project made it to the City Council this week, marking the last hurdle the developers, Two Trees Management, need to cross, before breaking ground on the four block project.
While most of the discussion, both for and against the project, was a repeat of what had already been heard during similar sessions at the City Planning Commission, Borough Hall and the Community Board – Tuesday’s Council meeting was characterized by the pointed barbs traded between Councilmembers, particularly Antonio Reynoso and Steve Levin, and the Two Trees Management team led by its principal Jed Walentas.
Levin insisted that the developers provide community members with concrete commitments in regards to the project – exact figures on the number of affordable housing units, the size of those units, the way the apartments would be integrated with the rest of the development, the total amount of park space the project would create and how it would be designed, and the ways in which the commercial space in the development will benefit the community.
“We need real affordable housing, we need good jobs, we need quality open space, and we need to make sure that whatever we do in the halls here at City Hall are in the service of your families, your children, and your children’s children,” said Levin.
Walentas countered by arguing that it was virtually impossible to determine specific math in regards to Levin’s demands at such an early stage in the project. He did however reiterate that 537,000 square feet of the project area had been reserved for affordable housing, and that it was Two Trees’ imperative to, at the very least, meet the minimum requirements of the affordable housing agreement, and to ensure the creation of jobs within the community.
“Our willingness to share information already exceeds the information shared for a project of this size and financial structure,” said Walentas, referring to the series of community input forums held on creation of the project. “I don’t think other developers have done this much for a project of this size.”
At Tuesday’s five hour hearing, residents, business owners and neighborhood groups traded off giving thumbs up or down to Domino. Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Carlo Scissura said the project would protect and encourage the growth of retail and commercial industries in Brooklyn.
Neighborhood groups NAG and GWAPP also favored Two Trees’ proposal, while remaining skeptical of the community’s ability to absorb the massive project.
“While Two Trees’ plan does not correct the central flaw of the impact of the density of the 2010 approval, we do commend Two Trees for actively reaching out to and working with the community in the process of this plan’s development,” read part of the testimony the groups presented during the public hearing. “We feel that Two Trees’ plan is an improvement in so many ways on [previous developer] CPCR’s.”
Speaking in opposition to the project, Metallic Lathers & Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 argued that the project did not fully take into the consideration the needs of local workers.
“Two Trees wants to pick and choose which construction workers will receive adequate wages, healthcare, retirement benefits and safety training – leaving other workers out in the cold,” said John Skinner, President of the local 46.
Some residents complained about the lack of safety precautions considered by the city and the developers in regards to building on the waterfront, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“Building in a floodplain is reckless and shortsighted,” said Darren Littman, a concerned Greenpoint resident. “Brooklyn’s tallest building will now be in a flood zone.”
The City Council hearing follows the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the project last month following a deal made between the Mayor and the developers increasing the number of affordable units from 660 to 700, but it is as yet unclear whether the developers will be required to follow through.
In the meanwhile deliberations continue at the Council which will determine the fate of Domino on April 23rd.