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Brooklyn, N.Y. - Domino Sugar Housing Plan Gets Key Council Support


The $1.4 billion plan to transform the former Domino Sugar refinery into a residential development on the Brooklyn waterfront won critical support in the City Council on Tuesday, after the developer agreed to cut the size of the project’s two tallest towers and provide a shuttle bus to the nearest subway.

The New Domino project, on the East River in Williamsburg, had divided a once-working-class neighborhood in desperate need of housing for longtime residents but overwhelmed by a wave of new luxury towers during the recent real estate boom.

The developer, the Community Preservation Corporation, has promised that 600 of the 2,200 apartments at the 11-acre Domino site will be for poor and working-class New Yorkers. The corporation is also preserving Domino’s refinery building and its 40-foot tall sign, while providing a public esplanade, shops and office and community space.

“This is a way of turning a dead industrial site into a vibrant, mixed-use and mixed-income community that can be a model for redevelopment,” said Michael Lappin, president of the Community Preservation Corporation, which owns the site.

During last-minute negotiations, the developer agreed to reduce two planned 40-story towers to 36 floors. The lost space from those floors will be added to other buildings on the site. The corporation also agreed that construction, building service and eventual supermarket workers at the New Domino would be paid prevailing wages.

As a result, the Council’s land use committee and a subcommittee on zoning voted unanimously to approve the project. The vote is regarded as the last political hurdle for New Domino project, although the project must still go back to the City Planning Commission and the full Council for final approval next month.

Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, labored behind the scenes to work out a compromise with the developer and the project’s chief critics, who include Councilman Stephen Levin of Brooklyn and his mentor, Vito J. Lopez, the Brooklyn assemblyman who often plays a pivotal role in city and state housing developments. Mr. Lopez had demanded that the developer reduce both the height of the buildings and the total number of apartments, while increasing the number of subsidized units.

But Diana Reyna, a Brooklyn councilwoman who worked with the Community Preservation Corporation and is a political adversary of Mr. Lopez, feared that reducing the number of units would undermine the financial health of the project, in a neighborhood where 51 residential buildings under construction are already at a standstill because of the recession. Already, she said, the corporation had promised that 30 percent of the units would be affordable when most other rental housing developers were including only 20 percent.

In the end, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg urged Mr. Lopez to come around.

Mr. Levin issued his own press release on Tuesday taking credit for the deal. He said he was pleased with the outcome and looked forward to working with the developer “to ensure that all the community’s needs are addressed as the project is built and inhabited.”

Separately, Ms. Reyna said the New Domino was “a true reflection of a collaborative process with the community.”

Rob Solano, executive director of Churches United for Fair Housing, added: “The true winners of this campaign are the families who will be receiving affordable housing.”

NY Times
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