A big Domi-YES from the Council

Pol sour on Domino Sugar plant proposal

Pass the sugar!

A key Council committee unanimously approved the $1.2-billion Domino redevelopment project this afternoon — with the blessing of an anti-project Williamsburg lawmaker — thanks to a last-minute deal that would reduce the size of the project’s tallest towers yet not eliminate any affordable housing.

Susan Pollack, a member of the development team, was pleased with the compromise.

“We’re going to work on creating a beautiful, modulated design we’ve proposed,” she said. “We’ll just have to shift a few units around.”

On the eve of the landmark vote, Pollock’s Community Preservation Corporation Resources had agreed to reduce its two 40-story towers down to 34 stories, yet maintain the estimated 2,200 units of housing, including the entire 660 units of below-market-rate housing from earlier versions of the plan.

That concession did not at first appease Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg), who initially wanted the project cut by 600 units. Domino initially resisted, saying that each floor of luxury housing that is cut from the project — already expensive because much of the former sugar is a city landmark — would cost the developer $5 million.

But a last-minute plea from Mayor Bloomberg, convinced Levin to soften his stance. And Domino caved after a late petition drive by industrial landowners near the project site triggered a requirement that the Council pass the project by a supermajority instead of a simple majority. A source said that Domino supporters were worried that they might not have enough votes under the new circumstances.

After the vote, Levin said the project was better than it was when it was first introduced, but noted that “nobody can get everything they [sic] want,” during such negotiations.

“We don’t want to see a gold coast on the waterfront,” said Levin, using the same language that his mentor, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, used last week. “We weren’t happy about seeing 40-story luxury towers on the waterfront. They had a commitment for 660 affordable units and we wanted to make sure we kept them to their commitment.”

The modified plan also includes a shuttle bus provided by the developer between the project and the Marcy Avenue J-train stop, and a commitment from the Bloomberg administration to continue a tenant anti-harassment fund, launch a comprehensive transportation study for the area, and the creation of a Community Advisory Council to oversee the project through its duration.

The plan to transform the Domino sugar refinery building into 2,200 units of housing and four acres of park space on an 11.2-acre stretch of industrial property has split Williamsburg since it was first proposed six years ago and introduced earlier this year.

A two-to-one majority of Community Board 1 members voted against the plan, on the grounds that it was too massive for the area, though Borough President Markowitz supported it, and the City Planning Commission approved it unanimously with only minor modifications.

Councilman Steve Levin, seen here whipping up anti-Domino protesters, got a lot of what he wanted: less density, but the same amount of affordable housing.
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short