New report shows that city is sweet on Domino

Judge says ‘Domi-YES’ in dismissing suit against sugar refinery redevelopment

The City Planning Commission has shoved aside local opposition to the massive Domino Sugar redevelopment, signing off on a final environmental impact report that puts the agency on a glide path to approval next week.

On Friday, the commission released the final report on the $2-billion rezoning and redevelopment proposal, clearly dismissing many of the points that opponents have raised throughout the year-long campaign to add eight glass towers — and up to 2,400 units of housing plus retail and commercial space — to the neighborhood’s once-industrial waterfront.
“The proposed project would revitalize and reactivate a vacant waterfront industrial site with publicly accessible open space, a restored and adaptively reused historic building, and new residential buildings with a substantial amount of affordable housing,” the report said.

The revised edition, arriving six months after the city began its review, did not recommend substantial reductions in the proposal’s density on the grounds that doing so could eliminate some of the 660 below-market-rate units included in the plan, put forward by the Community Preservation Corporation.

Authors of the report, the controversial consulting firm AKRF, analyzed seven alternatives to the proposed project, including a call to reduce the site’s density by shaving off 549 residential units that has been pushed by Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg).

But the commission’s final report did suggest that some minor changes would be made to the project, including reducing the heights of buildings on the site’s northernmost portion, which would reduce shadows over Grand Ferry Park; and clipping 266 parking spaces from the project, reducing on-site parking from 1,694 spaces to 1,428 — a move backed by Neighbors Allied for Good Growth.

The most-intriguing proposal, converting several floors of the Refinery into a 112,000-square-foot hotel with 150 rooms, was met with mixed reviews. The report determined that a hotel would have “significant adverse effects” on public schools, traffic, noise, and shadows, but, on the plus side, would reuse the Refinery, have no impact on the neighborhood’s limited open space, and would even help subsidize the project’s below-market rate housing.

The rest of the 28-chapter report — a great Memorial Day beach read by the way — provides a step-by-step analysis of the Domino project’s environmental impact on the neighborhood’s transit, parks and schools, taking into account changes that have occurred over the past year, such as Kent Avenue becoming a one-way street.

Opponents to the Domino plan criticized the city’s analysis for failing to consider the community board’s request to reduce the density of an upland parcel on S. Second Street.

“That is a shame, because until the density of this project is reduced, [site developer] Community Preservation Resources cannot in good faith say that it has listened to the community,” said Community Board 1 Land Use Chairman Ward Dennis.

The 13-member Commission is expected to vote on the project during its next review session on either June 7 or June 9. After that, the project moves to an expected approval by the full City Council.