City Councilmember Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg) joined a growing list of opponents to the New Domino rezoning by stating his support for Community Board 1’s recommendation of disapproval.
In a statement read by Levin’s legislative policy director, Ashley Thompson, during a public hearing at Borough Hall on March 11, Levin explained his decision based on the board’s concerns for the effect that the development project’s height and density would have on the surrounding neighborhood and the city’s infrastructure, particularly mass transit, local traffic and on-site parking.
“The project is simply too big. [Community Preservation Corporation Resources’] plan would introduce over 6,000 new residents to the neighborhood, a nearly 25 percent population increase for the half-mile area surrounding the site,” said Thompson, reading Levin’s testimony, which commended CPCR’s commitment to affordable housing and community space but would not support the plan “unless the issues of height and density, transportation, and open space, among others, are addressed.”
Levin’s position is a significant blow to CPCR, the developers of the former Domino Sugar refinery site, who are hoping that Borough President Marty Markowitz will approve their application to rezone 11.2 acres of the Williamsburg waterfront for primarily residential use. On March 9, Community Board 1 rejected their proposal, which would add 2,200 units of housing onto the former Domino Sugar refinery site, Kent Avenue and South 3rd Street.
“Our vision is to create an economically balanced need,” said CPC Resources President Micahel Lappin. “Most urgently we’ve heard a need for affordable housing. That was and continues to be the most pressing need for the community. If approved this summer, we are confident we can build by the middle of next year.“
Churches United Executive Director Paul Cogley said he was disappointed with Levin’s decision, explaining that he hoped Levin would prioritize affordable housing over density. He said that Levin’s position was not entirely a surprise because he told several board members that he would support their decision prior to the vote.
“It is the community board’s lopsided vote that was so stunning,” said Cogley. “It really demonstrated that the south side is underrepresented in the community board. The south side is solid and fervent in its support.”
Community board members who supported the project, including Esteban Duran, were also disappointed, but were hopeful that Markowitz might provide a more sympathetic view to the development project, which could create more than a thousand jobs and add more retail business to Williamsburg’s south side.
“At the end of the day, Marty has to understand that this is a multimillion dollar project that will make Brooklyn more of an attractive destination,” said Duran. “Marty would be remiss to vote this down. This project will transform the waterfront that has been ignored for generations.”
What the Borough President’s recommendation on the New Domino rezoning will be is anyone’s guess. During the public hearing, Markowitz gave little indication of his position, asking questions about the amount of commercial space the project will provide and the number of local jobs that could arise from its construction.
Markowitz has enthusiastically supported Coney Island and Atlantic Yards redevelopment projects in south and downtown Brooklyn, while also approving the Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg. He disapproved Rose Plaza in South Williamsburg primarily because it did not provide affordable housing levels over 20 percent and it did not have the number of large apartments that the community board requested.
Yet Williamsburg resident Phil DePaolo, who opposes the project, thinks that Markowitz will eventually disapprove the project with a list of recommendations.
“I don’t think he’s going to give it a yes,” said DePaolo. “I think he’ll stay in line with the board and Levin. He voted against Rose Plaza and it went through.”