Williamsburg residents are divided over whether the plan to rezone the former Domino Sugar refinery is sweet or sour.
Representatives from CPC Resources, the developer of the 11.2 acre South Williamsburg site known as “New Domino,” unveiled the latest iteration of their plan at a Community Board 1 public hearing on February 9.
“Our mission is to develop, create, preserve and renovate housing in New York,” said Susan Pollock, Senior Vice President and Project Director for CPC Resources. “Affordable housing is first and foremost in our agenda. We need people who live and work in the community.”
The proposed plan, which is in the early stages of the Uniform Land Use and Review Process, calls for 2,200 units of housing, 30 percent of which are labeled affordable at 30 to 60 percent Annual Median Income (AMI) levels, and includes 147,000 square feet of community facility space, 128,000 square feet of retail space for a possible grocery store, 98,000 square feet of commercial space, 1,700 parking spaces, and four acres of waterfront open space that will be given to the Parks Department to administer.
Community members let their voices known on the project during the board meeting’s public session which stretched to nearly three hours. Those speaking in favor of the project included several longtime South Side residents and community organizations such as Los Sures, Churches United for Fair Housing, and Churches United.
Father Rick Beuther, pastor at St. Peter and Paul’s Church (71 South 3rd Street), who, with Churches United’s Paul Cogli, signaled his strong support of the project as it is proposed, spoke on behalf of his entire cluster of Catholic churches in Williamsburg and Greenpoint who endorse New Domino.
“Our neighborhood continues to change,” said Beuther. “I look at this Domino project and I see a lot of home runs. When I see affordable housing units and that open space, that’s a lot of home runs. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a win.”
Opponents of the proposal, which included several members of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Williamsburg north side residents and property owners, were more varied in their concerns about the project’s tower heights, density of units, and effects on tenant displacement, public transportation and city infrastructure.
In her testimony, NAG board member and Transportation Working Group Chair Lacey Tauber requested that the number of parking spaces be reduced in half and that CPC resources should work with the MTA to implement a Bus Rapid Transit plan to link the site to Brooklyn and Manhattan. NAG board member Emily Gallagher, argued that the need for affordable housing in Williamsburg outweighed the need for more luxury condo units.
“We’ve seen what happens in this neighborhood when developers roll the dice on the luxury housing market and it is not pretty,” said Gallagher. “This proposal is asking a huge sacrifice for this community.”
The community board did not vote on the plan in its meeting, but will have its first opportunity to voice its position during the Land Use Committee meeting on February 23. CPC Resources’ Susan Pollock expressed confidence that the committee would be swayed in favor of the project but added that further adjustments to the plan could be made before the meeting.
“It’s very difficult for a project like this to satisfy everyone completely,” said Pollock. “I hope we’ve worked that balance. I use that word balance intentionally. In developing a project like this, it’s all about the balance. We think that what we’re offering to the community, improving quality of life and open space require the kind of project that we’re going to propose.”