Sweet and sour on Domino: New plan draws mixed reaction

Green design: The plan calls for more waterfront parkland because the proposed high-rises take up less of the development's footprint.
Courtesy of Two Trees Management Company

Brooklyn is either sweet on the Domino development plan — or pushing a no-sugar diet.

Two Trees Management Co.’s distinctive new renderings for the conversion of the Williamsburg site drew cheers from backers who say the artsy architecture will create a vibrant and bustling waterfront community, and harsh words from critics who claim the strangely shaped structures are just the next step in the neighborhood’s march to gentrification.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamburg) and William Harvey, creator of the nascent North Brooklyn Creative Economy Zone — who are both on a list of approved sources distributed by Two Trees — each called this reporter and gave similarly-worded praise for the project.

“It’s inventive and so much better than the original Domino plan, which was not innovative at all,” said Lentol. “It was very paint-by-the-numbers.

“It’s a world-class plan that incorporates significant amount of space for the creative economy that will benefit North Brooklyn,” said Harvey. “The [Community Preservation Corporation Resources] was unimaginative and design-by-numbers.”

Both said the billion-dollar plan — which calls for four rental towers, a waterfront park, and a public square around the landmarked Domino refinery building — would help squelch rising rents in Williamsburg.

“This is going to be about the law of supply and demand,” said Lentol. “There is a need for residential housing.”

“It’s about supply and demand,” said Harvey. “If we have a bigger supply, it should mitigate prices.”

But project opponents said the SHoP Architects’ proposal for Dubai-style high-rises, decked out with prominent holes in the center of the buildings, is a sign that Williamsburg’s transition from bohemian to upscale is nearly complete.

“It is now easier than ever for the financiers who will soon make up the bulk of the residents of Williamsburg’s waterfront to land their hovercrafts inside of their be-holed condominium tower,” quipped Gawker scribe Hamilton Nolan.

Neighborhood landlord Stephanie Eisenberg, a vocal opponent of the original plan, said she has just as much apprehension about the Two Trees proposal, which calls for 2,284 apartments, 660 of them charging below-market-rate rents.

“It’s a socio-economically segregated community,” said Eisenberg, who once suggested turning the Domino refinery into a museum. “It’s dead. It’s boring.”

Community merchants are excited about any development at the former sugar factory, with Aurora Ristorante general manager Damien Graef saying he would support “anything that brings more people west of Bedford [Avenue],” and Main Drag Music owner and founder Karl Myers calling it “a step forward for the neighborhood” that could lead him to carry more high-end products that would cater to the new tenants.

Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) — a long-time foe of the original Domino plan who gave the now-scrapped proposal his blessing after convincing builders to shave six stories from its tallest towers — said he finds the new design “ambitious and interesting” and is happy about increased office and green space, but is reserving judgement for now.

“It’s a very big project and there’s plenty to work through,” said Levin.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

Critics say the proposal is another sign that Williamsburg is going from artsy to upscale.
Courtesy of Two Trees Management Company

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