The New Domino: A benefit to Williamsburg

We are particularly pleased that the City Planning Commission has unanimously approved our “New Domino” plans, which will now advance for final consideration by the New York City Council.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden highlighted The New Domino’s benefits, saying, “This project will bring high-quality design and architecture, much-needed affordable housing, significant community facilities, and open space on the waterfront to a Williamsburg community in need of all these things.”

The Commission’s action reflects support for the planning framework that offered a community-oriented project that balances density, open space, preservation, and most important, affordable housing. A living urban community requires creative planning and design — which is why we have double the parks, lawns, playgrounds and quality public open space required; a design that emphasizes light and air; a restored landmark centerpiece; access to the waterfront and a quarter-mile riverfront esplanade; and a circulation system that links The New Domino directly to the existing street grid. Space is also provided for a supermarket and for a new school in the Refinery if needed, and the development offers a job-training program for 500 neighborhood residents.

These many benefits, including maintaining the affordable housing for the life of the development, will be guaranteed not simply by plans and promises, but by legally enforceable restrictive covenants.

At the same time, it needs to be recognized that providing 660 affordable units and extraordinary public amenities comes with a significant price tag — a burden borne by revenues from the market-rate component of the New Domino. Cutting back on that component reduces the dollars available to cover these costs and impairs the development’s overall economic viability.

In casting his positive vote, Commissioner Irwin Cantor addressed the issue, modifying the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s 1955 hit song: “Affordability and density is like love and marriage — you can’t have one without the other.”

Our mission over the past 37 years has been to create affordable housing for New Yorkers, providing nearly 140,000 such homes and apartments for working families. We became engaged in The New Domino principally because of the opportunity to create 660 affordable units to serve lower income families. We will uphold that commitment.

There are pre-existing transportation issues to be addressed that are community-wide and clearly far beyond our scope. Reducing the density of the New Domino, as some have called for, would have little or no tangible effect on the problem, amounting to one or two persons per subway car. But the New Domino can and will be part of the solution to the area-wide issue. Working with others in the community over our 10-year development period, we will pursue responsible, strategic improvements with the MTA and with ferry and shuttle bus operators to make a real and lasting difference.

We look forward to continuing positive and cooperative dialogue with the Williamsburg community and the City Council.

Susan Pollock is senior vice president of CPC Resources, the developer of The New Domino.