Up and away: Domino developer wants to put cheaper apartments first in line, furthest from the river

FIRST LOOK: Renderings show the future of the Domino Sugar factory
Holey mackerel: Two Trees unveiled its new plans for the old Domino sugar factory, deciding to ditch bulkier buildings for taller, skinnier skyscrapers with giant holes in the middle. The one on the right could wind up being the tallest building in Brooklyn.
Courtesy of Two Trees Management Company

So much for waterfront living.

The developer of the Domino Sugar Factory plans to put nearly a third of the below-market-rate housing for a massive Williamsburg luxury complex on a site across the street and uphill from the rest of the waterfront development, which some neighbors say would be a good thing if it means the cheaper apartments are available faster.

“To have both market-rent tenants and low-income tenants living together is the way all housing should be built, but more importantly, to have 250 affordable housing units available in the immediate future for a population so desperately in need is a must,” said Debra Medina, a spokeswoman for the community group Los Sures, at a Department of Housing Preservation and Development hearing about the proposal on Friday.

The developer Two Trees Management Co. went before the agency to argue that all of the parcels that are part of the development should be seen as one big parcel in order to allow putting more than one fifth of the project’s so-called affordable housing in the first high-rise, which is planned for the Havermeyer Park plot on Kent Avenue between S. Third and S. Fourth streets, rather than spreading the budget units evenly throughout the towers, the remaining five of which sits along the East River and will be built later. The move would make 200 of the first skyscraper’s 400 units below-market-rate.

Only 20 members of the public attended the meeting and only two spoke, including Medina, but Two Trees says that the shuffling is what Williamsburg wants.

“Advocates expressed a strong preference to have the affordable units front-loaded in the six-or-eight-year-long development,” said Dave Lombino, head of special projects for Two Trees.

Not everyone is on board with the plan, though. Some say the Two Trees proposal could mean big money in the long-term for the developer while below-market-rate tenants end up cut off from amenities.

“It could allow the shifting of all the affordable housing to the inland site to maximize the profit for the developer and allow the sale of individual parcels, presumably on the waterfront, without requiring any affordable housing on these sites,” said neighbor and Domino opponent Stephanie Eisenberg.

Other nearby riverside developments, including Greenpoint Landing and the Edge, have come under fire for what critics describe as a separate-but-equal approach to so-called affordable housing for arrangements that place cheaper units on lower floors and make low-income tenants use separate entrances, but Two Trees wants to distance itself from all that.

“Let’s be clear: Two Trees is 100 percent committed to ending the ‘poor door’ trend in Williamsburg,” Lombino said. “All of our buildings will include affordable units that are evenly distributed throughout — there will be no special entrances, and no segregation by floor or view. And [the Havermeyer Park lot] will host a building as spectacular as any, with 50 percent market units, overlooking a brand new park, and with river views.”

If Two Trees does build the 200 below-market-rate apartments on the Kent Avenue site, the developer will still have another 460 to build to live up to the non-binding promise made by the previous owner for cheap digs in the complex. Two Trees snatched up the iconic factory that anchors the Williamsburg Bridge for $185-million last year. Under its current plan, which needs city approval, the complex will contain 2,284 apartments.

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

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