Is the Domino Developer Trying to Sell?

03/14/2012 10:35 AM |

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The developers behind the “New Domino” project in South Williamsburg may be trying to sell all or parts of it, the Observer reported this week and the Brooklyn Paper confirmed. The 11-acre site, which went through a difficult rezoning fight, is to feature multiple high-rise towers and other buildings, 2,200 units of housing, one-third of which would be affordable. But that high percentage of affordable housing was a promise by the original developer, the Community Preservation Corporation—not a legally binding contract. “The potential sale of the Domino Sugar Factory is profoundly concerning,” district leader Lincoln Restler tells us. “While CPC made a series of promise to the North Brooklyn community… a new owner would in no way be obligated to follow through on those community benefits.”

Other promises that could potentially be broken? The creation of five blocks of new waterfront parkland, the preservation of the historic Domino sign or noted architect Rafael Vinoly’s design; why not scrap it for something cheaper and uglier, a la Atlantic Yards? “All I can I say is that I am not surprised, and I don’t think that anyone in the community is surprised either,” Megan Sperry, one of the filmmakers behind The Domino Effect, tells us.

This was a major concern for the community from the beginning. That is why they fought so hard to make sure that the affordable units and the amenities would be locked in indefinitely for the project. There were suspicions from the beginning that CPC was going to get the property rezoned and then flip it at a much higher sale rate turning a great profit for themselves. They refused to show their finances throughout the ULURP; many believe that this is because they never had enough money to develop the property themselves, even with Katan’s partnership… Like the Atlantic Yards project, The New Domino is proving that real estate development in New York City is a series of broken promises. When it comes to actually meeting the concerns of the community and its residents, the “effort” on behalf of the developer is a grand illusion.

Local resident Dennis Farr sees the sale—which he says has always been not a possibility but an inevitability—as a chance to do it better. It “re-focuses an opportunity to demonstrate Williamsburg’s profound imagination and responsibility to the human and social good,” he tells us. “The prognostication that luxury condominium developments would not be built on the Domino Sugar site was indeed a curse upon CPC that extends to any large-scale luxury condominium real estate agent(s) considering development on ‘New Domino.’” He suggests instead a university, and cites Bloomberg’s recent project on Roosevelt Island as a model. “Williamsburg can do greater,” he tells us. “Much greater.”

CPC has not responded to a request for comment.

10 Comment

  • Nice work Councilman Levin! Caving on the variance in exchange for a bunch of meaningless promises. Memories of the 2005 waterfront rezone, anyone?

    When a developer makes promises that are not in writing and legally binding, what he is really saying is “I plan to shit on your face.”

  • Odd, reading these “authorities” in Williamsburg talk about how they “always” knew that CPC would default on New Domino. I remember things quite differently: I remember rigid-neckedness and scoffing at the mere suggestion New Domino would not survive these years.

    In fact, I remember prognosticating New Domino’s demise at the Pierogi gallery in a meeting organized by Williamsburg and Greenpoint special interests to support Assemblyman Vito Lopez and New York City Councilman Stephen Levin. The meeting’s purpose was to undermine the ascendant Latino coalition headed by New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and community activist Esteban Duran whose support was crucial to CPC/R’s passage through myriad municipal agencies in building

  • Let me clarify because I’m aware there were objections to size and dimension which were not qualitative but quantitative. The persons who supported Stephen Levin WERE NOT openly in support of New Domino, never in the way that Sola

  • In light of the public comments and persona of CPC during the ULURP approval process this is a shocking scandal. But for those who are aware of the systemic contradictions in the “public-private” “luxury funds affordable” model is it not a surprise that CPC is failing to deliver on their promises. Politicians and organizations who refused to think outside of the “New Domino” project paradigm should indeed take notice and remember for the next fight not to accept the “TINA” (there is no alternative) premise and to fight for the public interest.

  • BP, with all due respect, and there is tremendum respect [understand?], it has to be more than just private discussion or secret suspicions. It has to be all of us flooding these comments threads with our ideas for the public interest, because it is in comments threads where the true exercise of democracy is found in the digital realm. Sure, I know a few people here and there who in comfort and security were quite wise about what was going to happen and I learned very much listening to them. You’re one of those persons I learn from whenever we interact, and I very much appreciate the increase and enhancement to knowledge. However, it’s time for them to stop saying one thing with a wine glass in hand at a gallery somewhere to the “radicals” and another thing to reporters and to municipal agencies and, most importantly, to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the incoming Brooklyn Borough President. We all know that Domino Sugar IS OURS. It is on “loan” to CPC. Be damned their contrivances over ownership–if any of that were legitimate It would not require the muscle. If the People want something at that parcel It will happen, but only if the People want It.

  • And you already know what I think should rise t/here.

  • I absolutely agree, but we have to emphasize the point that this is not just about the Domino Sugar site or CPC — the whole model of “affordable housing” creation through funds generated by luxury housing development needs to be called into question. Also the idea that it is “inevitable” that the whole East River waterfront should become a giant Battery Park City. The City should absolutely be looking into real alternatives for the Domino site — including yours.

  • BP, I don’t know if you recall, maybe three years previous, correspondence between myself and Zacks over at Heroes&Charlatans, which occasionally included other interests and agents? Maybe not, the correspondence was confined to Facebook. Anyway, we reduced new construction in Williamsburg [as in the past 20 years, but more importantly, since the 2005-rezoning] to two broad types: luxury condominium and office. We didn’t include retail under “office” because, in truth, “office space” was more theoretical than anything and “retail” actually fell under the rubric of luxury condominium housing. The umbrella was really “large scale luxury condominium development.” Anyway, we both agreed that the source of our woes and dilemma was urban design: architects, designers and fabricators need another “type,” paradigmatic. Of course, I argued that this was autodidactive autogenerative University for Civic Engineering and Environmental Science initiated by inhabiting the buildings “as they are” and making the conversion process in this initial stage not just functional but also didactive, from within. Zacks was not as convinced but also considered other models–all of them meritorious but for the lack of affordable housing. In Williamsburg University, the poor are charged with building their own space and learning from it to improve the world–the “affordable housing” variable must be extricated from housing and embedded in the Campus.

  • Excuse me, I mean housing with the capital H, “…the “affordable housing” variable must be extricated from Housing and embedded in the Campus.” Not facetious, since It means government and corporate agenda, public and private interests, and It often means maleficent “Real Estate.”