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.