Williamsburg’s Last Domino: A Gentrification Time Bomb?

08/18/2010 5:00 AM |

On July 29, after negotiations and some modest compromises, the city council approved a change to the zoning law that would allow the Domino plan to move forward: it was the project’s final hurdle, and a decade of construction should ensue.

Up to that point, much of the opposition to the Domino plan had been predictable, if valid. A few politicians gave voice to their constituents’ concerns about the community’s character and the neighborhood’s infrastructure: that it was already impossible to get a seat on the L train, that 40-story buildings would be out of context with the surrounding architecture.

In what barely seems like an actual compromise, CPC Resources agreed to shorten their planned 40-story towers to 34 stories: The resulting towers will just be thicker, so the project’s density remains unchanged. The developer also agreed to host a shuttle bus that will ferry residents to the Marcy Avenue J/M/Z station, to relieve increased ridership on the already overburdened L train.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, whose district includes the Domino site, still opposes the plan, despite the changes the council secured prior to passage (although he is the first to admit that, without a vote in the city council, he was simply an observer to the whole process). “The project is still as dense as it was,” he tells me over the phone, noting that it’s also still too tall—he would favor a height cap of 28 stories, more in line with the nearby developments—and without concrete plans for more services: no additional trains, no new fire houses or police stations or schools—”everything you need to accommodate the numbers of people moving into Domino,” roughly 6,500 new residents.

He wants shorter towers, less dense development, more open space and more affordable housing. “I don’t mind them”—CPC Resources—”making a profit,” he tells me, “but it doesn’t have to be half a billion.” The developer has said the project would be unfeasible if it were less dense or included more affordable housing. “I don’t believe them,” Lentol says. “They may not be able to make half a billion,” but they’ll still make plenty of profit.

Of course, Lentol can finger-wag all he wants. But “until there’s an outcry from the people about a lack of amenities, they’re not going to get any.” If there’s any kind of silver lining here, Lentol seems to be saying, it’s that the project will beget what we could call The New Domino Effect: it’ll show residents what this kind of development really looks like, how bad it is for their communities, so that they’ll rise up and stop developments of this kind from happening in the future.

6 Comment

  • Thanks to Stewart for reporting on this formerly neglected issue that is now gaining widespread consciousness. If anyone wishes to continue the discussion, seek me out on Facebook, and also join the Urbanum Tremendum page.
    –Dennis Farr

  • So much of new construction in Williamsburg is abandoned- this is not a good idea. Also, what’s going to happen to Grand Ferry Park?

  • So, developers generally don’t care about what’s best for the cities they operate in. What else is new? Williamsburg is over. It almost makes you want to leave NYC–go some place where the looming threat of eviction-by-gentrification isn’t always on one’s mind. It’s exhausting keeping up these battles for one neighbourhood after the other, especially because the money always wins.

  • @Drybrain, if “Williamsburg” is “over,” then you have never been. I’m gambling that you’ve never been “involved” in a fight or in a spectacular but have, like the newer generation visiting Williamsburg, always been a spectator. No. I’m sorry–don’t confuse your laying down with looking at the sky. Your attitude may be fine and good for you, but for me, I have yet only begun to fight.