Controversial or Progressive? Two Trees Delivers New Domino Plan to Community

by GWAPP on

In front of a packed house at the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) Domino Community Forum, Jed Walentas and the Two Trees team presented their plans for the new New Domino development. Walentas began by explaining Two Trees’ vision for the site and their philosophy behind the new design, why they decided to scrap the previously ULURP-approved design and create a new vision for the South Williamsburg development.

Open Space and Waterfront Access

© SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations. Domino Site Plan.

In regard to open space and waterfront access, the new plan calls for:

  • The creation of 2 additional acres of open space (a 60% increase) by raising building heights from 340 feet to 598 feet;
  • Pulling buildings back from the waterfront to increase the footprint and accessibility of the waterfront park (in an attempt to eliminate the “private backyard” feeling of the previous plan);
  • A waterfront park with an “urban waterfront” (beer garden, cafe, ferry stop), a “water plaza” (“water steps”, “get down”, water feature, pier reveal) and recreational parks for both passive (beach, lawn, dog run) and active (kayak launch, volleyball court, field, bocce ball) uses;
  • Connecting east/west-bound streets through the elimination of cul-de-sacs to create a more accessible waterfront as well as extending the length of existing River street;
  • Dedicating one site on the property to the creation of “Domino Square” which would hold an event space (800 people), market space (100 vendors) and ice rink (200 people); and
  • The creation of an “Artifact Walk” showcasing relics of the sugar refining process and highlighting the site’s industrial history.

24/7 Mixed Use

© SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations. Street View from Kent Avenue.

A significant shift from the previous plan, which primarily focused on residential housing, is that the new Domino plan proposes a mixed-use vision for the South Williamsburg waterfront. Frequently referencing the transformation of DUMBO from an industry-heavy neighborhood to its present character, Walentas lamented the current lack of commercial office space and claimed that it stifled local small-business entrepreneurs who are forced to commute to Manhattan to pursue their goals. Walentas envisions a “new community” that encourages creative use of the space by:

  • Eliminating 116 residential units (compared to old plan) in favor of more commercial space;
  • Providing an additional 532,502 square feet of commercial office space utilizing the existing refinery (a landmark building) as the “nucleus” of activity;
  • Expanding space for small-scale retailers at street level;
  • Reducing parking spaces from approximately 1,600 to 1,000-1,100;
  • 140,00 square feet of community space for hosting art galleries, skill-building (similar to Bushwick’s 3rd Ward) and possibly a YMCA facility; and
  • Including a public school at “Site B” which would not be an elementary school so as to avoid competition with existing elementary schools.

Walentas acknowledged that the newly proposed plan would not match the existing character of the neighborhood design-wise, but he hoped it would be a match to the creative and social character of the community. Walentas is also committed to not leasing the retail spaces to big box retailers (specifically mentioning Duane Reade and Starbucks) and instead would focus on encouraging the growth of local “creative capital.”

Affordable Housing

© 2013 Ryan Watson. Architectural model of Domino development.

The previous developer agreed to building 660 units of affordable housing, however Walentas maintained that current law only mandates that 400 units be devoted to affordable housing. Walentas added that he hoped city officials would “figure out a way to hold them to 660.” Affordable housing units would be fully integrated into the market-rate units, 300 of which would be “frontloaded” into the off-waterfront building at “Site E.”


Renderings of Domino Sugar Factory Development

© SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations

Vishaan Chakrabarti, a partner at SHoP Architects – the firm responsible for the Barclays Center – delivered the section of the presentation focused on the architecture of the project. Chakrabarti prefaced his remarks by describing what he called a “crisis” on the Williamsburg waterfront. High-rise buildings blocking out the waterfront, shading the streets below and offering little to no community access. In response, SHoP’s approach was to include gaps in each building, creating a “more interesting” design with buildings that are airier, open and allowed the penetration of additional light. The new design, which nearly doubles the building heights from 340 to 598 feet, allows for additional open space, a 25% reduction in shadows on Grand Ferry Park and a less crowded feel surrounding the refinery. Chakrabarti emphasized that the buildings have yet to be designed and that the master planning images that have been released are a “necessary evil” in the presentation of the design.

What do you think about this design? Is the trade off between more open space worth the increase in building height? Leave a comment and let us know what you think about the plan for the New Domino!

© SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations. Domino Waterfront Park Plan.



The Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks & Planning, Inc. ("GWAPP") is a not-for-profit group, 501(c)(3), comprised of individuals, community organizations, religious institutions, and concerned citizens from the Greenpoint-Williamsburg communities dedicated to the development of parks and public access on the Greenpoint waterfront.
  • Meghan Duran commented:

    I think the increased height is absurd and may be one of the biggest reasons why I oppose this plan. The design looks like tacky suburban mall… Or really like battery park. It has nothing to do with this neighborhood at all and while i understand developers are tying to “blend” w the community by adding park space and community spaces that will probably not be used… i cant imagine this height increase will be approved. this will change the skyline and views of the rest of the neighborhood. The rest of Brooklyn. why all that ugly glass – cant they build in the brick warehouse Style they was indicative of this neighborhood? Regardless the edge and schaffer landing has already changed the waterfront so much its bound to continue – but the increase in building height I find completely unacceptable regardless of the increase of “community space”