Domino Development dominates discussion last night at CB1 meeting: Recap Pt. I

by Heather Van De Mark on

It was a packed room at the Swinging 60s Senior Center for last night’s monthly Community Board 1 Executive Board Meeting and Public Hearing. The buzz in the room was clearly over the agenda’s first item: Domino Sugar, which was certified last week. The board agreed to have Two Trees present and then have all the public speakers regarding this issue speak up immediately afterwards rather than waiting until the end of the meeting per usual. And then the rest of the meeting would commence according to the agenda. And thus, I have split the CB1 recap respectively: Domino Sugar today and all other items on the blog tomorrow.

Chairman Olechowski also announced that there would be a continuation of the Public Hearing on Domino Sugar on Thursday, November 21 at 6:30pm at PS 84, 250 Berry Street. Come informed, arrive early to sign up and speak your piece about the proposed Domino Sugar amendments and special permits.

What is Domino Sugar Requesting?
Quite frankly, it’s a lot of technical and legal jargon, including four special permits and a landmarks application. The special permits have to do with changing the zoning regulations in regards to total allowable floor space and yard requirements; a mix-use building; off-street parking; and loading docks for retail and service use. The landmarks application has to do with adapting the Domino Refinery building into a commercial office and retail building.

To view the full details of the requests, view the official CB1 November agenda [PDF].

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

Two Trees Presentation
Jed Walentas presented the overall development plan, contrasting it to the old Community Preservation Corp. (CPC) plan. The Domino Sugar development includes the six blocks from the Williamsburg Bridge to Grand Ferry Park and one inland parcel between S. 3rd and S. 4th Streets. Walentas also spoke specifically on the topics of: 24/7 mixed-use space, affordable housing, open space.

For those of you familiar with the plan, it wasn’t anything you probably haven’t heard already. The new plan calls for:

  • 2,282 total units:
    • 1,622 market rate apartments (studios – 2 bedrooms),
    • 660 units of affordable housing (studios – 2 bedrooms),
    • 40% – 125% AMI, 70% mean AMI
    • 200 affordable units on Site E which is the first parcel to be developed
    • Affordable units will have the same apartment finishes, building entrance and amenities as market-rate units
  • 2.8 million sq. ft. of residential space,
  • 504,000 sq. ft. of commercial space,
  • 74,00 sq. ft. of retail space,
  • 6+ acres of open space [Author’s note: although the presentation also listed 227,000 sq. ft of open space which is only 5.2 acres],
  • Active and passive sections of the open space, a central plaza called Domino Square and direct waterfront access,
  • Taller buildings than the CPC plan (a result of redistributing the density for more open space),
  • Connection of all street ends via River St.,
  • Commercial and retail space,
  • 2,700 new jobs
  • 1,050 parking spots

CPC’s “New Domino” 2010 plan (right) vs. Two Trees’ 2013 plan (left). Click for clearer image.

Walentas made several interesting comments including that he disliked the CPC plan because it created a private enclave and keeps the public away from the waterfront. He views his proposal as solving the issue of “connectivity” — how do you make such a large, new development feel cohesive while also ensuring that it connects to the surrounding spaces and community. He said that the Two Trees proposal is “not perfect, but a significant improvement” over the alternative approved plan.

He also said, he is “100% committed to building 660 units” of affordable housing but that “we can’t do it alone.” And that the project will need government support, money and subsidies to make the 660 units happen.

Walentas also added that they would be strong advocates for the creation of Williamsburg Bridge Park (WBP), acknowledging that they’d benefit tremendously from it. [Author’s note: Strong advocates but without (as of now) actually making a financial contribution to WBP as is the case with both Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial St. developments (source)].

A partner with SHoP architects presented on the architectural renderings for the site, noting that Brooklyn “deserves a great moment at the center of its skyline” just like Manhattan has. He emphasized that all buildings have a low, mid-rise and skyline portion to visually acclimate them with the surrounding structures. SHoP will only be designing two non-adjacent buildings. The renderings are not locking in specific designs.

SHoP also discussed a little about the historic preservation plans (an artifact walk, and being able to move around the Refinery building to experience it fully) and the flood protection plans (increased parkland means grass soaks up the water, and sloping streets help the water run back into the river.)

© SHoP Architects. Domino Site Rendering.

Walentas ended the presentation with a list of project benefits. I didn’t get to write them all down but found these notable:

  • 40% decrease of shadows on Grand Ferry Park than the CPC plan,
  • Safer 24/7 neighborhood, and
  • Less impact on city water and sewers.

Public Hearing: Domino Sugar

Many people spoke in favor of the Two Trees proposal including Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery, the Metropolitan Waterfront Association, North Brooklyn Creative Economy Group, the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Local 32BJ (member chapter of SEIU), and the Southside United Housing Development Fund Corp. (Los Sures). For many, their support revolved around respecting Two Trees efforts to gain community input and the need for business/commercial/economic revitalization in the area.

Some people spoke out against the Two Trees proposal including members of Save Domino, and one of the Domino Effect filmmakers. They spoke about issues of building in a flood zone, should developers put money into the pot for disaster relief the way the federal and state governments do, many of the promises are non-binding, the inclusion of street space as open space, tech jobs are largely white—will there be job training for the community, and although the number of units of affordable housing is more the actual square footage is less. Save Domino also announced that they will be holding a Domino Summit on Monday, December 9th before CB1 convenes on December 10th to vote on Domino Sugar. More details TBA.

Important Upcoming Domino Dates:

November 21
CB1 Public Hearing, Continuation of Domino Discussion
250 Berry St., PS 84

December 9:
Domino Summit led by Save Domino
Location TBA
Time TBA

December 10:
CB1 Public Hearing & Executive Board Meeting
This meeting is when the CB1 board will vote on Domino Sugar
211 Ainslie St., Swinging 60s Senior Center

That wraps up the Domino portion of last night’s CB1 meeting. Check the blog tomorrow for Part II of the recap.

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.