After the community board voted down an ambitious $1.2-billion plan to turn the landmark Domino Sugar Refinery site in Williamsburg into a residential complex with 2,200 apartments and four acres of public park, it looked as though the project would collapse, particularly because local councilman Steve Levin was opposed. (The City Council usually defers to the council member whose district encompasses whatever issue they're voting on.) But Mayor Bloomberg offered up enough concessions to win Levin's approval yesterday, and the City Council’s Land Use Committee approved the "New Domino," all but assuring final public review approval from the City Planning Commission.
Levin had previously said, "The project is simply too big. Too big, too high, too many people. The plan would introduce over 6,000 new residents to the neighborhood, a nearly 25-percent population increase for the half-mile area surrounding the site. How does everyone get to work? [The L] train is over capacity during morning rush hour as it is." To win him over, the developer agreed to shrink the size of their tallest towers from 40 stories to 34 stories, while maintaining the promised 660 units of affordable housing (30% of the total 2,200 apartments ) in perpetuity.
The developer also agreed to run a shuttle bus to the JMZ stop at Marcy Avenue, which would alleviate overcrowding on the L, especially since the M now runs to midtown. However, as part of the compromise, a commercial building on the northernmost lot was given permission to add another five floors, increasing it to 30 stories. Nevertheless, Levin told The Architect's Newspaper, "We don’t want to see a gold coast. We weren’t happy about seeing these supertall luxury towers on the waterfront." And the Bloomberg administration promised the following deal-sweeteners:
- The continuation of the Tenant Anti-Harassment Fund which has protected hundreds of Williamsburg residents in recent years.
- The need for capital funding for more and higher quality open space on the Williamsburg waterfront.
- A comprehensive traffic and transit study and a plan to mitigate the adverse effects of development in the area.
- Upgrades to drainage and sewer systems and other infrastructure improvements.
- A cultural and community center in Williamsburg and support for local arts organizations in the neighborhood.
- The creation of a Community Advisory Council to oversee the project through the duration of the development.
- A job training initiative to recruit and train hundreds of local workers.
In a statement, Ward Dennis, co-chair of advocacy group Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, said, "We were clearly hoping for more—or less, as the case may be. NAG's position was never to stop the Domino project, just to make it better. We look forward to the affordable housing, new open space, and supermarkets that this project will bring to our community. But we also need a sustainable model for growth going forward, and that is what we feel is still missing from the project."