After receiving a resounding rejection from the local Community Board last week, another blow was dealt last night to 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 on the waterfront. At a public hearing held by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, freshman City Council member Steve Levin came out against the project, which could spell much bigger trouble for developers than the Community Board's vote, because Council members typically defer to the local councilmember on land-use issues. At last night's hearing, an aide read from a statement explaining Levin's objections:
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.
An environmental impact study found the development would increase rush hour subway ridership in the area by 1,350 people and have a "significant adverse impact" on the transit system. Domino developers insist that increased ferry service to Manhattan would reduce that impact, as would a potential MTA plan to replace the M train with the V, theoretically giving Domino residents a direct link to midtown from Marcy Avenue and alleviating pressure on the L.
Susan Pollock, who represents the developers through the Community Preservation Corporation Resources [CPCR], claims that CPCR can't reduce the number of apartments because they need revenue to not only pay for the project but to finance the 660 promised affordable apartments—30% of the total units. Pollock also tells the Daily News, "The refinery is extravagantly expensive," because rehabbing the old building will cost an estimated $40 million more than tearing it down and building something new.
According to the Brooklyn Paper, Markowitz did not reveal his position yet, but he will issue a recommendation within a month, at which point the project will go to its next step in the review, the City Planning Commission, which is expected to approve it. After that, it will go before the City Council, which now looks like a big problem for CPCR. Levin says he will not support the plan "unless the issues of height and density, transportation, and open space, among others, are addressed."