How do you make a building smaller without actually making it smaller? That was essentially what negotiations came down to for the redevelopment of the old Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront, which was unanimously approved by the City Council today.
Affordable housing developer CPC Resources wants to turn the six blocks around the refinery into the New Domino, a $1.4 billion mixed-income community of 2,200 apartments in 5 towers designed by Rafael Viñoly. The project would include the refinery itself, now . Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who represents the district adjacent to Levin’s, had been a strong supporter of the project despite her colleague’s opposition, an unusual move at the council, where deference is generally paid. She argued that the affordable housing it provides was worth the density. “I’m happy to say this land will be reinvigorated and happy this project has reached a level of satisfaction for all parties,” Reyna said.
Even Councilman Charles Barron, a development skeptic and frequent no-vote, voted in favor of the project, saying it would be a boon for the community, though he also used the opportunity to rail against the state of affordable housing in the city. “We’re talking about 70 percent luxury housing and that can change the complexion of a neighborhood,” Barron said. “We need to be careful when we think about affordability. I don’t see why we have to be on the short end every time.”
The community was less enthusiastic about the results. "We were clearly hoping for more—or less, as the case may be," Ward Dennis, co-chair of advocacy group Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, said in email. "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."
And yet few hold Levin to blame for the final results. "Steve worked really hard on this," one local activist said. "The Bloomberg administration and the [council] speaker just didn’t give him any room to negotiate. There was little that could be done."