Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brawl Over New Domino Development Ain't Too Sweet

By Celeste Katz

The team of Frank Lombardi and Erin Durkin brings us this report:

domino plant.jpg

Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez and his protege Councilman Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg) are again facing off against Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Williamsburg) and Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick) over a borough development project.

This time, it's the New Domino project on the Williamsburg waterfront, where developers want to build 2,200 apartments -- 30% of them affordable -- at the site of the old Domino sugar refinery.

Reyna and Velazquez showed up to lead the charge in favor of the project before a hearing at City Hall this morning. Cheered on by a crowd in matching yellow Domi-YES! t-shirts, they touted the plan's affordable housing and open space benefits.

"The past few years have not been friendly to our community as...businesses, families and properties are squeezed out of our neighborhood," Reyna said. "This is a vision of what the Latino community in the south side has wanted for so many years."

But Lopez and Levin say the plan is too big and will swamp neighborhood services, especially the already-packed Bedford Ave. L train. They want the number of apartments reduced and towers up to 40 stories chopped to 28.

At a press availability before the hearing by the Council’s Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, Lopez -- whose district doesn’t include the refinery site -- blasted the ambitious project as essentially a deal concocted by bankers “to make over $400 million in profit,” with the help of the city. “It’s outrageous,” he fumed.

The two held a rally, joined by Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Williamsburg), Community Board 1 officials, and their own crowd of cheering but t-shirt-less supporters.

"No one here, I know, has any paid t-shirts," Lopez said. "It's outrageous -- the T-shirts, the buses, the money."

"They have not budged an inch," he said of developer Community Preservation Corporation Resources. "They're arrogant."

Lopez got in a shot at Reyna, his protege turned rival, for speaking up on a project in Levin's district: "The City Council has a history of respecting the local council person's jurisdiction. Diana now has repeatedly done this, on Broadway Triangle, Rose Plaza, and Domino. I assume she'd be very upset if people interfered with her projects."

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Reyna, in turn, (whose district lines also don't include the Domino site) says CPC has made numerous concessions, including assuring that the famous Domino sign, which isn’t part of the landmarked portion of the refinery buildings, will be preserved. She and other proponents also say the development project will create 1,000 permanent jobs, a five-block waterfront esplanade and meeting rooms for community groups.

For his part, CPC president Mike Lappin said after a grilling before a Council committee that he's willing to negotiate, but can't shrink the project too much and still pay for the affordable housing and preserving the Domino refinery building: "It's got to be a financially realistic project," he said.

The New Domino project faces a deadline of July 26 under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The inside word is that it will have to go through some modifications but is expected to eventually pass, with or without Lopez’ backing. Mayor Bloomberg has strongly supported the development.

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