Preservationists and affordable-housing advocates battled this week over a proposal to convert the Domino Sugar site in Williamsburg — including three landmarked buildings — into a development with more than 2,200 units of housing.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which held a hearing on Tuesday, is being asked to approve the plans for the sugar refinery, which was built in 1884. Proposed renovations include adding five stories of glassed apartments on top of the existing 12 floors of the landmarked factory.
The developer would also demolish several non-landmarked — but, to some, historical — buildings in the complex to make way for nine residential towers.
The matter is ostensibly about architecture right now, but the developer hopes the 30 percent of apartments at below-market rates and public access to the waterfront will sweeten the $1.2 billion deal.
“We want to harmonize preservation with affordable housing and creating an open public space,” said Mike Lappin, president of CPC Resources.
But for aesthetes, it was a visual cacophony.
“The proposed glass box addition, plunked on top of the landmark, is simply too large and lacks the compositional organization and the arrangements of details that would relate it to the landmark,” said Lisa Kersavage, a director at the Municipal Arts Society.
Kersavage was also upset that the iconic, neon Domino sign might not be maintained.
“We’d like to keep it, but it’s not a simple thing to figure out where to put it or how to support it,” said Lappin.
Supporters of the project say the possible loss of the sign does not outweigh the hundreds of sub-market rate units the development would provide.
“It’s very difficult to get a developer to make that kind of commitment,” said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. “So we realize there are tradeoffs you have to make.”
The Landmarks Preservation Commission did not rule on the proposal, which also requires rezoning the plant from manufacturing to residential.
©2008 Community News Group
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