Domino effect

The plan for the Domino Sugar factory site, in view of the Williamsburg Bridge, would include a glass tower atop the landmark factory buildings (near center), as well as a number of other residential towers.
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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.

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Reader Feedback

Blue Spruce from Williamsbrug says:
Yes affordable housing is important. However, why does anyone want to live on a toxic "oil spill."

I am talking about the Roebling Oil Field and the millions of gallons of "leaked" oil that is under Williamsburg. Fact. Google: Toxic Williamsburg.

Does anyone remember what happened to Love Canal home owners? They were forced to leave their homes and lost their investment.

In the last 10 years Williamsburg has become "important" because it has become an expensive place to live. In 10 years, when the hipsters and artists are gone and the yuppies ask why their kids have cancer there will be a well organized search for the truth. And what will the truth show? That anyone who read Vice Magazine before it sold out to Viacom knew that there was more oil under Williamsburg than in a super tanker. Fact. Exxon admits it.

So now what? Everyone with a vested interest in Williamsburg will lie and sell to the over-rich and under-smart and those who buy now will be left to pay to clean up the mess under their property.

Is The Blue Spruce over-reacting? Try this little test: stand on the corner of North 11th and Roebling Street and sniff the air. Then go to a local broker and ask to buy one of the basement apartments in the area. Do the sniff test in one or two basement apartments. Tell the broker that you want to do a test for toxins in the soil under the apartment.

Try it! It's fun, informative and gives you interesting insight into the complex issues of Real Estate Dual Agency issues.

After the thrill of being a wise guy wears off, if you feel the need to reform real estate law and boycott Exxon... don't blame The Spruce.

The Blue Spruce
Feb. 22, 2008, 8:05 pm

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