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Builder: This ‘Domino’ won’t fall

Big news: This $1.2-billion mixed-use redevelopment of Williamsburg's iconic Domino Sugar plant is still going forward, despite the economy, its developer says.
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The developer behind Brooklyn’s second biggest construction project says that he’s doing fine — even though his foes are hoping that the softening economy will do to his oversized project what it did to Atlantic Yards.

Michael Lappin, president and CEO of Community Preservation Corporation Resources, told The Brooklyn Paper that his $1.2-billion plan to turn Williamsburg’s long-dormant Domino Sugar refinery into 2,200 apartments is still on track, despite a fiscal climate that is curtailing other projects.

“It’s more difficult [to secure financing] than it was before, but the fact that we’re focused on a much lower income, where there is enormous demand and public subsidies, helps,” said Lappin. The developer said he is currently trying to line up a “very achievable” $100 million to finance the first stage of the project: some 300-units — about 50 percent of them affordable — planned to begin construction in about a year at the refinery’s former parking lot on Kent Avenue between South Third and Fourth streets.

“As we get closer to starting, we’re very confident that it will firm up,” said Lappin, whose CPC Resources, working alongside developer Isaac Katan, secured a $500-million line of credit last spring for the project, which promises that 30 percent of its units will be affordable housing and 100 of them will be reserved for residents earning only $25,000 per year.

But some Domino opponents are hoping that the ailing economy might sidetrack and scale-back the project, which includes plans to top the landmarked refinery with a glassy addition and build two 30-story, and two 40-story, residential towers on the waterfront just north of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg), who has long called for reducing the height of the skyscraping towers, said that beleaguered banks likely won’t lend to developers — and builders might need to turn to the community for support.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can use this as an opportunity to negotiate the size of the project,” said Lentol. “Just as Atlantic Yards may be scaled down, Domino’s dreams for a large project may be scaled down too.”

Despite some opposition from neighbors, the Domino project has been making advances. Complaints about the size and the scale of the building have been matched by support for the development from Williamsburg residents and politicians including Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Williamsburg), who back the plans because of the promised affordable housing.

Last year, the development faced criticism from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for its tame plans for a rooftop refinery addition, leading the builders to alter their blueprints and promise to preserve the building’s iconic yellow signage.

The next hurdle for the mammoth project is the city’s Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP), an eight-month process that is expected to begin before the middle of the year.

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Reader Feedback

bktv from williamsburg says:
There is nothing I want more for my neighborhood than for this project to FAIL. Let it die on the vine and then get some creative people in there who can do adaptive reuse for some affordable housing and stop playing divisive politics with our community. I've never felt more discouraged about the future of North Brooklyn than when I've seen the ugly tactics these people engage in.
Jan. 8, 2009, 10:11 pm
Pedro Navaja from The Southside says:
Rents are outrages in Willybee. We do need more housing, one that advocates ownership at an affordable price for a growing family. Something like under $150,000 for a two bedroom so the family can survive in Brooklyn.
Jan. 11, 2009, 1:13 am
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
Of course there is no incentive to build so-called affordable housing. Why would anyone do the work and make the large financial investment that a housing project entails, and then decide not to charge the maximum price that people are willing to pay. I don't think that there is anything wrong with it. you don't get upset at individuals who sell their houses at high market rates which are unaffordable to many people, so why get angry at a developer doing the same thing just on a larger scale.
There are other neighborhoods all over Brooklyn and the rest of New York city where cheap apartments are still availible.
Jan. 14, 2009, 11:29 am

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