Skip to main content

Sunday in the Park at (New) Domino; the developer (obscurely) opens the door

Yesterday was an opportunity for a wide variety of Williamsburg residents to enjoy an afternoon in a remarkable space--the gritty concrete backyard of the closed Domino Sugar plant, open to the public--as the advertisement indicates--for the first time in a century.

There was popcorn and cotton candy, cider and hot chocolate--and, yes, dominoes. Hasids and hipsters and Hispanic residents cordially shared the same space, hinting at the promise of public space in such a diverse and often divided neighborhood. Some former workers in the sugar factory, which closed in 2004 after a bitter strike, also get a chance to revisit their stomping grounds. Many people brought cameras to capture the views of the Williamsburg Bridge and the shuttered factory.

Who's in charge?

But who was behind this event? You couldn't tell from the advertisement (above) in the Brooklyn Downtown Star or the Courier-Life chain. The poster on the street in Williamsburg, reproduced here, shows logos from advocacy groups like the Open Space Alliance of North Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

The opening of new waterfront space in parks-deprived Williamsburg is certainly a legitimate goal, but it shouldn't be used to obscure the ongoing debate over the development that would bring the open space.

The advertisement welcomed people to "Domino." So did posters at the site (below). But the project that would transform the 11.2-acre site is called New Domino (official web site). It would preserve and adapt the existing main refinery building and involve up to 15 buildings and 2.86 million square feet of development.

A major project

In other words, the current open space, and the nifty potential space, depicted yesterday in renderings marked "for illustrative purposes only," comes attached to a mega-project that faces a contentious approval process, likely over the next year. Visitors yesterday were shown two renderings, both emphasizing open space as opposed to the project as a whole--no 300-foot or 400-foot towers--plus, as shown in the photo above, a schematic rendering of the open space.

The event yesterday was "to let people know what it will feel like," and the renderings of the open space are "what we'll be proposing," Susan M. Pollock, Senior VP for CPC Resources (CPCR), the for-profit subsidiary of Community Preservation Corporation, told me yesterday.

CPCR is the managing partner of Refinery, LLC, which is developing the New Domino project; while CPCR has a 30-year history of financing affordable housing throughout New York, its silent partner, Isaac Katan of the Katan Group, has a much more controversial track record.

As I've written, while a for-profit subsidiary of a nonprofit, like CPCR, may have lower profit goals than an investor trying to maximize return, there may be pressure to build more units and build taller to deliver the (unannounced) return the investor needs, even if the decisions are being made by CPCR.

Interestingly, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who has supported the Atlantic Yards project without serious scrutiny, told The Brooklyn Paper in May that he can't support the project until CPCR opens up its books to justify the project's height and density.

And Refinery LLC has already spent nearly $560,000 this year on lobbying city officials and agencies, according to NYC Lobbyist Search.

(The New York Post, bizarrely enough, reported on the veiled waterfront open house, which offered nothing about the apartments planned, under the headline DOMINO EFFECT! B'KLYN HOME BUYERS CHASE SWEET LIFE: The economy may be turning sour, but potential residents sure are sweet on the chance to move into Brooklyn's Domino Sugar Factory.

(Metro also played up the residential angle, citing the possibility of ferry service: W’burg building offers free ride as tenant lure.)

Contrasts with AY

The New Domino project (right), unlike Atlantic Yards, will go through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The four acres of open space would be mapped as city parkland, again an improvement over the Atlantic Yards open space, which would be managed by a nonprofit organization.

And, of course, there's no way we could have a "Sunday in the Atlantic Yards open space," since so much depends on superblocks, unless someone closed off Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues for a block party.

As with Atlantic Yards, however, the project is already delayed beyond its optimistic p.r. When the New Domino was announced in July 2007, construction was to start in 2008. I asked whether the credit crunch might affect the project. "Our financing is solid," Pollock said. "We have a lot of interest in the first phase."

She said that the seven-month ULURP process, which requires approval from the City Council and the City Planning Commission, along with advisory votes from the local community board, might start this fall.

So that offers a hint regarding the timing of yesterday's event. The opening of the waterfront certainly built some goodwill. But the veil over the developer's role should provoke skepticism as well.

Comments

  1. Your phrasing is a bit unclear in relation to the strike at Domino. The plant re-opened for a time following the strike, I believe it was operating for a year or two before the powers at be at Domino decide to close the plant shifting production to newer plants with less overhead in the south. Just wanted to clarify that a bit.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …