Planning Commission Gives Go Ahead to Domino; Ball now in City Council’s Court

On Wednesday, the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve Two Trees redevelopment plan of the Domino Sugar Refinery along the Williamsburg waterfront.

Wednesday’s approval however was already a foregone conclusion in light of an agreement reached two days earlier between Mayor Bill de Blasio and developer’s Two Trees, on the number of affordable housing units to be included in the project.

The developers agreed to raise the number of affordable units to 700 from the originally agreed upon 660, making the planning commission’s job all the more easier Wednesday, when it gave the green light to Two Trees 13 votes to nil.

“We want to encourage development with bold designs and great sight plans like Domino,” said Carl Weisbrod, the chairman of the planning commission. “We know this increases the value of development. We also wanted to ensure that the public can share in the increased value through the provision of affordable housing.”

Over the course 2013, the $1.5 billion development had gradually begun to win approval from community members and local activists. Community Board 1 too had approved Two Trees’ plans. However, when de Blasio took office, his administration insisted that the 660 agreed on units did not quite cut it, and until last week it seemed as though any form of agreement might fall through.

De Blasio managed to get his increase, and the developers can now move forward with the next step of building the sprawling project that will integrate the affordable housing into all the apartment buildings instead of segregating them. In addition the project will add more than five acres of public park space, a public school, a community recreational facility, retail spaces, and will retain the iconic Domino sign. As part of the new agreement, Two Trees will get to build up to 55 stories – higher than the previous limit of 30 to 40 storied buildings.

“We’re relieved, we’re proud, we’re excited, we can’t wait to start, we’ve been working on this for many, many months,” said Dave Lombino, director of special projects at Two Trees. “This is a project that has an extraordinary amount of community benefits in it. We’re one step closer today. We’re elated that we came to a solution.”

The plan now goes to the City Council, which will vote on the project on an as-yet-to-be-determined date. With an agreement with the Mayor and developer already in place, some question whether the City Council will attempt to gain further concessions at their hearing or walk lockstep with the Mayor.

“The amount of affordable housing the de Blasio administration was able to lock in through zoning is unprecedented,” said Councilman Stephen Levin. “We still have our work to do at the Council and I will continue to review the details of the project.”


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