WILLIAMSBURG?The big redevelopment of the Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront has taken its lumps lately, but Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has announced his conditional support of the plan. What are those conditions? Well, Markowitz gave us a preview in his recent grilling of the developers, but he expands on his suggestions (his role is only advisory) in the following statement:
“It has certainly been a goal of mine as borough president to ensure that Brooklyn’s gorgeous yet under-utilized waterfront be reclaimed for a vibrant mix of contemporary uses—from recreational to industrial, commercial and residential. Though I am attaching some conditions to my support of this project, I want to commend Refinery LLC for its ambition and for submitting a plan I feel both appropriately celebrates our waterfront and understands the need for affordable housing in Brooklyn. In my land use role, I always seek significant community benefits from developers asking permission to begin lucrative projects—like more affordable housing, access to public space, the inclusion of amenities like supermarkets, the creation of jobs, use of local labor and construction supply companies and the improvement of residents’ quality of life—and this project is no different.
The modifications I am seeking from the developer as conditions to my overall support are:
* Trimming the overall bulk and density, particularly on the upland parcel, though it would be also beneficial to trim the bulk adjacent to Grand Ferry Park
* Making documented, binding commitments for permanent affordable housing, including for the elderly, with eligibility for community preference extended to those displaced
* Making commitments to provide the space for a supermarket, school and possible artisan establishments
* Public transit improvements, including increased bus service to the L and G and J/M/Z subway lines, and increased trains on the L line
Of course, as this development proceeds, the City and relevant State agencies have a responsibility as well to ensure its success, by guaranteeing requisite traffic management and the adequacy of schools and public transportation. Regarding the latter two, I have alerted MTA Chairman Jay Walder and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to my concerns and wishes regarding needed changes and resources.
Also, given the ambitious scope of the affordable housing commitment, the costly adaptive reuse of the Refinery Building and the more than double amount of publicly-accessible open space with a quarter mile of waterfront esplanade, a scaled-down project can only achieve this ambitious development with the addition of public funding. I believe this development deserves a direct infusion of City funds, and would encourage the developer to seek Brooklyn Housing Development funds as well as funds from City, State and local public officials.
Regarding parking needs, I defer to the community board in that it is premature to know if the project would need as much parking as proposed, therefore I would prefer that the applicant withdraw the request for more parking as part of the final phase.
These are my recommendations, and I am confident that those of City Planning and City Council will make the project even better. Should my conditions be adopted, and the commitments to public-private partnership that I believe are possible here be achieved for the community, I will proudly say to Domino, ‘Domi-yes!’”