By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Oh Oh Domino!
At Mayor de Blasio's behest, Two Trees Management made an agreement with the city to increase by 110,000 square feet the amount of affordable housing it will include in its planned redevelopment of the historic Domino Sugar Refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront.
The deal – which the Mayor announced Monday evening – silenced a stormy disagreement brewing between new-in-office Bill de Blasio and the Walentas family's Two Trees development firm.
It increases the number of affordable housing units in the planned $1.5 billion Kent Avenue project to 700 apartments covering a range of incomes – and a “significant number” of the units will be “sized for families,” the announcement said. They will occupy 537,000 square feet.
The 2.9 million-square-foot development will have a total of more than 2,200 apartments.
A New York Daily News story published earlier on Monday reported that Two Trees was threatening to sell the Domino site if the city Planning Commission did not approve the firm's original plan for the 11-acre property – which would have delivered 660 units of affordable housing.
The report followed an equally ominous Feb. 27 New York Times story saying Two Trees' Domino plan was “in jeopardy” because of de Blasio's demand for more space for affordable housing.
The DUMBO-based developer had spent more than a year crafting fresh plans – and rallying community groups' support for those plans – to build a mini-neighborhood on the shut-down refinery site, with apartments, office space, new roads and waterfront amenities that will be open to the public.
Two Trees had not yet received city the City Planning Commission's okay for zoning changes the project needed, which gave the de Blasio administration a chance to negotiate for added affordable housing space.
Work on the first apartment building will start in December, the Mayor said in his announcement.
Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, said, “This agreement is a win for all sides, and it shows that we can ensure the public's needs are met, while also being responsive to the private sector's objectives.”
Two Trees exec Jed Walentas expressed hope that the agreement can be “a model for what we can all achieve together in the years ahead” and added, “We are proud to work with Mayor de Blasio's team and the City Council to get this project across the finish line, get shovels in the ground and deliver the housing and jobs this city needs.”
A vote by the City Planning Commission is scheduled for Wednesday.
Two Trees had pledged that up to 30% of the housing units in the development, or 660 of them, would be affordable. The site's previous owner, the Community Preservation Corp., had said it would build 660 affordable homes – but its plan as approved by the city, which is Two Trees' fallback plan, actually required only 440 affordable units to be built.
A centerpiece of Two Trees' proposed project is Domino's iconic former factory, which is made up of three 1880s-vintage industrial buildings, and its famous 40-foot yellow neon sign. Both will be preserved.