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City Council committee moves Williamsburg's Domino refinery deal forward

The deal to turn the old Domino Sugar refinery along the Williamsburg waterfront into a new housing complex is one Council vote away from approval.

domino sugar factory One of the renderings depicts the residential towers from the vantage point of the proposed riverfront park space.
Credit: SH0P Architects and James Corner Field Operations

The deal to turn the old Domino Sugar refinery into a new housing complex is one Council vote away from approval.

On Thursday, the Council committee tasked with reviewing development projects voted overwhelmingly in favor of a negotiated agreement with provisions that would help Williamsburg residents who qualify for the affordable housing to stay in the neighborhood.

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The project — which already has the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio — is all but assured to be passed by the full Council, which meets next week.

The $1.5 billion redevelopment plan calls for more than 2,000 new units, 700 of which are to be designated as affordable housing under an agreement announced by the de Blasio administration in March.

The fireworks from the last time the committee met over the project, wherein Two Trees Management developer Jed Walentas got into a contentious back-and-forth with Council members over how many units could actually be built.

"I was struck by how disrespectful the developer was of the Council," said Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, who also chairs the Council's public housing committee, of Walentas.

"He had utter contempt for our role in the process," Torres said, adding that it was something that developers in future meetings with the lawmakers should avoid. "If you don't have respect for our institution, you shouldn't be seeking public benefits or a zoning change."

Meanwhile, housing advocates gathered along the City Hall steps to maximize how affordable any new developments might be for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

The coalition Real Affordability for All released a report of recommendations urging the mayor to make sure that at least 50 percent of any new housing construction is real affordable housing.

"We're at a crucial point in this city's history. Rents and homelessness are at all-time highs," said Jaron Benjamin, executive director of the Met Council on Housing. "If Mayor de Blasio doesn't generate and protect real affordable housing, things will only get worse.

Next Thursday, de Blasio is expected to unveil details behind his plan to create 90,000 new units of affordable housing and preserve an additional 110,000 units over the next 10 years.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter@chestersoria

 
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