The $1.5 billion redevelopment of Brooklyn's Domino Sugar Factory has reached a potential breaking point just days before a vote to seal its fate. It’s New York Mayor Bill de Blasio against developer Jed Walentas in what can best be described as an old-fashioned standoff. The lines are drawn—here’s where things stand. The New York Times reports that Mayor de Blasio has insisted that Walentas increase the amount of affordable housing units at the site. In return, his administration will grant approval for taller towers at the SHoP-designed site. Specifically, de Blasio’s team asked for an additional 50,000-square-feet of affordable housing, which would be used for larger units to accommodate families. But Walentas says he’s already done more than enough. The current proposal sets aside 660 of the total 2,300 apartments for low- and middle-income tenants. In fact, Walentas is reportedly so distraught over the mayor’s request that he has threatened to scrap the whole thing altogether. According to the Times, “Mr. Walentas is balking, and has even threatened to revert to the older, unpopular plan.” That plan only includes only 440 affordable units. While that seems unlikely, some affordable housing advocates are worried de Blasio’s gamble could backfire. Rob Solano, a local community board member and executive director of Churches United for Fair Housing, told the Times, “It’s a delicate balance between pushing as hard as you can and a break… If we get to the point where nothing is built, or there are more delays, that’s another day without affordable housing.” If that were to actually happen, it would be a major blow to the de Blasio administration, which has promised to “preserve or construct” 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. Ultimately, this back-and-forth foreshadows the development battles to come as the mayor sets out to achieve his ambitious goal.
Posts tagged with "Jed Walentas":
Developer Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management Co. stood up in front of a packed house at a community forum in Williamsburg last night to discuss his ambitious new redevelopment plans for the Domino Sugar Factory Refinery. Citing his family’s history in DUMBO, Walentas told the beer-sipping, tattooed crowd that his intention is to “build an extension of the neighborhood” that is “socially contextual.” The new plan incorporates significantly more commercial and office space, which Walentas says won’t financially benefit Two Trees, but speaks to his company’s philosophy and intent to draw from and embrace the historic and cultural fabric of Williamsburg. While the zoning map doesn’t need to change, the plans still need to go through the ULURP process once again. The new vision for the site puts an emphasis on making the Domino Sugar Refinery a “nucleus” for the neighborhood that would house commercial space and artist studios (some subsidized, some not). An additional building on Grand Street would also be dedicated for small neighborhood retail. Walentas said, like DUMBO, he would fill these space will mom-and-pop stores and promised the audience that there will be no big box stores such as Duane Reade or Starbucks. In addition to commercial, two large community spaces will also be part of the overall plan. From the get-go, affordable housing has been a critical issue in the redevelopment of Domino Sugar Site, and the initial plans that were approved—prior to Two Trees acquiring the property—promised 660-affordable housing units. Walentas says he’s committed to keeping the affordable housing units, which will be 60 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), and identical to market rate apartments. The exact income levels have yet to be determined. But while Walentas said that the redevelopment will be “contextual,” Vishaan Chakrabarti, partner at SHoP Architects, told the audience that won't be the case with the design. He acknowledged that the new development isn’t in keeping with Williamsburg’s low-scale, but said, “It will be high no matter what,” referring to any future development to be built on the waterfront. “It is not contextual,” said Chakrabarti. “But we can start creating a skyline we can be proud of.” Chakrabarti argued that the height difference between the old and new plans won't be noticeable to people in the neighborhood and provides several benefits such as more open space inside and a lighter and airier feel. Since the building will be turned perpendicular to the water, he says more light will filter in. But Hurricane Sandy has forced developers and architects to reshape their approach to waterfront development. Chakrabarti addressed some of the changes they plan on implementing from setting the park back to putting basements above grade and building sloped sidewalks to allow water to drain. “The park will act as a sponge because it will be made of permeable material,” said Chakrabarti. The conversation grew heated when a few community members expressed doubt over Two Tree’s commitment to affordable housing and questioned whether the infrastructure in the neighborhood could support this influx of people and new commercial and business sector. “Our intent is to be a long term owner,” said Walentas. “Our interests are aligned with the community’s interests.”