A reader's comment reminded me that I'd neglected to report on the deal struck by the Mayor's team and Two Trees Management to develop the hulking old Domino Sugar building into apartments. Sitting on the every-more-valuable-by-the-minute Williamsburg waterfront, the plan is ambitious; a "three-million-square-foot mixed-use development with more than 2,200 housing units, approximately 480,000 square feet of office space, 110,000 square feet of retail space, and 143,000 square feet of community facility space, including a school. A portion of that will house the incubator, tech and creative space. Publicly accessible open spaces totaling 4.8 acres would also be created along the waterfront and within the development," noted Ariel Property Advisor's industry publication Market Watch.
Two Trees, the company that masterminded upmarket DUMBO into existence, agreed to make 30% of the units affordable at the new site. Now, that's news.
Domino Sugar Factor: New Community About the Population of Nyack
In plain English, the long-dead Domino site will come to life. It will house the population equivalent of small town of five or six thousand residents, maybe the size of Nyack, New York. About one in three renters will meet city guidelines for "affordable" housing. The development will offer a lot to working families: not just the school and potential work sites, but also an esplanade overlooking the East River, and a park space, one that's a tad smaller than Cadman Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn. And, there will be interesting historical reminders of a time long gone: three structures called the Refinery (the Filter, Pan, and Finishing Houses) and designated a New York City Landmark in 2007, will remain intact.
From the perspective of the crisis in New York over a lack of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents, one of the most critical elements of the $1.5 billion project is that living spaces will include 700 affordable housing units that will remain so, permanently, instead of reverting to market rates after a brief honeymoon period. In exchange, the towers may rise to 55 stories--nearly as tall as the oft-maligned Atlantic Yards highrises planned for the Barclays Center area.
Ingredients for Success at Sugar
So here's the question: How will this kind of "instant-neighborhood-with-socioeconomic-diversity" form of social engineering work, blending low income two- and three-bedroom apartments at affordable rents, with market rate apartments? Historically, many of Brooklyn's famous neighborhoods had time to rise and settle, like a good yeast dough.
With a big project like this, you have to wonder: What makes a newbie Brooklyn neighborhood tick --especially in fast-morphing Williamsburg-- and how can those ingredients for success be integrated into the new Domino Sugar factory design so that it's a sweet place to live, where different kinds of people not only live in the same space, but create a vibrant micro-culture?
And who is going to pay for all the extra things, like sewage and traffic management, that the city usually gets stuck with? And, one also wonders, how well the transportation service locally will be able to handle the increased population along the waterfront.
For more info on mixed income housing policy, see NY City's HDC website which describes "a variety of innovative and creative programs with favorable financing terms generally unavailable in the commercial market." For details on what kinds of renters might qualify for the lower rate apartments, once built, at the Domino Sugar Factory, see Mixed Income Housing for details on maximum rents and income eligibility limits.