Brooklyn's Newest Development a Sweet Deal for Renters

brooklyn domino sugar factory apartmentsBrooklyn gained 660 apartments for low and middle-income New Yorkers on Tuesday, when the New York City Council approved the conversion of the former Domino Sugar refinery into a mixed-income community.

While units for poor and middle-income renters are desperately needed in neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, located along the East River is the city's most populous borough, concerns that several thousand more residents would overwhelm the neighborhood's mass transit, among other objections, have kept the project on the table for six years.

The last sticking point: towers from the development were too tall. An agreement from the developer, Community Preservation Corporation, to reduce two 40-story structures to 34 stories won over the last two holdouts Councilman Steven Levin and Assembly Member Vito Lopez.

The unanimous vote on Tuesday paves the way for the full City Council to approve the project, dubbed New Domino. If the vote, to be held this month, passes as expected, CPC will break ground on the New Domino some time next year.

Susan Pollock, senior vice president at CPC and the New Domino project manager, told Housing Watch, "We are projecting 150 affordable units in the first construction phase." She said that she anticipates construction starting in one year, and the first phase taking two years to complete.

The project will balance more expensive rentals with affordable housing. A total of 2,200 apartments will eventually be built over the course of the planned 10-year construction. Of the 660 set aside for lower income families, 100 will be made available to families of four earning up to $23,040; 310 will be available to those earning $46,080; and 100 senior rentals will be open to those earning $23, 040.

The remainder 150 units will be offered for sale to families earning up to $99,840.

"We haven't laid out the floor plans of the apartments as yet, so there are no breakdowns of square footage," said Pollock. She also could not comment on what amenities might be offered to seniors.

While one city councilman wanted the builders to reduce the number of apartments, Pollock told the New York Daily News, "We've always said we needed the density in the project to do all the incredibly costly things we were doing. No one was interested in losing affordable housing units, no one was interested in losing open space."

Those costs include restoring the exterior of the building. "In essence, the entire exterior of the refinery building will be restored and preserved as a New York City landmark," said Pollock. "The entire interior will be new. We're essentially scooping out the existing industrial interior and replacing it with an entirely new structure within the restored exterior." The Domino Sugar sign will also be preserved, she said.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz expressed concern after that vote that the developer has not committed to including a supermarket within the 128,000 square feet of retail space in the building. In a statement he did, however, praise developer's efforts to "locate a school at the site."

The kids in the building will probably be more excited about the two playgrounds and nearly one-acre open space on the site. And neighbors of the building and residents alike will be able to take advantage of access to a waterfront that had been off-limits for nearly 150 years. For fans of Brooklyn's waterfront, that's the sweetest part of the deal.

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