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Hold The Sugar! Board Rejects New Domino

In the end, it was a sugar overload.

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Community Board 1 rejected Tuesday night a plan to rezone 11.2 acres of the Williamsburg waterfront that sought to add 2,200 units of housing along Kent Avenue and South 3rd Street and bring an estimated 5,000 people to the neighborhood.

The 23-12-2 vote to disapprove with modifications the New Domino project comes two weeks after the board’s Land Use Committee issued its recommendations to the developers, Community Preservation Resources Corporation (CPCR), to reduce the project’s density and ensure permanent affordability for the 660 units designated for middle and low-income families.

Land Use Committee Chair Ward Dennis explained the committee’s vote by noting that the board was not saying no to the project, but that they wanted to change the project.

“It is important to note that this recommendation represents a significant commitment on the part of CB1 to height and density, in that it endorses building heights of up to 40 stories and over two million square feet of total development,” said Dennis. “Except in very specific locations, the committee’s recommendation endorses the height, massing and design of the overall project.”

During the meeting’s public session, some residents favored the project while others criticized the plan for its effects on the neighborhood’s schools, transportation, infrastructure and quality of life.

“CPCR has claimed that they must build taller and more dense, but their lack of willingness to share their books and planned profit margin with the community makes this claim suspect. What’s planned is simply too tall and too dense,” said Neighbors Allied for Good Growth member Lacey Tauber, speaking on behalf of the organization.

Supporters of the project, including nearly 200 parishioners from St. Peter St. Paul’s Church and Transfiguration Church, came by the bus load for the March 9 meeting. About 60 members who made it inside the meeting held green and white posters with “Open Space” and “660” written on them, representing the proposed number of affordable units that would be available to the community, but their efforts did little to dissuade board members from voting to disapprove the project.

Community Board member and Churches United for Fair Housing Executive Director Rob Solano, who supposed the porject, attributed the no vote to the absence of influential community board members Monsignor Joseph Calise and Rabbi David Niederman, who did not weigh in on the project and worried that affordable housing concerns were getting lost.

“Affordable housing has always been a concern, and I fear that it has taken second place and dripped down to fourth place, behind density, transportation and shadows,” said Solano.

Opponents also called for board members who work for organizations that have received financial assistance from CPCR to recuse themselves from the voting due to a possible conflict of interest, though an attorney for the Brooklyn Borough President’s office said there was not a conflict.

In the end, questions raised by board members returned to the scale of the waterfront project and the proposed 22 percent population increase that most members found unacceptable despite the 30 percent level of affordable housing rental and ownership units.

CPCR Vice President Susan Pollock vowed to press on with the project as designed. Their next chance will come at a public hearing in Borough Hall on March 11, as this paper went to press.

“We believe we have a great project that commits to permanent affordabilityand we will continue fighting,” said Pollock.

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