Williamsburg Domino Sugar Project Survives Appellate Court Challenge

CPC Resources Inc.’s New Domino project at the former Domino Sugar plant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Image Courtesy: Rafael Vinoly Architects.

Community coalition failed to stop 11-acre mixed-use development at Domino Sugar Refinery site along Williamsburg waterfront. CPC Resources proposed to develop a 2,200-unit mixed-use project on the Domino plant site. The 11.2-acre site includes two parcels of land. The first is located along the East River between Grand and South 5th Streets, bordered to the east by Kent Avenue. The second, smaller parcel is bounded by South 3rd and South 4th Streets and Wythe and Kent Avenues. The Domino Sugar Refinery Building, located at 292 Kent Avenue, was landmarked in 2007 and will be redeveloped by CPC Resources as part of the proposal. The plan will provide public waterfront access, ground floor retail space along Kent Avenue, underground parking, office space, and 2,200 residential units. CPC Resources promised to market 30 percent of the apartments as affordable housing. The site had been targeted for development since 2007 and the City approved CPC Resources’ plan in 2010.

The Williamsburg Community Preservation Coalition opposed the approval of the plan on the basis that the development was too dense and did not create enough affordable housing. The Coalition filed an article 78 petition challenging the approval of the plan. The Coalition argued that the City Planning Commission (CPC) and the City Council violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) by not taking a “hard look” at the project’s anticipated adverse environmental impact. Furthermore, the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) noted that CPC Resources would only be required to allocate 20 percent of the residential units as affordable, instead of 30 percent as previously promised. On June 2, 2011, the Manhattan Supreme Court denied the Coalition’s petition that the CPC and the City Council violated SEQRA.

On November 20, 2012, the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court ruled that the CPC and the Council took a “hard look” at the environmental impacts. The court found that the CPC and the Council addressed the community’s concerns regarding project size by reducing the heights of several buildings. The court was comfortable with the level of detail and the extent of the analysis by the CPC and the Council. The basis for the approval of the project “was not arbitrary and capricious or unsupported by the evidence,” thus satisfying SEQRA’s requirements. The court also found that CPC Resources’ promise of 30 percent affordable housing was always disclosed to the public as a goal and not as a binding commitment, thus the requirement of 20 percent in the EIS was a non-issue.

Williamsburg Community Coalition v. The Council of the City of New York, 2012 N.Y. Slip Op. 07869 (1st Dep’t November 20, 2012) (Attorneys: Jeffrey S. Baker for Coalition; Michael A. Cardozo, Sharyn Rootenberg and Sarah Kogel-Smucker for NYC; Sive, Paget & Riesel for The Refinery LLC).

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