Domino builder: If you don’t like the new plan, there’s always the old one

The Brooklyn Paper
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Domino Sugar factory owner Jed Walentas has a backup plan if neighbors don’t like his lofty new vision for the massive waterfront property: go back to the site’s much-maligned previous development blueprint.

Walentas, whose company Two Trees Management Co. bought the shuttered sugar refinery last year, told neighbors he hopes to get the greenlight for his proposal to build skyscraping edifices with eye-catching cutouts in the middle, but if that falls through he will revive the city-approved plan by the past owner Community Preservation Corporation Resources, which call for shorter more monolithic towers.

“We spent $185 million to purchase this site, and we’re going to get a return on our investment,” Walentas said on Thursday in his first meeting with Williamsburgers to discuss the future of Domino.

Neighbors, including many activists who battled the previous Domino development plan, greeted the Two Trees proposal with snark, derision, and anger, criticizing the project for its potential impact on transit, its light-blocking scale, and what they described as Walentas’s “my way or the highway” attitude.

“Maybe you think we are dumb, but we are not DUMBO,” community stalwart Isaac Abraham shouted at the builder, referring to the neighborhood that Walentas and his father David meticulously developed over the past two decades.

Walentas promised his proposal — which calls for taller, thinner, more distinctive buildings with slightly fewer apartments and substantially more office space and open space — is sensitive to the neighborhood and its values.

“We see tons of energy and talent and creative people who looking to start businesses or do things in their community,” said Walentas, who vowed to turn away big box stores and chain retailers in favor of “mom and pop” merchants, and insisted he chose a less lucrative plan by boosting commercial space and reducing residential units.

But critics say the development is all about the money.

“He comes across like Jesse Eisenberg with his tennis shoes and his hoodie, but he’s a total capitalist,” said activist Susan Pellegrino.

Other neighbors at the meeting, which was organized by critics of the previous Domino plan from Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, fear the giant buildings — one of which could become the tallest in the borough — will obstruct light and eventually house so many people that the community’s overburdened trains will become even more jam-packed.

Attendees also wanted guarantees that the 660 units of below-market rate housing slated to be included in the development will actually be affordable to Williamsburgers.

After the meeting, Two Trees director of special projects Dave Lombino, said he hopes neighbors come to embrace Walentas’ new design.

“Every change we’ve made has been in the interest of making it better,” he said.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
"“He comes across like Jesse Eisenberg with his tennis shoes and his hoodie, but he’s a total capitalist,” said activist Susan Pellegrino."

If someone is ever going to turn me into a Republican, it's going to be an idiot like Susan Pellegrino and the rest of the clowns quoted in this article.

If we don't let the part of Williamsburg where no one lives be developed, we're just going to gentrify Bushwick faster. If we keep the East Village underdeveloped, Williamsburg will be gentrified faster. If we put a stop to all the development, we'll just have higher rents that benefit no one except the first-wave gentrifiers. There is no argument based on general welfare for the criticism by the NIMBYs. Their arguments amount to nothing more than the despicable cries of "I've got mine."

I do think Isaac Abraham is dumb. I am glad Jed Walentas has a my-way-or-the-highway approach.
March 15, 2013, 6:50 am
john from Williamsburg says:
Except its UGLY
March 15, 2013, 7:30 am
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
It'll definitely provide shade and darkness for thousands of residents.
March 15, 2013, 8:42 am
Corey from Williamsburg says:
These "critics" are a bunch of clowns and obviously not very smart. Walentas already HAS approvals in his back pocket....for the OLD plan. He can start building the old plan tomorrow if he wanted to. The "critics" objective is to prevent any development on the Domino site, but obviously that's not going to happen. Two Trees will either (a) obtain approval for their new plans and build that; or (b) the new plans will get rejected and the will build pursuant to the old plans. Bottom line is that there will be development on that ol boy said, he didn't spend $185 million NOT to build anything
March 15, 2013, 9:31 am
ken from Greenpoint says:
“Maybe you think we are dumb, but we are not DUMBO,” what a statement.....
March 15, 2013, 9:38 am
Reader says:
"Attendees also wanted guarantees that the 660 units of below-market rate housing slated to be included in the development will actually be affordable to Williamsburgers."

So, Ms. Furfaro, what did Two Trees say?

How does the "affordable housing" in this plan compare to the "affordable housing" promised in the previous iteration?
March 15, 2013, 9:55 am
Danny from Stuy Town says:
Hey Mike, why not gentrify Bushwick? It's just a haven for untalented, hypocrite artists. Just kidding. But the point you're missing is that no one wants this development in their neighbourhood. And we've been hearing for quite sometime now that the only way to bring down the rent is to allow more development. But development has been pretty hot for the last 12 years and my rent hasn't gone down any.
March 15, 2013, 10:15 am
Jon from Williamsburg says:
This article completely focuses on the voices in the neighborhood that consistently, regardless of the change in plans or presentation, get riled up. The meeting was surprisingly tame except for these same voices, and Two Trees clearly showed how they've learned from the criticisms of the CPC plan to create a better one.
March 15, 2013, 10:25 am
Danny from Stuy Town says:
Also, If Jed Walentas wants to revert to the old plan out of spite, that's his prerogative. It doesn't mean we have to like either one.
March 15, 2013, 10:26 am
joe from greenpoint says:
rabble rabble rabble... i'm mad because I have a sense of entitlement in an ever evolving city.. how will i be able to pay my 500 dollar a month or less rents when a community gets better!!! oh thats right when I paid 500 a month rent it was crime ridden and all of these nice bars and restaurants werent around... grow up and lose your sense of entitlement. these developers bought the land to make money... business 101. If you realized how business worked you may be able to afford a unit.
March 15, 2013, 10:27 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Danny, the population of New York is growing faster than the number of apartments is. Development has been hot, but it needs to be much hotter.
March 15, 2013, 10:28 am
Nord from Bushwick says:
It's really quite simple. The economics of buildings dictates what can be built and when. In the old days, 3 and 4 story buildings were cost effective. Not so now. A ten story building can be built and provide affordable middle class housing, but the zoning laws are out of step with reality. All those 2 story high, light industrial and commerical blocks surrounding the waterfront in Williamsburg, help inflate the cost of renting in one of those 3 story walkups in the rest of the neighborhood. There is simply not enough affordable housing anywhere, as height restrictions dictate market pricing. All those hipsters who get off the train at Bedford Avenue and help make the neighborhood interesting have to live somewhere. As for Domino's , well cut back the tower somewhat and let it go forward, with guarantees for affordable housing. Right now, that skyscraper is really just a vanity plate for a very rich developer. It has to be reduced in size. The open space he proposes works better for me than Northside and Edge.

March 15, 2013, 10:36 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Nord, how do you go from railing against height restrictions in the top half of your comment to railing against height in the bottom half?
March 15, 2013, 10:55 am
Danny from Stuy Town says:
Hi Mike, if it has to get hotter than why not in Bushwick? I refer to the comment made by Joe from Greenpoint. When that's the mentality your dealing with, how can you be sure the development will ever stop? The fact of the matter is if you really want to protect a certain neighborhood, you're going to need the government to step in. Uh oh, I think I REALLLY just pissed off Joe from Greenpoint.
March 15, 2013, 11:09 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
Pardon me, but I just don't agree with this article.
March 15, 2013, 11:55 am
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
It's only a matter of time before Bushwick starts getting this type of development en masse. Enjoy the cheap rent while you can. Feel free to complain about it all you want but gentrification reduces crime and boosts the local economy overall. If you have a problem with a crime rates lowering and local businesses making more money then I suggest you move to Brownsville.
March 15, 2013, 11:56 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Danny, I don't personally think Bushwick shouldn't be "gentrified," depending on how that term is being used. People who don't make much money need a place to live, and the people who already live in Bushwick shouldn't have to move to East New York so that the people who live in East Williamsburg can move to Bushwick, which they have to do because the people from Williamsburg priced them out because the East Village is kept underdeveloped.

But if gentrification means crime goes down and empty storefronts get businesses in them, then I want that for Bushwick and for every other neighborhood.

Right now, our "affordable housing" policy is to keep a neighborhood undesirable: namely crime and the perception of crime. That's a terrible policy. Then we try to make up for that by declaring Two Trees and everyone else has to provide "affordable housing." But if we just let the East Village grow as much as it wanted to, Bedford, Lorimer, Graham, and all the way out would say more affordable.

I don't think I can answer your question about being sure development will ever stop. I don't agree with the underlying premise, that it should stop. If development stops, you end up with the poorest people from Bushwick having to go to East New York. Many people who'd like to live in New York can't or won't. We get inefficient sprawl and longer commuters.

I'm not trying to pick on East New York. East New York is objectively worse than Bushwick in the sense that it is farther from where the jobs are: Manhattan. I personally prefer the area around the Lorimer stop to the Bedford stop, but Lorimer is "worse" for the same reason. And the rents prove it.
March 15, 2013, 12:03 pm
littlenoodles from gramercy says:
There are many things market forces can do, but one of them is NOT build affordable housing in a superheated market. Leaving aside that New York's superheated market is made even more so by a substantial chunk of the supply being locked up by outdated regulations. And that today's easy money mortgages just prop up unjustifiably high proces. Whatever. The only solution is for government to step in and create new neighborhoods from scratch - like they used to. Or beef up transit so that once out-of-the-way neighborhoods become more viable. Sure, 80/20 tricks will get you a trickle of affordables, but not the flood needed to make NYC truly affordable. There's a role for government to do what the market won't, but trust of govt is so low...
March 15, 2013, 12:50 pm
D from Bklyn says:
People love gentrification... when they are the gentrifiers. But when someone else does it, watch out!
March 15, 2013, 1:02 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Littlenoodles, we CAN'T leave aside that New York's market is too heated/undersupplied because of outdated regulations. You and I both agree that the freer market could provide more affordable housing than this more regulated market does.

If the government beefs up transit without increasing the supply of housing, that will only make East New York more attractive to people who can afford it. ANYTHING the government does to make life nicer without increasing housing supply is going to lead to the bad gentrification that displaces long time residents.
March 15, 2013, 1:12 pm
manhatposeur from brokeland says:
My greatest concern is that the developer should owne up to his promise to build 600 below market price residential units- Not just heat wasting high ceiling domains.
But it appears he's more interested in his commercial real estate- greedy.
March 15, 2013, 1:30 pm
blargh says:
This is not well-designed architecture. The height of the towers and the empty spaces do not make this radical or interesting. The proposal is simply bad. Aesthetically bad, conceptually bad. Welcome to the corporate re-making of Brooklyn (which obviously started quite some time ago, but this is its most symbolic triumph).
March 15, 2013, 1:39 pm
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
These buildings symbolize well the kind of place Williamsburg is quickly becoming - a neighborhood of anodyne (or just plain ugly) high-end condos and office buildings, built with entirely financial motives.
March 15, 2013, 1:59 pm
anonymous from bedstuy says:
no one thinks the addition of office space is a good idea? or increased park land? Without office space the area will be a dead zone from 9-5 on every work day, and the buildings are much higher but that's because theyve allocated much more space to be used as parks. They're just using the city regulated FAR in a different way. now for the holes in the buildings... this is their way of creating more windows without having to build two seperate towers and i assume two foundations cost more than one. but yeah, wouldn't call it super neat visually.
March 15, 2013, 2:15 pm
blargh says:
I have no problem with the height, but I think this site is an important one for the borough of Brooklyn and for the city as a whole. Better architecture should be built here. The massing is off, the facades are generic, and the towers are basically just plunked in the middle of some greenery. There could be a far more thoughtful integration of the water, park, and buildings than is evident (at least from the images we've seen). Also, the city would need more infrastructure to support the project. Residents in the area are right to be concerned about mass transit becoming far too congested.
March 15, 2013, 2:41 pm
ty from pps says:
"The massing is off, the facades are generic, and the towers are basically just plunked in the middle of some greenery."

Blargh - you seem to be talking out of you a$s.

Now, concerns about mass transit. Very valid. But just as valid for the old hideous project.
March 15, 2013, 3:35 pm
JAY from NYC says:
there are kind of a bunch of things here, first the housing stock has a lot of old crummy buildings that, in may ways, are far behind the rest of the country. It seems like if you have a laundry machine and drier in your apartment people act like that is almost a luxury, which is ridiculous considering what rents go for in this city.
We need MASSIVE amounts of development and re-development in the so called outer-boroughs, to both improve housing stock and to increase it.
Other posters on here have pointed out that the population ins growing but housing stock is not keeping up with that. I don't ever see rent prices dropping, that is a dream, landlords have mortgages and bills to pay and finances to cover, so rent can't go below a certain level because of that, BUT if enough places are built the line can be held somewhat on the current costs.
I like this plan, I like the old plan, I just want to see it done in two years, if not 1 year, not realistic, but stuff needs to get built a whole lots faster in this town.
March 15, 2013, 5:32 pm
diehipster from Untouched South Brooklyn says:
I still say every last hipster should be punched in the jaw, tasered, and sent back to their cul de sacs in the Uhauls they arrived in. Mother effers have turned this borough into a theme park for nasally transient wanna bes. End of story.
March 15, 2013, 7:21 pm
daniel from williamsburg says:
this development is inevitable. the pity is that it has to be so bland. And all these people will be attempting to crowd onto trains that are already at capacity.

I live on Graham and right now I am the last viable stop to really board a train at rush hour. All the people at Bedford show up every day to look at cars bursting at the seams, and just have to let them pass for the next one. The same thing is now happening to the J. Unless the city boldly expands train service with a new tunnel, these people are going to be sitting in standstill traffic on the Wburg bridge every morning or riding bikes. Some deal for your expensive waterfront condo.
March 16, 2013, 12:14 pm
Brian Paul from east williamsburg says:
BLAME CITY GOVERNMENT for putting us in the position of having to choose between these two plans. The Community Preservation Corporation should have never been granted the rezoning of this site. With a rezoning from industrial to residential or mixed use, the City had great leverage to actually do some planning and think intelligently about what would fit best at this site. Instead we granted a rezoning for a plan that is far too dense for the infrastructure and context of the neighborhood, to a developer that never had the capacity to actually built it, and instead flipped the property to Two Trees -- adding $130 million to the cost of development for no reason whatsoever. And now that it's zoned for the Community Preservation Corporation plan, we have much less leverage to influence Two Tree's proposals. Any rational planner knows that 3 million square feet is absurdly dense for this context. And please stop with the trope of supply and demand -- more luxury housing here induces greater demand for it, New York real estate is such an international market now that you can NEVER satisfy this demand. Same way that you cannot solve traffic by building more highways -- it's called induced demand people, get beyond your econ 101 textbook understanding of life. See for more.
March 17, 2013, 12:34 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Brian, if demand for real estate is indeed infinite, why can anyone afford rent? Why does rent get cheaper the further from Manhattan you go? I can't believe I have to defend the "trope" of supply and demand when it's more than obvious. But it's nice that you watched a movie so you can wave your hands like a magician to make market forces suddenly disappear.
March 17, 2013, 2 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Bravo, Brian Paul, in your willingness to continue teaching these who refuse teaching. "Mike from Williamsburg," I refuse re-typing my arguments though you certainly don't hesitate to continue repeating your errors. You think "property" is a utilitarian issue, where social engineers drop down a grid somewhere, and plot value against density? Are you insane? "Property value" is only partly, if really at all, considered by utility. All sorts of intangibles have a farther greater significance in "value"--such as creating the impression that a particular geographic area for no particular reason should have the cache of "luxury." The best way towards this is by designating a zone "luxurious" or "creative" or whatever superlative Real Estate should attach itself to at the moment. In the nitty gritty what is much more important is that that "luxury zone" is maintained. If you were genuine about people's plights as you have pretended on this thread, you would advocate as stridently, bereft of logic and reason, repeating falsehoods and administering bromides, on behalf of affordable housing. What better way, according to your oversimplifications, towards synchronizing rent with density than with maybe 5,000 or 6,000 affordable housing units in that exact same spot.

But you're not really being some utilitarian. What you are is using the typical double-speak employed for many years in this gentrification. Want to decrease density? Bring more people in! Want to magnify light and dispel shadows? Build skyscrapers!

What nonsense.
March 17, 2013, 3:58 pm
EJ from Williamsburg says:
Expanding on what Daniel from Williamsburg said, transportation infrastructure is a REAL ISSUE. How does the city plan on expanding/improving train service? AND how will they pay for it? Will my already too thinly spread tax dollars (and most likely YOURS too) be used for this infrastructure expansion while Two Trees profits off of flooding already overwhelmed public systems with the inhabitants of 2,200 new apartments?? Or will the City make these developers pay for the upgrades that will be necessary to accommodate the very population growth that they are inducing and indeed banking on in order to make a profit? Is there a deal in place between the city and Two Trees to fairly address this real, serious, nuts and bolts urban planning issue?

As tax payers and residents on the effected neighborhood we deserve serious answers to these questions.

As I do not think it is fair that the developers profit of off this site if they only intend to then leave the tax payers to pay for all the necessary infrastructure upgrades (including but not limited to transportation) after the fact.

Ms. FURFARO: was this issue raised in the meeting? And if so, what was the discussion surrounding it?
March 18, 2013, 1:46 pm
Alex from Bed Stuy says:
Mike: Actually, Brian Paul wrote the movie he just plugged here. But it MUST be worth seeing, since he is smugly claiming here to somehow overturn centuries of economic theory in 51 a minute film. Development happens. People with more money displace those with less in a constant flux. It will likely happen to all of us on one side of the coin or other or both at some point in our lives. Deal with it.
March 18, 2013, 3:49 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Alex, what exactly are you implying? That you somehow delegitimize Brian Paul because he references his own work as a needed factoid alternative to status quo? You're distorting his words: he is in fact referencing more advanced and essential levels of economic theory than the baseless description of "supply and demand" as it is being used by you as well as "multiple others." It is you in fact who are attempting overturn of economic axiom by denying "luxury" as a consideration excepted only under total capitulation to whatever any developer fancies [and we already know, looking at the Northside waterfront now what that has led to, irrespective of all the nonsensical and intrusive and arbitrary measures imposed by "Buildings Department" and assorted other agencies]. You're portraying Brian Paul under your limiting understanding [emphasis on the deliberate "limiting" over "limited" since this abused logic has been oft repeated on other sites, in particular].

And, as to your bromide, "constant flux," the history of society has also been those who engage and overthrow displacement against the very same parties you're championing. Really, with all this mess you and "Mike et al" are putting on here, this vomit and poison, you're making a choice. Onward with this same dull nonsense that does more imagining of its imagination than it does any imagining, or read the NY Times article about how, indeed, evolution goes backward under certain conditions,

Brian Paul's reasoning is legitimate. You should pay closer attention to what he's writing, because he means better for you, under this ideas and sentiment, than you mean for yourself; with all due respect.
March 19, 2013, 5:58 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
March 19, 2013, 8:09 pm
Moses Kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
At least 50% of apartments should go for the local poor and should be subsidized . Displacing old timers is wrong, if this project gets going it will increase the value and rents for the local poor people, it's wrong wrong wrong, where do you want the poor to go? Stop these development now , we have already enough towers blocking the waterfront view, turn the place into a park on the waterfront , call it the domino park
March 20, 2013, 7:34 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
@"Interloper from Kent Avenue"--another purveyor of untruths concerning gentrification. Just today, in the Daily Beast:

From the article, ""Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the “creative class” strategy, he notes, “flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers,” since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see “disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account.” His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.”"

And, from the comments to the NY Times article, "Gauging Artists' Contribution to Property Values":

"...there’s no proof gentrification reduces crime or negates any of the social ills that came “before”? For example, since 1990, there has been a citywide drop in crime. To appropriately measure how well anti-crime initiatives are doing where crime has dropped everywhere is to compare the rates of reduction. While much is made of gentrification’s powers of rehabilitation, the crime rate reduction in Williamsburg is less, or slower, than that of East New York (one can peruse data on NYPD’s website). Isn’t that fascinating? You would think that with the fixation on gentrification being a quicker fixer-upper, with so much talk about what WIlliamsburg was “before” that you would not only find crime reduction, but that it would surpass locales not experiencing gentrification. The way some have characterized it, the crime reduction should be MUCH greater in gentrification than outside it, but the truth is, notorious locales like East New York outpace Williamsburg.

The truth is there is no special reduction in crime that commensurates with gentrification. In fact, gentrification in Williamsburg has, paradoxically, negated the measures of “quality-of-life” that underpinned Rudolph Giuliani’s mayoral campaign and tenure, and deeply influenced Bloomberg’s. Drugs have not been done away with in Williamsburg–not only do the police ignore the activities of the agents of gentrification in ways they never would have for locals (especially the Puerto Ricans), but drug activity is now largely privatized. The same for prostitution–sure, the hookers may not be on Kent Avenue anymore, but they’re not absent. There are more abandoned buildings in Williamsburg than ever before. Construction sites are top polluters. Let’s not even try to measure the constant noise they bring, or the environmental issues they aggravate. On top of all that, the gentrification has transformed populations but it has failed to supply the infrastructure necessary–consider for example all that litter and garbage produced by Bedford Avenue, or the platform edge-to-edge crowds in the middle of the night (for God’s sake) on the L train. Worse of all, it has not established or supplied any durable cultural institution unique to the gentrification or its agents. So much has been given up for this gentrification, and little has been returned."
March 20, 2013, 8:06 am
hb nunez from LES says:
When you force a developer to set aside 20% of units for so called affordable housing all you do is make the other 80% of the units less affordable. All you do is force people to either Get Rich or Get Poor or Get out of the City you were raised in. No middle class families equals no it.
April 13, 2013, 1:15 am
Voice of Verdad from Brooklyn says:
Keep spouting BS/agit-propping, Dennis Farr. Please explain to the public what relationship you have Community Board members Esteban Duran and Rob Solano. From what I have been told, they go back a LONG time.
Feb. 11, 2014, 3:45 am

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