Editorial

Council should take care not to upend Domino project

The City Planning Commission unanimously gave its approval

The City Planning Commission unanimously gave its approval for the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory, pictured here on July 29, 2005. (Credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama)

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Mayor Bill de Blasio scored a victory for the city this week when he persuaded the developer of the old Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn to set aside 700 of the 2,300 apartments in his blueprints for affordable housing.

That ratio is admirably beyond the norm. But there's plenty more to like in this deal.

While low-income families would have a chance to live in a prime Williamsburg development for a fraction of market-rate rents, developer Jed Walentas would receive permission to build to 55 stories -- in an area zoned for 35.

Meanwhile, neighborhood children would get a new school. Entrepreneurs would get new spaces designed for tech startups. And all of Williamsburg -- and all of New York -- might someday enjoy the new public East River esplanade that's promised in the $1.5-billion deal.

With little fuss, the plan won approval on Wednesday from the City Planning Commission.

So what could possibly go wrong?

This: The City Council now must sign off on the deal -- which means negotiations have suddenly entered a whole new realm of bartering.

Agendas are rapidly forming.

Some activist groups want to limit "affordable housing" to families with low incomes, excluding moderate-income households. Some unions want all contractors on the site to use union labor.

It's not clear how this will play out.

De Blasio appears eager to get the blueprint approved and shovels in the ground. But if the council raises his ante, it could throw a wrench into the works.

Why? Because if labor and other costs go higher than planned, it might be hard for a developer to support so many below-market apartments. We hope the mayor is ready to do some heavy-duty lobbying if necessary.

The Domino project is intended -- among other things -- as a way to redevelop the waterfront as a community amenity while providing below-market apartments for hundreds of families that need them. It is not meant as a jobs program first. We hope the council remembers that.

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