Kent Ave between Grand St and the Williamsburg Bridge
sugar, lofts, housing, "affordable housing"
In 2004 CPC Resources, a lending consortium of banks and insurance companies best known for financing rehabilitations of older apartments, and Isaac Katan, a Brooklyn developer who has built residential high rises on Fourth Avenue along the border of Park Slope, bought the 11.2 acre Domino Sugar Factory campus from American Sugar, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British industrial ingredients and food processing companyTate & Lyle.
Residential Redevelopment From the time the plans were first announced, the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory campus into a high rise luxury condominium complex has been the subject of controversy. Because the land was not not included in the 2005 Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning, which rezoned much of the waterfront for residential high rises, the property owners were forced go through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure which provided myriad opportunities for opponents to voice objections to the project and seek accomodations.
Initially lost jobs and the loss of land zoned for manufacturing were the primary concerns, but as the reality of Brooklyn's changing waterfront sunk in, efforts to maintain the land as manufacturing waned and preservationists began to organize in favor of landmarking the Domino buildings. [Images from inside the abandoned buildings]. In 2007 the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to preserve the chimneyed 155-foot tall brick refinery building but failed to put in place any provisions requiring the developers to maintain the iconic Domino Sugar sign. Unveiling the first detailed renderings of the reconfigured refinery at a 2008 Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing, preservationists rejected the design and urged the developers to include the Domino sign and reduce the bulk and height of the five story glass addition that was to be plopped on top. The developers agreed to both.
Having met the primary demands of preservationists, the developers were then faced with stiff opposition from affordable housing advocates and those concerned the development's height and density were not in keeping with the neighborhood's character and would strain existing transportation infrastructure. Partially agreeing to the demands of opponents, the developers reduced the two planned 40-story towers to 34 floors (shuffling the lost the square footage to other buildings in the complex) and promised to provide shuttle buses to the nearest subway station thus clearing the way for final approval of the project from the New York City Council. The $1.4 billion complex includes 2,200 apartments, 660 of which will be "affordable", four acres of publicly accessible recreation space, 274,000 square feet of retail space, and a waterfront esplanade. History In 1882 after 25 years in operation, the W & FC Havemeyer Company's Brooklyn waterfront sugar factory burned to the ground. To replace it, the Havemeyer's built the largest sugar refining facility in the world. Completed in 1884, the refinery employed thousands of people and was capable of producing 950 million pounds of sugar a year at its peak. In the later half of the 19th century the Havemeyers renamed the business the American Sugar Refining Company which, true to its name, refined over 98% of all sugar consumed in the US.
The Domino Sugar brand name and the famous forty foot Domino sign that adorns these Brooklyn buildings today was an invention of the early 1900's and a direct reaction to the trust busting activities of Teddy Roosevelt. With the sugar trust under legal and political assualt, the Havemeyer's invented the Domino brand as a way of distinguishing themselves from their competition by selling sugar cubes shaped like dominoes. In 1970, the American Sugar Refining Company changed its name to Amstar Sugar Corporation and in 1988 Amstar was bought by Tate & Lyle. Today, Tate & Lyle maintains the company as a wholly owned subsidiary doing business as Domino Foods, Inc.
The Domino refinery was shut for the better part of two years between 1999-2001 as a result of labor strikes. When the plant refined it's last sugar in 2003, the refinery employed approximately 250 people and was was operating at less than half its capacity. Labor disputes, rising real estate values, the prospect of a likely rezoning, competition from sugar substitutes like high frustose corn syrup and zero calorie artificial sweeteners, and an enduring backlash against sugar by consumer health advocates all contributed to the demise of the plant. In 2004, shortly after the land and buildings were purchased by CPC Resources and Isaac Katan, the remaining packaging and warehousing operations at the plant shut down and the only visible activity at the site in intervening years has been the work of graffiti artists.