When we reported in August that demolition of part of the Domino Sugar Factory had been approved, Megan Sperry told us that Williamsburgers have “gotten used to losing” to Two Trees and many now feel that the developer’s radical transformation of the waterfront is a “done deal.”
Tonight at the Newsroom, we’ll be screening Sperry’s film on the subject, The Domino Effect. The 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a discussion featuring filmmakers Brian Paul and Daniel Phelps, Colin Miles of Save Domino, and Daniel Campo, author of The Accidental Playground, a new book surveying the wilder days of the East River waterfront. (The event is free — just let us know you’re coming.)
The Domino Sugar Factory closed its doors for the last time in its nearly 150-year history in 2004, leading to much speculation about what would become of the historic property along the East River. When the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) purchased the 11-acre lot in 2005, it was increasingly clear that manufacturing on the waterfront would be giving way to high-rise apartment buildings and increased retail space.
In 2012, after a CPC plan had been approved but nothing had been set in motion, Two Trees acquired the property and proposed an even grander vision. With an estimated cost of more than a billion dollars, the Two Trees’ project features what could become Brooklyn tallest structure at 55 stories, one tower that looks like a giant donut, an esplanade with a kayak launch, and five acres of public parkland. The towers will be home to 2,284 apartments (660 of which will be classified as affordable housing) and retail and office space that the development company projects will lead to the creation 3,000 to 4,000 new jobs in the neighborhood.
As with any development of this magnitude, the project has its supporter and detractors. Last week, The Times reported that opposition to the Two Trees plan was waning, but Sperry remains openly against it. Still, her film is less a takedown of developers (the film was made before Two Trees became involved) and more a nostalgic look at what manufacturing meant and continues to mean to the residents of Williamsburg.
Citing the fact that more than half the manufacturing jobs have been lost in the neighborhood since 1997, the film is filled with interviews espousing the importance of preserving manufacturing jobs that pay well in comparison to service and retail jobs. Longtime locals reminisce about the days when boats filled with spices used to dock along the river and talk about how manufacturing jobs allow for social mobility by giving uneducated workers the chance to learn valuable trades. The film also goes inside a number Community Board meetings where both those in favor and against the development speak their mind.
Wherever you stand on the Domino development, come join us tonight for what is sure to be lively conversation about an issue that is literally reshaping the neighborhood.
Update: Daniel Phelps will be joining us tonight instead of Megan Sperry. The original version of this post and the flyer were revised accordingly.