Members of Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 are expressing “outrage” that the Department of Buildings is allowing the developer of the Domino Sugar site to build on weekends, potentially disrupting Williamsburgers from sleeping in on Saturdays.
At a packed meeting of the board’s land use committee, discussion centered around a petition started last week by waterfront resident Mark Brinda. As of last night’s hearing, the development’s direct neighbor had collected 274 signatures over the course of three and a half days, mostly from people who live within a block or two of the site.
Yesterday evening’s discussion often devolved into squabbling over the minutest of details, while a sense of misunderstanding and frustration dominated. But one thing was certain– each member of the committee present agreed that weekend construction at the Domino site was unacceptable.
Last week, during a meeting at The Woods, Domino’s developer informed the community it might carry out Saturday construction, as early as 7 a.m. “Hours are dictated by the Buildings Department — yes, it could potentially be on Saturdays,” Jed Walentas informed.
The Two Trees principal explained that Saturday work was “more efficient and more expedient, and for some community folks they also prefer that the construction go faster. Construction workers want to work Saturdays and they want to work overtime.” He added that “we are not off at the Buildings Department advocating for Saturday work days, the people that work on-site are.”
Today Brinda told B+B that, in granting permits for after-hours construction and demolition at the Domino site, it’s clear “the Department of Buildings has ignored the will of the community.”
The community board’s decisions are merely non-binding recommendations to the Department of Buildings, and according to District Manager Gerald Esposito, developers often exploit loopholes to make the DOB see things their way: “They’ll put down whatever they have to in order to get the permit.”
When we asked the DOB what sort of general requirements have to be met for an after-hours work variance to be granted, a press rep told us, “Every project is different in what it requires.”
To obtain a PW5, applicants simply have to provide “a brief explanation as to why the work is necessary.” The DOB can legally deny a permit based on noise concerns.
Last night, the absence of Rob Solano, a committee member who has argued that after-hours construction will expedite affordable housing construction, prevented the board from making any dramatic moves away from previous decisions. But the committee did end the night by passing two motions. Firstly, Esposito will write a letter to the DOB on behalf of the community, expressing “outrage” that the agency has ignored the community board’s previous recommendations against after-hours and weekend construction. The committee also plans to request that the DOB send a representative to speak at its next meeting and explain the process of obtaining weekend construction permits.
Today, a spokesperson for City Council member Stephen Levin told us, “This is going to be a long project — 10 to 15 years — and the community is going to feel the impact of that. It’s important that if they have any issues with the construction or demolition that the developer responds to those needs.”
The rep said Levin’s office plans to meet with the Department of Buildings soon to “figure out exactly what is going on at this site.”
But Brinda is still convinced the community will have to take on a large part of the fight as well. As of this morning, he had collected 327 signatures. His online petition includes a comments section where residents have expressed their frustrations:
“It is not in the best interest of the community to allow Saturday work at Domino. It is only in the best interest of Two Trees.”
“Two Trees and our beloved mayor has screwed Williamsburg over quite enough, thank you.”
Update, Monday October 13th, 2014: Mark Brinda sent us a handful of documents providing evidence that the DOB has ignored the wishes of the Community Board. Click the thumbnails below to see (1) a Department of Buildings document tracking all after hours work permits issued to the Domino demo and construction site from May 8th, 2014 through July 7th, 2014. The reason for the variance given was “public safety.” (2) The Community Board’s letter of outrage to the DOB dated August 7th, 2014 and (3) the DOB’s after work variance permit dated October 11th, 2014 through October 18th, 2014.