PHIL ON FIRE: What’s Up With Domino? / Problems at Northside Piers

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I have received countless emails and phone calls regarding the problems development partners CPCR and Isaac Katan are having at the former Domino refinery, which was rezoned for up to 2,200 units of housing. CPCR and Katan purchased the site in 2004 for 55 million dollars.

This is a very complex story that is impossible to explain in one article, but in a nutshell, the developers were given a huge density bonus on the premise that they were going to build 660 units of affordable housing, even though there is no legal obligation for them to do so. Now, it seems that the main developer, CPCR, has defaulted on its loans and is having financial problems, and that CPCR has agreed to give its lender, Pacific Coast Capital, an 84 percent stake in the property in exchange for forgiving its debt. Also, the current partner, Isaac Katan, is suing CPCR. Katan claims that CPCR has mismanaged the project for eight years. Katan wants to block the sale of the site to Pacific Coast Capital. His lawsuit alleges “breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent performance,” according to the court filing.

Katan’s lawsuit also alleges that CPCR “has effectively depleted all of Refinery’s available capital, while virtually no construction work has been performed,” adding that the ownership is “devoid of operating budget.” So, while this nasty legal battle develops, no development (which was supposed to begin last year) is going on at the site.

I did not support this project. I felt the impact on the community’s infrastructure would be overwhelming. Many my fears were confirmed in the environmental impact statement, but the plan was passed without any remedy to the problems this rezoning presented. I continue to support a plan to turn the former refinery into a Brooklyn version of the Tate Modern, in London, one of the top attractions in the UK. The vision is for the site to become a mixed-use cultural hub that includes galleries, event spaces, a hotel, and a marina, as well as 200 affordable housing units. It’s also important to note that the 200 affordable units would be based on community area median income (AMI), rather than the citywide AMI formula that was used to create the 660 units CPCR proposed. Only 100 units in the CPCR proposal are affordable to residents based on community AMI . The Tate Modern also generates revenue of $205.5 million per annum for London overall, and it’s estimated the museum is worth between $102.7 and $143.8 million in revenue for the borough of Southwark alone. The museum project would also generate additional tax dollars because tourists would go to nearby businesses.

Look at what the High Line did for the surrounding community on the West Side of Manhattan. A Brooklyn version of the Tate Modern could have the same beneficial financial effect in Williamsburg. But now it seems that the Domino refinery will remain dormant for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned as this story develops!

Toll Brothers acknowledge problems at Northside Piers

Last March, I tried to help residents of Northside Piers who were having problems with the build quality of their units. Defective windows, mold, improper insulation, and faulty plumbing, sewage, heating, and air conditioning systems were some of the complaints I heard about as I spoke to residents at meetings and at their homes. When my article “Luxury Living is Taking a Toll, Brother!” that was posted on, March 21, 2011, and was followed up by the New York Post article “Williamsburg waterfront condo residents complain of ‘shoddy’ construction” on March 23, 2011, the Toll Brothers responded by putting out a statement claiming, “We are aware of these isolated situations and strongly disagree with the allegations as they have been presented,” adding that the firm “will continue to honor its obligations and provide the quality and customer service for which it is known.”

A little over a year later, Toll Brothers have changed their tune. They filed a lawsuit this past April 12, against Allan Window Technologies and Kreisler Borg Florman General Construction, claiming the windows and their installation were defective. The Toll Brothers have now admitted that the building has a major flaw, and the residents who went public with this issue have been vindicated.

Some residents who went public with their complaints were chastised by other residents who were looking to get out of the building, or who feared losing value on their property. But they were wise to go public since the Toll Brothers were unwilling to face this issue until the WG got involved. Hopefully, the Toll Brothers will address the other issues with the building that residents still face, and make Northside Piers a quality place to live.