Once again, preservation is accused of standing in the way of housing

Once again, preservation is being forced into an antagonistic role with housing. This false dichotomy only harms both movements and polarizes civic-minded people who should be working together to enrich our city.

Housing battle over Domino’s preservation
by michael rundle / metro new york

WILLIAMSBURG. Efforts to preserve historic buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront, such as the former Domino Sugar Factory, are harming working- class families by raising rents and not giving enough priority to affordable housing.

So said residents and community groups who gathered yesterday at the Saints Peter and Paul Church — in the shadow of the old Domino building — and demanded their economic welfare be placed ahead of the waterfront’s historic architecture.

“The more preservation on the site, the less affordable housing there is going to be,” said Matt Sollett of Churches United. “I’m just like everyone else, I like to walk around the old factories and imagine what they were like a hundred years ago, but the bottom line is those buildings are empty now. And the community needs the housing.”

The factory was bought in 2004 by CPC Resources. Part of the complex is already scheduled to be redeveloped into housing, while talks to declare the rest a historic landmark begin tomorrow at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The entire waterfront was inducted into the National Trust’s list of endangered sites on June 14, and is the focus of numerous preservation campaigns.

These campaigns will drive out lower-income families unless affordable housing is built, community leaders said at the rally. Several residents described their anger, and their fears, about Williamsburg’s future.

“The working poor are disappearing,” said Rev. Rick Beuther, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church on Wythe Avenue. “We do not want to leave our community. Williamsburg has always been a place of immigrants, where the poor have felt welcome. Now the poor are being asked to leave.”

Other local groups say that Churches United’s single-issue agenda is too narrow. Development in the community’s interest should combine affordable housing with “historic preservation, parks and open space, industrial retention and manageable height and density,” said the Waterfront Preservation Alliance in a statement yesterday.

Posted Under: Affordable Housing, Brooklyn, Designation, Waterfront Development, Williamsburg

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