Two developers known for residential projects have bought the Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg, ending a rich chapter of Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront history.
C.P.C. Resources, the development arm of the Community Preservation Corporation, a lending consortium of banks and insurance companies best known for financing rehabilitations of older apartments, and Isaac Katan, a Brooklyn developer who has helped gentrify Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, have bought the land and the buildings of the all-but-shuttered plant, said Lloyd Kaplan, a preservation corporation spokesman.
The developers would not say how much they paid for the property or what they planned to do with it, instead releasing a statement saying that they ”look forward to working with the community and the city as we develop our plans for the site.”
The Domino plant, with its distinctive neon sign looming over the East River just north of the Williamsburg Bridge, had been operating since the 1880’s and was acquired in 2001 by American Sugar Refining.
Donald Brainard, vice president for human resources at American Sugar, also declined to discuss the particulars of the sale, but he said the plant’s operations were unprofitable. ”We announced last August that we would close it ultimately and had no plans for the facility at the time of the initial announcement,” he said.
American Sugar still has plants in Yonkers, Baltimore and Chalmette, La., but the Brooklyn refinery, once the world’s largest, according to a company brochure, had been the most inefficient, Mr. Brainard said, adding that only about 25 employees work there now. ”We made a decision to close the operation to increase our efficiency and lower our costs,” he said, adding that there had been a partial shutdown of operations in January. ”I would guess the rest will close later this year.”
Although sugar processing ended at the plant last August, news of the sale of the mammoth brick factory and its uncertain future appeared to take neighbors and city officials by surprise. Joseph Markowitz, who had bought the company’s office building and parking garage across the street from the refinery about two years ago, said he would like to see it rezoned for residential use, a designation he is seeking for his property. ”We have a problem renting to commercial — it’s very hard,” he said.
But City Planning Department officials, who have been pushing forward with an enormous proposal to rezone the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront to encourage residential and recreational uses, had drawn their plan to preserve the Domino site for manufacturing, a move applauded by several officials and labor advocates who would like to see the remnants of the borough’s industrial legacy — and its blue-collar jobs — preserved.
In August, city officials said they were committed to finding an industrial reuse for the site. ”We’re not contemplating a rezoning for this site,” Regina Myer, the Brooklyn director for the Planning Department, said yesterday. ”We’re focusing all of our efforts on the rezoning to the north.”