Less than two weeks after winning a big political and policy victory on the Williamsburg waterfront, rookie Councilman Steve Levin is now after a bigger fight against a stronger opponent — he wants changes in a $1.2-billion Domino Sugar redevelopment that is backed by a wily veteran named Mike Bloomberg.
Levin has called the 2,200-unit proposal “simply too massive” for the site of the former sugar refinery along Kent Avenue.
“We’re looking at 6,100 to 6,700 new people in the neighborhood as the result of this development,” said Levin. “I don’t believe that the neighborhood has the infrastructure, public transportation, and capacity for that level of vehicular traffic to sustain that type of influx of people.”
Levin wants to reduce the density of the project, add get the number of below-market-rate units above the promised 30 percent, reduce the number of underground parking spaces by nearly half, and create more open space on the 11.2-acre site.
Mayor Bloomberg is a strong supporter of the Domino project. But Levin is fresh off last week’s settlement with the developer of Rose Plaza, a nearby development that was bigger, had fewer affordable units and included none of the coveted family-sized units before Levin got involved in the negotiations.
Levin’s work punctuated his first four months on the Council — and he’s not done there.
Levin has the backing of his mentor, Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg), who is opposed to the current project — and who has been lobbying councilmembers behind the scenes for 1,000 affordable units instead of the 660 proposed by Domino’s developer Community Preservation Corporation Resources.
Levin is happy that Lopez has his back.
“Vito has taken a real leadership role with regard to this development in particular in a very long time,” Levin said. “Going back to when I was working for him early on, he was advocating for these issues. I want to emphasize as much as possible that he is very much a driving force in making sure that there be responsible development here.”
Not all the dominoes are lining up the way Levin and Lopez want.
Borough President Markowitz has backed the plan. And last weekend, Bloomberg jumped into the fray, calling out Levin and Lopez for standing in the way of development along the Williamsburg waterfront. But Levin’s vote is key, as councilmembers typically defer to the wishes of the member in whose district a project resides.
But Levin isn’t backing down, challenging the mayor to accommodate the tens of thousands of new residents and congestion on the roads and two subway lines near the project.
“If the mayor wants to see this happen, the community is going to need transportation modification,” Levin said. “You can’t fit on the Bedford L train now as it is.”
©2010 Community News Group
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