29 July 2007

Domino Plant a Museum Piece?

To some residents of Williamsburg, the news that the Domino Sugar Plant had been saved from destruction (unlike much of the rest of the Brooklyn waterfront) by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in late June just wasn't good enough. They still find it an abomination that the plant will become yet another residential palace, christened "The New Domino" by developers CPC Resources and Isaac Katan, and set to include some 2,200 apartments, 660 of those characterized as "affordable housing," which, in this market, could (and does) mean anything.

So, what do these malcontents want? Oh, art, culture, something that gives back to the community as opposed to stuffing one individual's pockets—that sort of stuff. Lost City has gotten wind that a group of prominent Billyburg arts leaders are trying to stir up support for a plan which would transform the Domino Plant into a world-class art center, a la The Tate Modern in London (below).

One has to say, on the surface, the plan makes some sense. It's kind of a no-brainer, actually. The Tate and old Domino have a lot in common. The Tate was created out of an old abandoned, hulking old power station sitting in the East End right across the Thames from central London, just as the Domino building stares at Manhattan from across the East River. (Leave it to an artists' community to notice these parallels.) As to what such a plan could bring to Gotham, well, the Tate Modern has far exceeded expectations as far as attendance since it opened in 2000; it was at one time the third more popular tourist attraction in London. Which, of course, means pots of cash for the city.

The pushers of this plan see the Domino as hosting rotating exhibitions of private collections, art fairs, traveling international exhibitions, and imagine it being serviced by a water taxis (just like Fairway!), restaurants and a pretty little promenade. (Hey, how about building our own Millinneum Bridge from Manhattan to get there?)

Not such a wild dream. Hard to see it happening without a big fight. And, after all, CPC and Katan owns the joint and ain't likely to let it go. But I, for one, would like to see someone give them a run for his money.


Anonymous said...

Don't we have enough museums and galleries in this city, already?

And must every abandoned industrial relic be preserved?

We desperately need more housing, and I for one would love one of those subsidized units they propose building on this site.

Anonymous said...

awesome idea, i like it. but wouldnt a museum cause a lot of the same problems as cpc's current proposal. both create tons more density, both indirectly displace local industry/residents, both provide unsatisfactory levels of affordable housing, etc. also, its nearly six blocks of real estate. guesss that leaves room for other interesting arts/cultural/open space things.

Anonymous said...

In my crazy dreamworld it would be a 100% affordable live/work/exhibition space for artists (and not just painters, but metal/wood workers, sculptors etc.).

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous(s),
We all have the same name! Affordable housing and an arts center are not mutually exclusive. There is enough room for both. I think "Arts" center is all inclusive, i.e., theater, dance, studio's... If things keep going the way they have, everyone in the arts will get pushed out to barges off the coast of Coney Island. The only upside to that is people in the arts could open offshore casino's to support their work. How about affordable housing for people in the arts? That is also desperately needed.

Anonymous said...

The idea of turning the Domino site into a museum sounds wonderful...until you actually think about it.

1) New York has more galleries, museums and interesting cultural institutions than most New Yorkers could possibly have time to visit.

2) New York desperately needs housing at pretty much every income level, let alone affordable housing. By the way anonymous #2, (perhaps this isn't obvious) there actually are people other than artists that need affordable housing.

That supposedly socially consious people are willing to waste valueable time and taxpayers' money pushing that kind of non-sense is unconscionable. The same goes for much of the argument for preservation, since this preservation only increases the likelihood that whatever housing is built will be further upmarket by increasing development costs. Yeah, apparently most truely poor people can't afford to outbid yuppies for the priviledge of living in a polished up 100 year-old obsolete factory. Surprise surprise, after all don't we still live in a world were the costs don't matter if we're not paying?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It could be mixed use but there can't be affordable housing if the driver is an overwhelming predominance of so-called "market rate" units for the top 10-8% of households, incomewise, if that. The real estate economics 101 principle of comps - comparable values - is triggered by setting a new bench mark for what the market will bear - for rent or sale - be it residential, commercial, institutional or industrial. As for a museum, the city-state Brooklyn Bridge Park needs animation + the extraordinary Brooklyn Museum, the nation's 2nd largest public art collection, still attracts only a fraction of its depression era visitors. If anything, it has to be boosted 1st. .. Why not 100%, non-prof developed affordable dwellings at Domino, including live-work units? If museum or gallery space is sensible, maybe it should be a specialized branch of the grande dame of Eastern Parkway.

Anonymous said...

Who said cultural center is mutually exclusive from affordable housing. Its been done all around the world. There are at least a dozen case studies where this has worked. Are we that uncreative? It should not be creative people need not apply, it should be based on need.

The Tate Modern had housing and ethnic diversity as part of their plan, even if it was not on-site.

also, look at this on youtube -- jobs, jobs, jobs:

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, we have a huge example of affordable housing being moved from what suddenly became a valuable site. The problem was, the money went into the city's general fund & never used for housing elsewhere. That site is Battery Park City. In this city of globalized, publicly assisted, real estate speculation, he middle class constitutes the latest group of undesirables.

Anonymous said...

ok, this is an interesting dialogue to be sure but can we PLEASE get this one thing clear first, re: Domino & Tate: Domino is Tate & Lyle. if any of ya'll (& i am sure some do) don't know how the Domino plant came to be closed, please read up on it. This is a VERY basic start--


personally, i'm almost at a point where if they promise to destroy the sign (which amounts to nothing more than free advertising for scumbags), i'd support almost anything. i'm being sarcastic, sort of but i'd love to know where the preservationists were during the strike, and what passion they had for those on the picket line.

check out Tom Robbins' reporting in the Voice back then for much more; the link I posted is just a limn & doesn't get into the gritty details of the Brooklyn waterfront labor politics like it could have.


Anonymous said...

Battery Park City is the NYC example of what happens when diversity is pulled from a publicly-sponsored development.