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MAS to Developer: Rethink Domino Alterations

domino sugar refinery brooklyn

After applauding the Landmarks Preservation Commission for designating three of the Domino Sugar Refinery buildings, MAS expressed deep concern with a proposed glass box proposed addition that was heard before the Commission in mid-February, and urged that future development assimilate the memory of Brooklyn’s industrial heritage into its new life.

For 148 years, ships delivered sugar cane from as far away as India to the Domino Sugar plant (originally American Sugar Refining Company) on the East River. In the massive factory buildings workers processed the cane into granulated sugar and packaged it for distribution. The Brooklyn plant was one of the largest refineries in the world, and by 1870 more than half of the sugar consumed in the entire country was refined here.

While the sugar refining has ceased, there remain beautiful red brick buildings with round arched windows and the beloved “Domino Sugar” sign. Now the site is being redeveloped for a very large residential development that is proposed to have a significant amount of affordable housing. Although the entire site was found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and history, it seems the three Refinery buildings are the only ones that will be adaptively reused. The rest will likely be demolished, and the fate of the iconic sign is uncertain. Therefore, it is critical that any changes to the buildings are appropriate.

MAS testified to the LPC that, as designed, the proposed glass box addition, plunked on top of the landmark, is simply too large and lacks the compositional organization and the arrangement of details that would relate it to the landmark. We also urged the developers to find a way to save the Domino sign.

The Refinery is a remarkably robust architectural structure that deserves a more carefully considered restoration and renovation plan. We hope the developers will work with the Commission to come up with a better plan, so that amidst the towers of the New Domino project, there is some semblance of its past.