Brooklyn-based developers Two Trees are one step closer to making River Ring a reality. The project’s proposal has been officially approved to move forward with rezoning. Two Trees now has to go through the city’s intensive land use process in order to upzone the area from industrial to residential.
If the proposal gets final approval, River Ring will include a large residential development on the Williamsburg waterfront featuring two twisting towers designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, office space, and a YMCA with an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The development will also create a public beach, tide pools, a park with pathways over the water, and an onsite wastewater treatment plant and a microgrid energy system.
The residential towers will comprise of one 64-story building and a 49-story one that would house a combined 1,050 apartments, with 263 units earmarked as “affordable” under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program. Most of the affordable housing units would be reserved for residents making 60 percent of the area’s median income, with rents hovering around $1,427 for a one bedroom, and $1,963 for a three bedroom.
Two Trees purchased the site of the proposed River Ring project from Con Edison for $150 million in late 2019. The site was used by the utility company to store oil and gas containers until the late 1990s, though empty tankers remained until 2011.
After a pandemic-induced pause, the proposal now enters the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, during which Community Board 1 and the borough president will provide advisory recommendations, before binding votes by the mayor, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council. Two Trees was forced to delay their ULURP application, which they’d hoped to complete before the end of 2021. Now, the developers will need approval from the next mayor and the future City Council, all of whom will take office in January of 2022. The first step is for the Community Board 1 to host a meeting of their Land Use committee on Sept. 1, and a full board meeting on Sept. 14. Two Trees has won the approval of the Community Board in the past with their development of the Domino Sugar Factory.
The neighborhood is divided with mixed views on the proposed River Ring. Some in the area are opposed to the project and argue the development will increase gentrification and put added pressure on the area’s infrastructure. Activist group Sustainable Williamsburg say on their website that Williamsburg and Greenpoint are already overdeveloped as a result of previous rezoning. The group is pushing for lower-density development on the waterfront.
However, three community groups in North Brooklyn, El Puentes de Williamsburg, St. Nick’s Alliance, and Southside United HDFC, released a letter earlier this week addressed to Two Trees owner Jed Walentas, local elected officials, and Community Board 1, stating their support for the development and putting forward some requests. The letter notes that Two Trees has worked alongside St. Nick’s job creation program during the Domino rezoning.
The letter reads, “We are grateful for consulting with us regarding affordable housing, job creation for local residents and environmental equity at the River Ring redevelopment site. We are also encouraged by the number of features proposed for the new development: local jobs, affordable housing, a new public park with water access and a new community recreation center.”