New York City Council is expected to approve Two Trees’ River Ring project on the Williamsburg waterfront this week, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle first reported. The Council’s Land Use Committee voted the River Ring proposal through last week, sending it to the full Council for a final vote, taking place on December 15th.
Brooklyn Council Member Stephen Levin, whose district includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg, said that the final negotiated application would result in more affordable housing than previously announced. “The priority for me,” Levin said, “is for affordable housing — in particular senior housing.”
The plan will still include 263 affordable housing units in Williamsburg at an average 60 percent Area Media Income, although some units will be as low as 40 percent AMI on-site at the waterfront location. The negotiations since the proposal’s certification in August 2021 have yielded even more affordable housing within the community district.
At Thursday’s hearing, Levin said Two Trees will now fund the construction of between 150 and 200 affordable housing units designated specifically for seniors to be built off-site.
On Twitter, Open New York, a housing advocacy group, wrote, “Kudos to @StephenLevin33 for negotiating a deal on River Ring that not only preserved all its density and community benefits, but won even more affordable senior housing for Williamsburg.”
Despite approvals at nearly every step through the land use process, some residents have expressed opposition throughout the last few months. Brooklyn Paper reported that while recent public hearings have been mostly positive about the work Levin and Two Trees had done to address community concerns, some residents were still wary before the vote.
“We encourage you to seriously consider all of the conditions, however we want to emphasize the density condition, which we fear is not being taken seriously by our city council,” wrote a group of neighbors including CB1 members Cory Kantin and Steve Chesler, as well as the advocacy group Sustainable Williamsburg, in a letter to Levin.”We understand that there needs to be a balance between the affordable housing request and the density reduction, and that is exactly what we are asking for, a balance.”
On Thursday, Levin said he understood the concerns, but pushed back on density as a reason for rejecting the benefits of additional affordability to the community. “This will bring additional density to the neighborhood,” he said. “This is an already dense neighborhood. It’s a marginal increase. But I do believe that on the other side of that equation, bringing a 40 percent affordable development to the community, will have a meaningful impact, particularly where it really counts.”
Jed Walentas, principal of Two Trees Management, celebrated the vote and thanked residents, stakeholders and leaders for supporting “a precedent-setting project” throughout the land use process. “River Ring will change how New Yorkers interact with our waterfront while also increasing affordable housing, providing a new model for resiliency, building a new public park and investing in community programs and spaces,” Walentas said in a statement. “We will bring the same commitment and dedication to River Ring that we’ve brought to the Domino redevelopment and Domino Park.”
Two Trees also said it will commit $1.7 million to community initiatives, including a fund to help retrofit existing buildings in the Williamsburg community and a major study of open space planning in the community district to better connect any new parks to existing parks.
One of the new parks expected as part of the River Ring project includes approximately 6 acres of new park and in-water access designed to be sustainable and resilient to storm surges and help protect neighboring lots from damage from floods. The River Ring park extends the public space managed by Two Trees, connecting with adjacent Domino Park that the developer opened in 2018.
The Real Deal stated that the full Council will vote on December 15th and then head to the mayor for final approval, but both steps are now formalities.