A large-scale development proposal that would bring two massive mixed-use towers and a beach to the Williamsburg waterfront is back on the table after a coronavirus-induced pause.
The project, known as River Ring, was first announced in late 2019, after developer Two Trees purchased former Con Edison storage lots on River Street near North 1st Street for about $150 million. The developer presented an earlier iteration of the plan to Brooklyn Community Board 1 in January 2020, before pausing its engagement process in March as the pandemic overwhelmed the city.
Now, Two Trees is looking to get the project moving forward again, and says it will give a presentation about the plan to CB1 at its April land-use meeting, before the city’s rezoning process, known as ULURP, eventually begins.
The latest version of the plan is slightly different than its predecessors: the southern tower will be 710 feet tall instead of 650 feet, while the northern tower will be 560 feet tall, down from its initial 600 feet.
Those buildings would have 1,050 rental apartments (50 more than initially planned); 30,000 square feet of retail space and 57,000 square feet of office space; a 2.9-acre circular waterfront park; and a 47,000-square-foot YMCA with a pool.
263 of the rental units would be below-market rate through the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, Two Trees says. Most units will be priced for those making 60% of Area Median Income, with monthly rent for a 2-bedroom set at $1,366. 27 units will be priced at 40% AMI, with monthly rent for a 2-bedroom set at $854.
The plan also calls for the creation of a 2.9-acre public park with a beach, with an additional 2.3 acres of accessible in-river space and about one acre of intertidal habitat. The project was designed by the architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group and the landscape architects James Corner Field Operations.
Two Trees says its restoration of the area’s marshes, tidal pools and breakwaters would protect over 500 inland properties from future floods, and that the development will have its own micro-power grid and water reuse infrastructure to lessen demand on the area’s infrastructure.
The project’s website features testimonials from high-profile supporters, like Regional Plan Association President Tom Wright and Trust for Public Land executive Adrian Benepe, who said it would “help New Yorkers learn about the city’s shoreline and how it impacts our daily lives both now and in the future.”
But not everyone is so enthusiastic. A local group known as Sustainable Williamsburg, formed in 2019 in opposition to the project, published in October an opposition letter signed by the candidates running to replace term-limited Council Member Stephen Levin in the local Council seat.
“This area should be utilized in a more effective manner to consider infrastructure limitations, the affordable housing crisis and changing priorities of a post-COVID future,” the letter reads.
If the ULURP process for the project is not completed before Levin, who has not yet taken a positin on the project, leaves office at the end of the year, his successor would have significant power to block the project thanks to a City Council tradition known as member deference.
Nevertheless, Two Trees spokesman David Lombino says the developer is looking to complete the seven-month ULURP before the end of 2021, Brooklyn Paper reports, though a start date has not been set.