What stage is the project in?
The River Ring Waterfront Master Plan was announced in December 2019. That same month, Two Trees Management closed on the acquisition of the land. Two Trees Management has held several voluntary community meetings to invite the public to share their feedback on the project. Next, the project will enter an Environmental Impact Review, followed by a full public entitlement review (ULURP).
What is the project timeline?
The River Ring Plan is expected to be completed within seven years. The first tower and the waterfront park will be built first, commencing shortly after the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Once the first tower and park are opened, the second tower will begin construction.
Did the community have input into the plan?
These features were inspired by community input received at visioning meetings convened by Two Trees Management, where there was a strong consensus for the park to engage the river with places to touch the water, for places of respite and access to nature, and a catalyst for local habitat restoration.
Who will maintain the park?
Like Domino Park, the new park will be maintained in perpetuity by Two Trees Management and will operate based on NYC Parks Department rules and regulations.
How can I stay informed about the project progress?
Sign up to receive information about opportunities via email, and visit Press & Updates for more project news.
What will the community kiosks be used for?
The community kiosks will be made available to local community partners through a request-for-proposal process. Potential users include educational partners, local community businesses, artist installations, a kayak rental, and other waterfront related uses.
What is the history of the River Ring Plan site?
Located along the East River waterfront in Williamsburg, the site was once home to the No. 6 fuel oil storage complex for Con Edison North First Street Terminal. The above-ground fuel oil storage tanks were removed when the terminal was decommissioned. The existing site also includes a number of in-river structures that extend to the pierhead line, which helped inspire the park's shoreline design.
Is River Ring connected to Domino Park?
Closing the gap between Grand Ferry Park and the North 5th Pier, River Ring will create a stretch of continuous waterfront public space along the North Brooklyn Waterfront. Two Trees also developed nearby Domino Park, a privately-funded public space that runs parallel along the entire Domino Sugar Factory site, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge, which was previously inaccessible to the Williamsburg community for over a century. Designed in partnership with Field Operations, Domino Park features a forward-thinking resilient design model with repurposed materials and relics from the famous Domino Sugar Refinery.
As part of the park’s design process, Two Trees and James Corner Field Operations conducted meetings with the community which directly shaped the design and programming of Domino Park. Since opening in June 2018, Domino Park has welcomed nearly 3.5 million visitors.
What Affordable Housing Is Planned For The Site?
Two Trees will pursue a mandatory inclusionary affordable housing option at this site, which will include a total of 263 permanently affordable rental units. These dedicated units represent 25 percent affordable housing across the entire site, including:
105 units for very low-income New Yorkers making 40 percent area median income:
● Eligible income is $47,720 for a family of 4
● Rent for a 2-bedroom would be $900/month
158 units for New Yorkers making between 40 percent and 130 percent area median income:
● Average AMI of all 263 affordable units is a maximum of 60%
Eligible income ranges from $47,720 to $155,090 for a family of four
● Rents for a 2-bedroom would range from $900/month to $3,397/month
Two Trees is open to conversations with the community and Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) about programs that would produce both more units of affordable housing and lower AMIs.
How many other units of affordable housing are in the vicinity and how do these units help with the affordable housing crisis?
According to the Department of City Planning, there have been 2,100 new affordable units created in this area since 2007. Within the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) study area of the proposed River Ring project (which represents a mile radius of the site), there will be 1,300 affordable units, including the 700 affordable units at Domino.
The 250 proposed affordable units would represent a 12 percent increase in the number of affordable units in Community Board 1 (CB1) and represent a 19 percent increase within one mile of the site. Including the affordable units at Domino, Two Trees’ efforts would increase affordable housing within a mile of the site to 1,566 units from 616 units, a 250% increase representing a significant economic diversification of the area. They will be high-opportunity affordable units with access to the immediate neighborhood’s safety record, good schools and ample open space.
Has Two Trees created and treated affordable housing in other developments?
Two Trees has generated approximately 500 high-quality affordable housing units in Brooklyn and Manhattan since 2005. As of early 2020, the firm has an additional 500 affordable units in the pipeline at Domino, excluding the 250 proposed units at River Ring, making Two Trees one of the most active affordable housing developers in Brooklyn. All of these existing and pipelined units are set to be permanently affordable at income levels at or below 60 percent of annual median income.
All of the low-income units Two Trees has constructed are identical to the market-rate apartments with the same finishes and amenities. There are no separate entrances for affordable and market-rate tenants and affordable units are distributed throughout all buildings. All residents at Two Trees properties have full access to the same services and amenities offered on a complimentary basis to market-rate tenants, including all residential common spaces, a bike storage room and shuttle bus service.
Half of the affordable units will be offered first to residents of Community Board 1, the maximum allowed by current City policy. Two Trees routinely partners with local organizations to ensure that all qualified area residents are aware of its affordable housing opportunities. Two Trees will commit to extensive, multi-lingual outreach to ensure that the 50 percent community board preference for affordable housing units is met at both River Ring and the remaining Domino units.
How is Two Trees addressing issues of gentrification and erosion of diversity in North Brooklyn?
The River Ring site has been zoned for manufacturing uses for decades, was an active utility site as recently as 2008 and has not had any residential population in recent memory. With the River Ring development, Two Trees is committed to promoting diversity that reflects the urban fabric of the surrounding area through:
● Adding 125 units of affordable housing units set aside specifically for qualifying Community Board 1 residents and another 125 units for other qualifying New Yorkers
● Investing in workforce development and local hiring to ensure the project will be a net positive in terms of creating benefits for area residents
● Building a state-of-the-art YMCA that will serve socio-economically diverse neighborhood families
Since opening two years ago, Domino Park to the south of the River Ring site has also brought tremendous diversity to the Williamsburg waterfront. Two Trees hired multilingual local staff and worked hand in hand with the local community to listen to priorities and create an inclusive public space that would be used by all of the different communities that live in the immediate area.
Similar to our outreach work and programmatic engagement at Domino, Two Trees will from Day 1 strategically partner with area institutions, including the Community Board, schools and local non-profits to draw a diverse mix of area residents to the new River Ring park. It is a top priority to ensure that the new River Ring park will reflect the incredible mix of Community Board 1 residents.
How will Two Trees ensure that the public space at River Ring is truly inclusive and open to everyone?
Pre-construction: During the pre-construction phase, Two Trees intends to select a community organization as an interim user with the goal of creatively activating a portion of the waterfront site for a period of at least one year and likely extending beyond that. This effort, which began in early 2020, has been delayed by COVID-19. Nevertheless, this new recreational open space on the East River will expand waterfront access and offer programming aimed at children and young adults starting hopefully in Fall 2020, pending further health advisories.There will continue to be a private parking and equipment storage facility on the remainder of the vacant site until construction commences.
● Places to gather such as the lawn, beach, amphitheater and water play area
● Places to have more passive and quiet moments such as the nature trails, wetland walk, overlooks, seating and picnic areas
● Rare and unique experiences in the city, such as the tidal classroom, bird hide and protected in-water uses
The park will be ADA-accessible and is expected to be managed by the same team that manages Domino Park, in partnership with NYC Parks, and be accessible to all year-round.
Neighborhood Integration: Working with Bjarke Ingels Group and James Corner Field Operations, Two Trees has taken steps to ensure that the River Ring master plan generates connections and nodes to the surrounding community and existing infrastructure. This includes:
● A grand, public entrance at the terminus of Metropolitan Avenue
● A connection to Grand Ferry Park to the south and another connection to the Waterfront Esplanade in front of 184 Kent Ave to the north, and expanded park access to Domino Park
● Filling the gap at River Ring which represents one of three obstacles from connecting a planned string of waterfront parks that will run from the Williamsburg Bridge to Newtown Creek
● Commitments for the residential buildings to have a public-facing ground plane, with community and park-oriented programs facing the waterfront and neighborhood oriented-retail facing the streets
What is the plan for reducing the impact of construction on neighbors?
For all of our projects, past and present, Two Trees serves as its own general contractor and construction manager, giving us increased command of its workforce relative to other large builders. This is an advantage in reducing construction impacts because Two Trees has responsibility and accountability for the conditions at the site, site safety and the quality of the finished product. Because we manage our own construction, we build efficiently and on schedule. At Domino, Two Trees has worked hard in collaboration with local leaders and the Department of Buildings to minimize traffic and overall disruption, and will continue to apply best practices to our operations at River Ring as well.
Has two trees studied the potential impacts on neighborhood traffic from the proposed development?
As part of the required environmental impact review for the proposed project, Two Trees will conduct a traffic analysis and impact study for the proposed development. Preliminary studies show that an as-of-right, manufacturing use on the property (consisting of a last-mile delivery facility with retail, office and parking) would create significantly higher vehicular traffic than the proposed residential development. In fact, initial projections show that vehicular trips for Two Trees’ proposed plan are 40 percent lower than the estimated trips for the as-of-right option. The proposed residential plan would generate less truck, auto and taxi trips than an as-of-right plan under existing zoning.
Two Trees is also committed to creating a Working Group that meets regularly with neighbors, the DOT and local elected officials on solutions to long-standing traffic issues along River Ring and Kent Avenue. As long-term owners, we often share interests with neighboring buildings and residents on quality of life issues, including traffic.
As part of the required environmental impact review for the proposed project, Two Trees will also study impact on air quality. Due to the lower number of vehicular trips generated under the mostly residential River Ring proposal, impacts on air quality associated with additional traffic would be far less under the proposed plan.
Has the development considered any renewable energy alternatives?
New York City has one of the oldest legacy power networks in the country. It also has a citywide goal of shifting to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Two Trees is committed to leading the renewable transformation in Brooklyn by installing a first-of-its-kind microgrid that will supply the neighborhood electrical grid with power during peak times. It will also supply the project with peak electrical demand. Located above the 500-year floodplain, it can meet onsite energy demand and provide excess power to local Con Edison infrastructure. Microgrid is a technology that harnesses energy from solar, natural gas or biogas to produce and store energy through advanced battery storage.
Can the existing sewer system manage the capacity of this proposed development?
River Ring is inspired in many ways by its proximity to the water and responsible wastewater management is integrated into the overall design. Following our initiatives at Domino, River Ring will apply to be part of the innovative DEP District Water Reuse Pilot Program. This wastewater reuse system includes an onsite wastewater treatment plant that will treat all of waste generated by the development and reuse it onsite for non-potable demands such as toilets, cooling and irrigation. This system makes efficient use of the municipal supply of water and eliminates all discharge to the combined sewage network.
Two Trees is also in the process of voluntarily implementing a wastewater reuse system for buildings at Domino.
How does the flood zone impact the proposed development?
The River Ring plan is a bold, innovative model of urban resiliency that works with nature-based solutions to mitigate issues that affect traditional waterfront construction, such as flooding or power outages. The first of its kind in New York City, the plan will institute a series of groundbreaking measures to reduce the risk of flooding not just for the new buildings but also more than 500 upland properties in the surrounding neighborhood. The hope is that the project can set a new precedent for resilient and interactive waterfront residential construction in New York and beyond.
The primary measure to reduce risk of flooding is the construction of three large, in-water breakwaters that absorb wave action and slow the velocity of flooding during storm events. The creation of a softened shoreline, as opposed to a typical, hard bulkhead, including wetlands, salt marsh and the use of sponge-like plantings and materials, will further reduce wave action, mitigate flood damage and stabilize soils during storm surge. The plan also includes a new tidal basin capable of holding four million gallons of water that is designed to flood, mitigating damage from receding waters.
Moreover, the proposed salt marshes will trap nutrients and sediment, building organic matter to form peat so they will be able to grow and keep pace with the rising sea levels. All building mechanicals will be located on the second floor and above the 500-year floodplain. In the event of a local power outage, River Ring microgrid and energy stored in batteries will be able to supply power to the onsite buildings and potentially neighboring properties.
Will the public be able to swim in the water—aren’t there existing CSO’s nearby?
The East River was once a pristine estuary that was home to a wide variety of wildlife and was clean for wading, swimming and other in-water uses. It has not been considered a place for swimming due to pollution from waterfront industries as well as lack of safe public access, but both of these factors have been trending in the right direction over the last few decades. In fact, under current conditions, many places along the East River have water quality that is generally “swimmable,” as defined by the Department of Health standards for beaches, except during and within 48 hours of heavy rainfall. Two Trees participates in the Citizens' Water Quality Testing Program to understand the existing conditions at the proposed beach and, even without pursuing a CSO relocation, the location is comparable to other beaches along the East River:
For context, the percentage of testing days that water is “acceptable” for swimming per NYC DOH Standards:
● Pier 4 Beach in Brooklyn Bridge Park: 89 percent
● River Ring “Proposed Beach”: 78 percent
● Bushwick Inlet Beach: 73 percent
● Dumbo Cover Beach: 67 percent
● Hunters Point 2nd Street Kayak Launch: 53 percent
The proposed redevelopment will improve conditions exponentially through the following measures:
● Proposed outfall will be north of a landfill peninsula which redirects CSO flow away from the cove.
● In conjunction with reconstruction, outfall infrastructure will be upgraded.
● All stormwater and wastewater on the River Ring sites will be treated onsite.
● Water quality mitigation measures will be installed both at the new outfall and the proposed beach (wetlands, salt marshes, reefs, etc.).
River Ring beach will not officially be a swimming beach. The hope is that as the water quality continues to rise, it will soon become one. Once the site is complete, onsite signage, online notifications and potential public art installations can notify people about water quality conditions.
How does Two Trees plan to ensure and support the cleanup of local waterbodies?
The River Ring park will restore native intertidal and subtidal habitats that once made the East River a healthy ecosystem by reintroducing a number of built and natural design features, including upland and coastal scrub-shrub, freshwater wetland, salt marsh and tidal pools, offshore shallows, reef balls, oyster cages and eelgrass planting. In addition to sustaining habitat, these nature-based features are proven to improve water quality.
Two Trees will also extend its partnership with the Billion Oyster Project to and Brooklyn Boat Works to create a curriculum around water quality and boat building that can be taught to local schools. Over the long term, giving many more people waterfront access and inviting them to engage and interact directly with the river will increase awareness of water quality issues and could lead to political and infrastructure solutions for further cleanup.
How have community concerns informed the design of the waterfront park? Will the community have any input on how the park is managed?
Two Trees and the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations hosted a series of proactive and informative pre-design visioning sessions with the community about the park over the summer of 2019. The design is a direct reflection of input gathered at these meetings, including the desire for the park to:
● Be a model for resiliency;
● Engage the river, provide waterfront access and promote water dependent uses;
● Create a more natural environment, including a soft edge and places for respite in contrast to.
Domino Park, which is more urban; and
● Provide an educational environment that supports youth-based activities for nature and estuary education.
The concept for the Master Plan is also highly informed by the community’s 197a plan. An iterative design process will continue until community concerns have been heard and hopefully addressed. At Domino Park, a community programming committee with appointees from local Community Board 1 as well as local elected officials meets several times a year to ensure there is appropriate community input. Two Trees is committed to a similar arrangement at the River Ring park and is open to other ideas as well that will provide ongoing engagement with the community.
What is the size of the public park?
The waterfront open space includes a 2.9 acre public park (over four times what is required under the proposed rezoning) with an additional 2.3 acres of protected and accessible in-river space and nearly one acre of intertidal habitat, for a total of 267,840 square feet, or roughly 6.1 acres.
How does the size of the proposed development compare with surrounding buildings? Can the size or height be reduced?
River Ring is designed to be consistent with the R8 residential zoning that dictates the waterfront development north and south of the site while maximizing public open space and protecting views. In general, accommodating this zoning requires one of two approaches: either a tall and thin building on a compressed footprint (like at Domino) which maximizes open space and the ground level public realm or shorter and fatter (like the buildings north of the site), which results in a more traditional waterfront esplanade on a bulkhead. In an effort to create this unprecedented waterfront park, we’ve chosen to compress the buildings into slender towers that quickly taper to the dimensions of 70 feet wide by 150 feet long. The base of the building is slightly wider to support neighborhood-level retail and the YMCA. As designed, the buildings are at least 60 feet from any other building and take up less than 15 percent of the total lot area to maximize the public park. While traditional waterfront zoning requirements would mandate that only 0.7 acres of the lot be dedicated to the waterfront esplanade and open space (as exists along the waterfront north of the site), we are proposing to create three acres of park and another three acres of newly created accessible in-water recreation areas.
As noted, the proposed density is consistent with the waterfront zoning north and south of the site. In fact, when you consider the private streets and roads at Domino and the northside projects that generated floor area for those developments, this project is effectively less dense than what exists to the north and south. Making the project smaller would inhibit our ability to deliver 250 low-income housing units and the $100M+ investment in the new park and its resiliency measures.
What would this space become if rezoning is not approved?
The as-of-right scenario for the site would likely produce a last-mile delivery facility with additional office space, large format retail and up to 1,600 parking spaces. The site layout would allow for a bulky 15-story building that would block all pedestrian views of the river. There would be no required waterfront esplanade, no park or open space and no affordable housing.
While there is some flexibility in the possible as-of-right use, in most cases the environmental impact from traffic, noise, air quality and open space would decrease the quality of life for the surrounding buildings and the neighborhood, and leave the immediate area vulnerable to future storm events.
Is the YMCA committed to this project? If so, what will happen to the Greenpoint Location?
Two Trees has an agreement with the YMCA to build a state-of-the-art, custom-designed, 50,000 square foot facility at River Ring that will serve community residents. Two Trees has been working with the Y for several months to design the facility to their specifications and it will include a swimming pool, indoor running track and gymnasium. The Y has been looking for an opportunity to expand its capacity to serve the Greenpoint and Williamsburg communities for decades. The Y has told us it is committed to maintaining their presence in Greenpoint and their plans for the Greenpoint Y are not contingent on the new Y at River Ring.
How many jobs would be generated if the site is rezoned? How many jobs would be generated by the site remaining commercial use?
The existing zoning of the site is M1-3, a manufacturing zone that allows for some commercial and retail uses. Most of the waterfront sites in Williamsburg and Greenpoint were rezoned in 2005 to allow for residential uses. Two of the sites that were left out of that zoning were the Domino Sugar site, which was an active sugar refinery until 2006, and the Con Edison site at River Ring, which was an active utility site and a transformer station until 2012. The Domino site was rezoned in 2008 and again in 2014. The Con Edison site is one of the last remaining manufacturing sites on the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront.
Today, the highest and best use for manufacturing sites in Brooklyn and Queens that are proximate to residential areas and a good highway network, including the River Ring site, is for last-mile delivery facilities, such as the ones that have recently sprung up in Red Hook. These facilities are known for low-wage jobs and low job density. While the City has been able to sustain some level of manufacturing in updated formerly industrial buildings, new construction is prohibitively expensive and has only occurred with massive public subsidy, such as at the City-owned Brooklyn Navy Yard. At River Ring, Two Trees is proposing a change of zoning use from manufacturing to residential. The proposed change is in line with a number of community priorities, including generating additional housing, affordable housing and public open space.
The project will generate significantly more jobs than a last-mile delivery facility, including several hundred well-paying construction jobs, as well as dozens of well-paying permanent jobs as building service workers, park employees, YMCA and community facility employees and neighborhood retail employees.
At Domino, Two Trees has worked closely with St. Nicks Alliance to provide training and construction job opportunities, and has placed more than 200 workers from the extended local community in well-paying jobs. Two Trees would be open to a similar arrangement for River Ring for construction and park jobs as well as retail and community facility jobs. According to an analysis of the proposed project costs, the number of onsite jobs would be approximately 2,050 direct construction jobs (i.e., 2,050 full-time person years of employment over the duration of the construction project). The project is also anticipated to generate an additional 1,100 indirect jobs related to construction of the proposed project.
How can the community be assured that commitments and promises made by Two Trees will be fulfilled?
All of the open space features and the overall site plan will be written into the land use approvals and any space designated for community facility uses will only be able to be used for exactly that. So will the obligations to provide public access and maintain the open space and to provide the affordable housing. And Two Trees will commit to building the park in conjunction with the first building, so that the park will be open to the public before we begin on the second tower.
Beyond that, Two Trees has an established track record of delivering on its promises to the community, at Domino, in Dumbo and beyond. As long-term owners with a large local footprint, our incentives are aligned with the community on creating high-quality developments that deliver significant public benefits. For example, at River Ring, we are committed to building the entire park in tandem with one of the towers. We are willing to make firm commitments on the park, affordable housing, infrastructure and sustainability measures through the rezoning process, ensuring that the project we are presenting now is the project that gets built.