Williamsburg’s cove-side towers are still moving, get a redesign

Just Beachy

Williamsburg’s cove-side towers are still moving, get a redesign

An updated aerial rendering of the River Ring master plan next to the Domino Sugar Factory and Williamsburg Bridge (BIG/JCFO/Courtesy Two Trees Management)

Developer and property management company Two Trees Management is moving ahead with its plans for a pair of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and James Corner Field Operations-designed towers and attached cove at the edge of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but the project has gone through a revamp since its initial unveiling at the end of 2019.

Now called River Ring, Two Trees is, according to Brooklyn Paper, attempting to shepherd the massive project through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and get permission to break ground before the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s final term in office later this year. Although no official timeline was announced when AN first reported on the project, Two Trees was banking on the development-friendly city council and mayor when it aimed to start construction “sometime in the next two years” and open the project five years after that. If River Ring can make it through the seven-month ULURP before the end of 2021, it looks like the original estimate may still hold true.

Two Trees had been meeting privately with residents before the official unveiling in December 2019 and had been hosting public information sessions in January of 2020 to get community feedback and build support, but put that outreach on hold due to COVID.

Exterior rendering of two towers at the east river, twisting at the base
The exterior columns of each tower now stretch and bend to create public arcades. The massing of each tower twists to preserve views of the waterfront (BIG/JCFO/Courtesy Two Trees Management)

The project has undergone something of a rebalancing in the year since. When first announced, the scheme would have seen two towers, one 600 feet tall and the other 650 feet tall, punctuate the end of Metropolitan Avenue and form a sort of gateway to the East River with their sculptural forms. Now, the design team has rebalanced the heights of the building, increasing the height of the more slender, southern tower to 710 feet tall, while bringing the boxier tower to the north to a height of “only” 560 feet. Both mixed-use buildings will still slope to gradually meet the new ring-shaped cove, marshlands, nature trails, boat launches, and beaches extending onto the existing concrete caissons in the East River.

What won’t change is the number of housing units. Two Trees is planning for both towers to share a total of 1,050 apartments, with 263 set aside as permanently affordable. A new YMCA, ground-level retail and kiosks, and office space is also on the docket. The nearly 6 acres of completely open-to-the-public green and community space is also being touted as a major amenity for the neighborhood. The 2.9 acres of public park (with two sandy beaches) will lead into Domino Park, also developed by Two Trees, to the south to create a comprehensive stretch of waterfront, while the trails in the river itself will provide another 3 acres of green space.

The team is also touting River Ring’s sustainability bona fides: The proposal calls for an on-site microgrid to not only ease strain on the current Con Edison grid but to provide power for neighboring buildings, and wastewater capture and recycling. The additional waterfront parks, inlets, and beaches, according to Two Trees, are expected to act as a storm buffer and could protect over 500 properties further inland in the event of a flood.

Outdoor rendering of a cove-enclosed beach
Outdoor kiosks will join the beach and more nature-inclined portions of the landscape (BIG/JCFO/Courtesy Two Trees Management)

Of course, as Brooklyn Paper pointed out, the community isn’t 100 percent on board. The site, a former Con Edison electric plant, was one of the last manufacturing-zoned bastions in the area (hence the need for a ULURP and rezoning). And, although the southernmost tower is only a stone’s throw from COOKFOX’s 42-story One South First, residents are still worried about both the project’s monumental impact on the skyline and the addition of nearly 800 market-rate units to a neighborhood that’s become synonymous with gentrification.

No date has been given for when the project’s ULURP application will be filed, though Brooklyn Paper reports that Two Trees has offered to share an update at the next Community Board 1 Land Use Committee meeting in April.