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Full Board vote next on River Ring after chaotic committee meeting

September 10, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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An unruly virtual meeting of Community Board 1 ended with a close vote on the River Ring development proposal to build new homes and a park along the Williamsburg waterfront.

By a vote of 11 to 9, the North Brooklyn board’s land use committee narrowly voted to oppose the project unless a series of conditions are met. The final vote came about following confusion between committee members about what they were voting on and allegations of conflicts of interests.

The recommendations now go to the full Community Board on Sept. 14 for a vote. Borough President Eric Adams’ office will also host a hearing on Sept. 27 before providing his recommendation to the City Planning Commission.

Thursday’s discussion on the River Ring proposal from Two Trees Management followed a public meeting on Sept. 1 where community members and stakeholders shared testimony in support or opposition of the project. Some critics attacked Two Trees’ record and expressed concerns about an influx of potential new neighbors.

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Grassroots and labor organizations, including St. Nicks Alliance and the New York City District Council of Carpenters, turned out to encourage more affordable housing and job opportunities for Williamsburg’s residents from the predominately working-class and Latino Southside community.

At Thursday’s meeting, committee member Katie Naplatarski reiterated the importance of compromise.

“I feel there are people who do want this project because of the affordable housing [and] the park, and there are people who don’t want it for good reasons also,” she said. “Both of those have validity, and we need to make some kind of accommodations for both.”

Committee chair Del Teague reinforced testimony in opposition to the project and pointed to an online petition criticizing the proposal. Member Michael Andrews responded that the majority of the public testimony was not against River Ring.

“It was actually almost 2-to-1 in support,” Andrews said, adding that he was taken by the supportive testimony by local organizations including Los Sures, the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the North Brooklyn Development Corporation. “These are all people who I know in the neighborhood who have been important and involved. These are not people who are thoughtless or looking to make the neighborhood worse.”

By 9:30 p.m., however, committee members began to urge for a motion to vote following months of internal board discussion and at least two previous board meetings over the last year soliciting community feedback.

Members then began to accuse each other of being ineligible to vote or make motions due to conflicts of interests. One member supporting the proposal offered written clearance from the city’s Conflict of Interest Board in response to another member’s criticism. At least three board members who expressed opposition to the rezoning throughout the meeting, including committee chair Teague, have also been accused on social media of having conflicts of interest.

After more confusion and debate about the motion to oppose but with conditions versus yes with recommendations as leverage on the developer, the committee ultimately voted to oppose but with conditions. Among the suggested conditions are that Two Trees redesign the towers, reduce the number of units, and increase the number of affordable apartments.

In a statement to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a Two Trees representative said the company has already and will continue to adjust the proposal based on community feedback as it makes its way through the land use process.

“It’s clear that some members of the community want further input on how we can improve the project, and we will continue to have those conversations,” said David Lombino, a managing director at Two Trees. “We’ve also already heard the neighborhood’s demand for more affordable housing, resilient infrastructure, and well-paying local jobs, and we’re eager to deliver on those commitments with River Ring as we have with Domino.”

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