Community Board 1 approves transformative River Ring
Use of riverfront in creative eco-friendly amenities, affordable housing component
Community Board 1 met for 6 hours and 21 minutes on Tuesday for an evening full of hot mics and questions about voting instructions. The night ended with a 20-to-15 vote in support with conditions of the River Ring project to bring two towers of mixed-income housing, a YMCA and a waterfront park space to the East River.
Tuesday’s virtual meeting followed last week’s land use committee hearing for the North Brooklyn board. Members then were closely divided after a chaotic debate about alleged conflicts of interests and various conditions to gain leverage on the proposal.
On September 9, the committee members voted 11 to 9 against the proposal but with a series of conditions. Those recommendations directed at developer Two Trees Management urged for a redesign of the towers, a reduction of overall units, and increasing the number of affordable apartments.
By midnight Tuesday, questions persisted between members about what exactly they were voting in favor or against. When some board members moved to accept the committee’s recommendation to disapprove River Ring with conditions, but the motion failed 15 to 20 with one abstention.
“I am so confused,” one member said after the first vote before asking for further clarification.
A second vote took place a few minutes later, this time in favor of River Ring with conditions. The vote count flipped. Those final recommendations to the board now go to both Borough President Eric Adams and the City Planning Commission.
The borough president’s office will host a public hearing on Sept. 27, inviting community members another opportunity to testify about River Ring.
Public input at Tuesday’s meeting was contentious, and some attendees complained about being skipped. Twitter user @willthomas_usa alleged that he and another attendee had registered to speak before the community board’s registration deadline “but were neither called nor allowed to speak.”
Board member Ryan Kuonen shared in the meeting’s public chat that she hoped that everyone who signed up would be allowed to speak. Kuonen wrote she didn’t understand how it was so disorganized, asking that any complaints be sent “to CB office & the Borough Presidents [sic] office who monitors if meetings are fair, being managed correctly etc.”
While some individuals might not have spoken, all attendees might have heard more than they anticipated. At various points in the night, stray commentary could be heard from unidentified participants attacking or mocking each other. When one supporter for the proposal testified in support of the River Ring proposal, he was met with a four-letter bomb on a hot mic.
When Paul Pullo, board chair of the Greenpoint YMCA, offered his support of the proposal on the grounds of more local jobs and affordable housing, a stray male voice suddenly called him a “clown” with an expletive and caused the virtual room to briefly go silent.
Another unknown panelist audibly laughed on the open line when a supporter of the River Ring project praised how local businesses along Domino Park — the neighboring park space Two Trees developed and operates — fared well during the pandemic.
Once the final vote in support of the proposal took place, the board promptly adjourned by 12:20 a.m. In a statement, a Two Trees representative thanked the board for their support following more than a year of conversations with its members.
“We appreciate the concerns expressed by the community board members and are eager to follow through on our commitment to maximize affordable housing, bring good jobs, and build much-needed resiliency measures to the Williamsburg waterfront,” said David Lombino, managing director at Two Trees.
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