River Ring proposal gets overwhelming community support at Brooklyn BP hearing
The ambitious River Ring project cleared another hurdle Monday in its bid to build new mixed-income housing and a waterfront park in Williamsburg.
The Brooklyn Borough President’s office held a nearly 3-hour virtual public hearing on the proposal, the most recent step in the land use process to rezone a vacant industrial waterfront lot. Developer Two Trees Management has proposed to build new housing, including 263 affordable apartments, new open green space, and a new YMCA facility as a part of the River Ring project.
Thirty-four of the 41 participants at Monday’s hearing called on outgoing Borough President and Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams to endorse the proposal. BP Adams’ office will likely share its recommendations to the City Planning Commission ahead of the agency’s public hearing on River Ring scheduled for October 6.
The BP’s hearing followed a Community Board 1 meeting two weeks earlier. Members voted 20 to 15 in support of the project with a series of conditions for Two Trees. Those conditions included slashing River Ring’s size by a third, increasing the number of deeply affordable units, and renting the affordable units from a neighboring building by the developer that remained unoccupied.
Two Trees Principal Bonnie Campbell told representatives from the BP’s office that the company was already addressing most of the issues raised by the community board in their conditions. Among them, Two Trees says it reached an agreement with the City of New York to fill affordable units at the nearby One South First apartments that were in limbo following the state’s rent law reforms.
To help keep its promise on the levels of affordability, Campbell said Two Trees will privately subsidize low-income units not required by the new Affordable New York program and expects to launch the housing lottery in the next six to eight weeks, with priority given to applicants from within Community Board 1.
The news was welcomed by some testifying at Monday’s hearing. Yaritza Ramirez testified that she is a lifelong Williamsburg resident looking for long-term affordable housing for her and her family.
“I have two kids — I’m currently looking for an apartment, and it’s been so hard,” Ramirez said. “You can’t really find anything affordable, so I fully support this new project.”
Testimony from environmentally conscious advocates, including the Waterfront Alliance and the Billion Oyster Project, reinforced River Ring’s sustainability efforts, including restored salt marshes and wetlands as natural barriers to storm surges and flooding. Likewise, labor representatives from 32BJ and the NYC Council of Carpenters vouched for Two Trees’ commitment to new, well-paying jobs both in the long and short term.
A handful of residents continued to levy criticism of the project largely centered around what some argued was the lack of comprehensive city planning related to rezonings. Opponents repeated a call for an overall reduction of the proposed 1,050 total new homes by a third, which Two Trees’ Campbell explained was the only condition from the community board that the company would not be able to realistically comply with as it would “render the project unfeasible” and hamper its ability to follow through with its other commitments.
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