During the deep midwinter many dream of sunnier days. Here’s a dream that may become a nearby reality: a new park and public beach could be coming to the East River waterfront! Last month, Two Trees Management unveiled plans for River Street, a groundbreaking mixed-use development anchored by an unprecedented and resilient waterfront park on the former Con Edison site at River Street and Metropolitan Avenue.
A major new feature of the proposed development is construction of a new beach providing public access to the riverfront for the first time in generations. The River Street Waterfront master plan, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and James Corner Field Operations, enhances the connectivity of the public waterfront, reinstates natural habitats, elevates the standard for urban waterfront resiliency, and transforms the way New Yorkers interact with the East River. In total, the River Street Plan will create 2.9 acres of public open space and another 3.0 acres of protected in-water access. Zoning regulations only requires 0.7 acres to be provided. This means more than eight acres above the required amount of accessible waterfront public space along the East River waterfront in Williamsburg will be provided by Two Trees when combined with its neighboring Domino Park, part of its redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory site.
“Will transform New Yorkers’ relationship with the water through wading, boating, and other waterfront activities.”
Jed Walentas, Principal of Two Trees Management.
The River Street project’s public and community space have been tailored through direct community input gathered during the summer of 2019, which will introduce a first-of-its-kind protected public beach and in-water areas for aquatic activities including boating, fishing, tide pool exploration, and potentially swimming in the future. The River Street project will close the gap between Grand Ferry Park and the North 5th Pier, thus connecting a stretch of continuous waterfront public space along the North Brooklyn Waterfront from South Williamsburg to Greenpoint.
“Elevating the standard for coastal resiliency in the region, the River Street plan is a breakthrough in urban, resilient development which honors Two Trees’ commitment to cultivating dynamic, community-centered neighborhoods,” said Jed Walentas, Principal of Two Trees Management. “In the wake of Sandy, this project will mitigate the potential impact from future storms while transforming New Yorkers’ relationship with the water through wading, boating, and other waterfront activities.”
“The River Street project sets a new standard for resiliency in development projects, addressing both flood risk impacts and increased waterfront access. We need to see more of this kind of innovation and forward-thinking along our urban coastlines,” stated Tom Wright, President and CEO of the Regional Plan Association.
The plan includes 1,000 units of housing of which 250 or 25% will be below-market rate (made available to applicants with low Area Medium Incomes). This set aside of affordable inclusionary housing will help address access for low- and moderate-income residents.
In addition to the public space and environmental elements, this site will feature a pair of striking, gently sloping, mixed-income residential buildings. The plan includes 1,000 units of housing of which 250 or 25% will be below-market rate (made available to applicants with low Area Medium Incomes). This set aside of affordable inclusionary housing will help address access for low- and moderate-income residents. The residential towers are oriented to limit view obstruction from the neighborhood and maximize the Metropolitan Avenue view corridor. Blending the towers with the landscape softens the relationship between building and park, forming a gateway that welcomes the community to the water.
Another community-friendly enhancement will come about via Two Trees’ partnership with the YMCA that will yield a new 47,000-square-foot community recreational facility. This new YMCA plans to feature a waterfront aquatic center that will offer subsidized swim lessons for community youth in need.
Retail space and office space (of about 30,000 square feet and 57,000 square feet respectively) will also be available.
The soon-to-be developed site’s past purpose was for Con Edison fuel oil storage. The above ground fuel oil storage tanks were removed when the terminal was decommissioned. Two Trees recently purchased the 3.5 acre site for $150 million from Con Edison at auction.
Two Trees’ development of the former Domino Sugar Factory site established a record of collaborative long-term planning processes that prioritize cutting-edge design and architecture, community input, sustainability, waterfront connectivity, and deliver on its promises to the community. In a partnership with local community organization, St. Nicks Alliance, Two Trees supported the organization’s entry-level training of over 100 construction workers and placed 77 graduates in living wage construction jobs at the former Domino Sugar factory site. Furthermore Two Trees raised the starting wage for entry-level construction workers to $20/hour —a first for the construction industry. In addition graduates of St. Nicks Alliance’s Greenscaping training were employed by Domino Park, which has welcomed over 2 million visitors since its opening in June 2018. Two Trees remains committed to continue the construction training/employment partnership with St. Nicks Alliance on the River Street project.