City starts clock on Two Trees’ massive River Ring project

City Planning Commission to certify ULURP application

Two Trees CEO Jed Walentas and renderings of River Ring (Hey BK, River Ring)
Two Trees CEO Jed Walentas and renderings of River Ring (Hey BK, River Ring)

Two Trees Management’s application for its massive River Ring project is ready to take the plunge.

The developer’s bid to rezone the Williamsburg waterfront for its 1,000-apartment complex will begin the city’s land-use review process Monday.

Certification of Two Trees’ application for its futuristic-looking, dual-tower development is on the draft agenda for the City Planning Commission’s Aug. 16 meeting.

That will start the seven-month review process that winds its way from the local community board up through the City Council — a process that will either make or break the ambitious project.

Two Trees’ Jed Walentas said his company has worked with the Williamsburg community for two years on the proposal.

“We heard loud and clear that our neighbors want to maximize affordable housing and open space on this underutilized site, and we have designed River Ring to do both, just as we did at Domino,” he said, referring to the company’s other megaproject a few blocks south.

“As New York’s housing crisis grows and the impacts of climate change are felt around the world, we are eager to move this process forward and deliver River Ring as quickly as possible.”

Two Trees’ plans for the site — a former Con Edison storage lot north of the Williamsburg Bridge — include a pair of rental towers with 1,050 housing units, a public beach, tide pools, a park, a YMCA with an Olympic-sized pool, an onsite wastewater treatment plant and a microgrid energy system along the East River.

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The plan calls for about 300 of the project’s units to be set aside as income-restricted rentals, although the City Council member next year, who is expected to be Lincoln Restler, will undoubtedly request more affordability, assuming he negotiates at all. Restler declined to comment.

The proposal has already met opposition from Williamsburg locals who argue it would further gentrification in the neighborhood and overtax an already-stressed infrastructure. Two Trees said earlier this year that if it can’t get approval for the project, it would sell the site, most likely to an investor who would build a logistics center for deliveries.

Two Trees had originally hoped to start the review no later than May, which would have gotten it through the process by the end of the year — meaning it would be decided by City Council member Steven Levin, a known entity, whose term ends Dec. 31.

But the pandemic slowed Two Trees’ planning and applications piled up this year at the Department of City Planning, delaying certification of the River Ring bid. That means it will come down to a City Council vote in approximately March, hinging on Restler’s support.

Reslter is a progressive who won the June 22 Democratic primary for the seat Levin must vacate.

Two Trees knows all too well the complications of letting a big project spill over to a new decision maker. In 2014, the developer had a rough time with its gargantuan Domino Sugar complex just a few blocks south when newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded more affordability than Two Trees expected. Eventually they worked out a compromise.