Real Estate

Ginormous NYC complex wins greenlight

It was a big week for future projects as developers won City Council approval over NIMBY objections.

In a blowout reminiscent of the Chicago Bears’ 73-0 slaughter of the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL title game, Council members voted 48-0 to pass rezoning for a $1 billion Williamsburg, Brooklyn, waterfront complex with thousands of new apartments. Developer Two Trees Management expects to start building by 2024.

The Council also gave green lights to highly controversial Soho and Noho rezonings to allow large-scale residential construction and plans for a mammoth mixed-use tower to replace the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42d Street.

“The tide is turning against NIMBY-ism,” Two Trees managing director for external affairs David Lombino said of the phenomenon. He predicted, “You’ll see more of it under [incoming mayor] Eric Adams.”

The centerpiece of the 3.5-acre Williamsburg site called River Ring, is a pair of sloping apartment towers rising to 710 and 560 feet designed by BIG, the architectural firm headed by Bjarke Ingels. Some 263 of a total 1,050 units will be “permanently affordable” and have the same design and amenities as market-rate units.

The plan also calls for Two Trees to pay for and operate water-based recreation and programs on three adjoining acres, including  kayaking, marine ecology studies and an accessible beach on the East River. There will also be a new, 50,000-square-foot YMCA facility and a $100 million investment in resiliency infrastructure.

An aerial shot of Brooklyn shows how the River Ring would fit in
In a major win for the developer, River Ring will rise in Brooklyn.
Max Touhey |

River Ring, a former industrial site, is immediately north of Two Trees’ Domino development, which also has waterfront access. The two adjacent projects will eventually provide continuous waterfront access site to extend from South Williamsburg to Greenpoint.

But how did the project receive unanimous backing from the often development-averse Council? We reported in January 2020 that politically connected residents of Northside Piers towers, just north of River Ring, fiercely opposed the plan over “density” and its supposed negative effect on the waterfront. They warned of “horrible” conditions such as “broken bottles and  people drinking.”

An artist's rendering shows the outdoor recreational area that would include water sports and educational opportunities.
The project will bring outdoor recreation and ecosystem education.
Max Touhey |

But the resistance seemed more to do with blocking views of wealthy New Yorkers from their Northside Piers apartments.

Lombino credited support from former Brooklyn Borough President Adams and Council member Steven Levin, “who was extraordinarily helpful in the face of some local opposition.”

Lombino added, “We’re seeing widespread awareness that there’s a desperate need for new housing, and it sometimes needs to go into wealthy neighborhoods.”

The MTA as we know it could face the end of the line if Gov. Kathy Hochul were to impose another statewide lockdown to slow the fast-spreading  virus.

We wrote in these pages on Friday that a months-long lockdown like the one that turned the Big Apple into a “ghost town” in 2020 could finish off industries for good that gamely crawled back to life earlier this year —  including real estate, media, retail, hotels, Broadway and restaurants.

Governor Kathy Hochul speaks at a podium
New York Governor Kathy Hochul will decide whether a second lockdown takes place and how strict the rules will be.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

But  public agencies would also be at risk, none more than the indispensable MTA.

The agency — a linchpin of the entire northeast economy — wouldn’t comment on what effect a shutdown might have. But a glance at known facts reveals a frightening picture.

The subways and rail and bus lines run by the MTA lost over $200 million a week during the worst of the pandemic — accelerating an already grave fiscal threat to the agency, which faced a $2 billion structural deficit.

Subway ridership fell to 10 percent of pre-Covid and the LIRR and MetroNorth to 5 percent. The services have since partly rebounded — for example the subways to 55 percent to 58 percent of pre-Covid as of November. But full recovery might be years away.

To avert short-term disaster, the federal government stabilized the MTA with $14 billion in emergency funds through 2025.

An MTA bus with a Masks Required sign
A sign on a Manhattan bus makes clear the reality of the easily spread Omicron variant.
Getty Images

But a second shutdown similar in length to last year’s would bring the fiscal cliff up much sooner. Who’d use subways, buses or trains if  everything is closed again?

To avoid default or catastrophic service cuts, the MTA would need to race through much of the federal funds in the next year or two. It would then need more aid from Washington — if lawmakers could even be persuaded to cough up more dough.

Let’s pray  it doesn’t come to that.

Nationwide firm AMA Consulting Engineers PC, signed a five-year lease for 30,756 square feet at  825 Eighth Ave., aka Worldwide Plaza.

The pyramid-crowned, 49-story tower is owned by a joint venture of SL Green, RXR Realty and NYRT.

The asking rent was $70 per square foot. The 2-million-square-foot tower is 95 percent leased.

SL Green leasing director Steven Durels said that AMA Consulting was drawn to Worldwide Plaza’s “unique campus” with multiple dining and fitness opportunities, access to a large outdoor plaza and an on-site subway station.

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