bjarke ingels group + field operations draw up river street masterplan for NYC waterfront

bjarke ingels group + field operations draw up river street masterplan for NYC waterfront

bjarke ingels group (BIG) and james corner field operations have teamed up to masterplan a stretch of land along the new york waterfront. located in williamsburg, on the east river, neighboring the domino sugar factory site, the mixed-use ‘river street waterfront masterplan’ comprises a pair of residential towers anchored by a park that includes a public beach and in-water infrastructure designed to increase resilience. the project also includes below-market housing and a dedicated YMCA community space.

river street masterplan
all images © james corner field operations and BIG-bjarke ingels group, courtesy of two trees management



unveiled by two trees management, a new york-based real estate development firm, the masterplan seeks to enhance the connectivity of the public waterfront, reinstate natural habitats, elevate the standard for urban waterfront resiliency, and transform the way new yorkers interact with the river. in total, the plan will create 2.9 acres of public open space and another 3 acres of protected in-water access, including natural habitat — far beyond the 0.7 acres required under zoning regulations.

river street masterplan



the project is designed around six acres of open space designed by field operations (including three acres of protected water for aquatic uses) and ecological infrastructure that will increase resilience for the site and surrounding area. the project’s public and community spaces will introduce a first-of-its-kind protected public beach and in-water areas for new yorkers to enjoy an array of aquatic activities including boating, fishing, tide pool exploration and potentially in the future: swimming.

river street masterplan



the two BIG-designed towers will include: 1,000 units of housing, 250 of which will be below-market rate; a 47,000-square-foot YMCA; 30,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space; and 57,000 square feet for office space. the YMCA will feature a waterfront aquatic center that will offer subsidized swim lessons for the local community. the residential towers are oriented to limit view obstruction from the neighborhood and maximize the metropolitan avenue view corridor.

river street masterplan



‘our proposal closes one of the last remaining gaps in the continuous transformation of the williamsburg waterfront into a post-industrial natural habitat,’ says bjarke ingels, BIG’s founding partner & creative director. ‘rather than stopping at the hard edge of the old dock, metropolitan avenue is split into a pedestrian loop extending all the way into the river, connecting the dots of the concrete caissons to form an urban archipelago of recreative islands while protecting a beach and body of water for water sports and wetlands. the radical transformation of copenhagen’s port into a swimmable extension of the public space that we helped pioneer two decades ago, now seems to be knocking at the door in williamsburg and the entire east river. the river loop will be the first of many invitations for new yorkers to dip their toes in the water.’



instead of building walls and hard surfaces that accelerate storm surge and push it to adjacent riverfronts, the masterplan seeks to embrace the river. waterfront infrastructure and open space will feature berms, breakwaters, marshes and wetlands designed to increase resilience by taking the energy out of storm surges, reducing flooding, providing more room to absorb water and slow down its retreat, reducing erosion risk, and better protecting the local waterfront in the face of habitat loss and climate change. the plan also includes a new tidal basin capable of holding four million gallons of water that is designed to flood, mitigating damage from receding waters.



additionally, the development expands the shoreline with various wave breaks, attenuating the impacts from severe storms, sustaining intertidal habitat and creating calmer waters to promote in-water access and nurture habitat. the new waterfront park will enable the restoration of salt marshes, wetlands, oyster beds and tidal flats, enriching wildlife and habitat while creating protected areas that will enable more in-water engagement and recreational uses and provide ecological education to the community.



the waterfront park features a circular esplanade extending into the east river, as well as an amphitheater, a sandy beach, tidal pools, salt marsh, and a fishing pier. a boating cove at north 1st street includes a beach for boat access surrounded by wetlands and is adjacent to a series of community kiosks and a children’s natural play area. the community kiosks, totaling approximately 5,000 square feet, will be made available to local community partners through a request-for-proposal process. potential users include kayak rental, educational partners, artist installations and other waterfront related uses.



‘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,’ says jed walentas, principal of two trees management — who also developed the former domino sugar factory site. ‘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. building off domino park’s success, this project delivers another privately-funded, world-class public space far larger than is required by zoning regulations and offers comprehensive community benefits to the east river waterfront.’



project info:


name: river street waterfront masterplan
location: williamsburg, brooklyn, NY
developer: two trees management
design: james corner field operations and BIG-bjarke ingels group

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