This time of year, when the sum total of our daily exposure to daylight amounts to a bleak morning trundle to the nearest subway stop, it is perfectly normal—recommended, even—to find oneself conjuring a pleasant beach fantasy. Picture the cool blue water, lapping up against your sandy toes as you contemplate one more dip before retiring to the cabana for daiquiris. Close your eyes and, for a brief hallucinatory moment, be whisked away to Miami, Turks and Caicos, the southern coast of France.
Or maybe, if you entertain the sort of fever-ridden dreams had by one luxury real estate developer, you're perched alongside the East River, flanked by two sparkling new towers, marveling at the endless bounties of privately-funded public space.
Such is the oasis promised by Two Trees Management, which on Thursday unveiled its "first-of-its-kind" masterplan for Williamsburg's River Street waterfront. If the DUMBO developer gets its way, what was once a No. 6 fuel oil storage complex could soon become the No. 1 beach destination for bacteria-resistant New Yorkers.
According to a press release, the waterfront will be partially excavated, making way for a small beach and three acres of protected in-water access offering "an array of aquatic activities including boating, fishing, tide pool exploration and potentially in the future: swimming." What's that smell, you wonder? "That's East River, BABY!"
The pitch follows Two Trees' $150 million acquisition of three waterfront lots between Grand and North 3rd streets, previously owned by Con Edison. The developer, which is in the midst of a years-long transformation of the neighboring Domino Sugar Factory site, now plans to erect two new 600 foot sloping towers, featuring 1,000 residential units. A quarter of the apartments will be designated affordable as part of the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which also requires the development to provide some space to the public.
Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and James Corner Field Operations, the new park and conceptual swimming hole is also meant to provide resiliency protections through breakwaters, marshes, and wetlands. “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," said Two Trees Principal Jed Walentas.
Walentas did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether he'd take a dip in the river to prove it's safe.
Efforts to rid the East River of pollution have seen major gains in recent years, prompting calls for a swimmable public beach off Manhattan. But environmental experts say the lofty dream is made difficult by New York City's archaic combined storm water and sewage system, which has the unfortunate tendency of spilling millions of gallons of raw sewage into waterways after a storm.
See, just like Miami!