With an astounding 520 miles of waterfront, New York City has lots of shoreline — and lots of opportunity for flooding as sea levels rise.
That’s why today’s forward-thinking developers and designers are creating ambitious, sustainable waterfront projects that feature natural areas, flood breaks, sea walls, esplanades, parks and piers — measures that protect the city and its water views.
One of the most ambitious projects underway is the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project — a $500 million ring of resiliency proposed for the tip of Manhattan.
Part of the effort includes the already approved $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project that will raise waterfront esplanades, plant 2,000 trees and create flood berms, said Kai-Uwe Bergmann of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which designed the ring.
Most efforts to improve the city’s waterfront, however, are concentrated on the outer boroughs, where industry had long cut off residents from the coast.
In University Heights in The Bronx, Dynamic Star has tapped Dan Kaplan of CBRE to market a slice of its 2.5 million-square-foot, 14-acre Fordham Landing project, which has 3,000 feet of frontage along the Harlem River.
The portion for sale includes a plan for 560,000 square feet of apartments and 250,000 square feet of community facilities. It’s expected to trade for north of $80 million.
According to Brad Zackson, a partner in Dynamic Star, the area’s swimmable water makes it perfect for kayaking, fishing and a beach with soft edges that will aid in resiliency and shorebird habitats. To protect against storm surges, the esplanade will be raised by 14 feet.
In the Mott Haven area of the South Bronx, a bevy of rap stars — including LL Cool J, Nas and Grandmaster Flash — gathered in May to fête the groundbreaking of the $349 million Bronx Point project, which will house a 52,000-square-foot Universal Hip Hop Museum and 542 units of affordable housing adjacent to the 145th Street Bridge to Harlem.
Developed by Ron Moelis of L+M Development Partners and Type A Projects, the site will have water access and 2½ acres of parkland.
A few blocks south, Third at Bankside plans to open its first 450-unit rental building later this year. The $950 million project developed by Brookfield Properties straddles 4.3 acres on both sides of the Third Avenue Bridge. It will include 1,370 apartments with 30% affordable, and a 34,000-square-foot waterfront space designed by MPFP.
But the most ambitious waterfront towers are rising in Brooklyn.
Notably, Brookfield Properties and partner Park Tower are wrapping up construction on the eight-building, 5,500-unit Greenpoint Landing.
The project’s two luxury rental towers at 1 and 2 Blue Slip are offering deals, including a penthouse that rents for $12,000 a month. Three smaller buildings at 5 Blue Slip, 7 Bell Slip and 33 Eagle St. boast affordable rentals, with the latter having three outdoor garden rooms watered by an stormwater cleansing system.
Two additional towers just south of Newtown Barge Park are designed by architects at OMA to resemble puzzle pieces. The unique shapes will allow morning light to fill the new 1-acre esplanade designed by James Corner Field Operations (JCFO).
Finally, Site H at the northernmost tip of Greenpoint Landing will eventually have a 30-story, 400-unit building connected to the esplanade.
“In the future, we will see more and more residential on the waterfront,” predicted Brookfield’s Ali Esmaeilzadeh, senior vice president of development.
Early to the neighborhood’s waterfront, is the Greenpoint at 21 India St. — a 39-story tower with 95 condos and 287 rentals developed in 2017 by Mack Real Estate Group, Palin Enterprises and Urban Development Partners.
The adjacent 1 India St. parcel was sold last fall for $110.8 million to Lendlease and the Australian fund, Aware Super.
In a few years, the 3-acre site will be home to a net-zero carbon building with over 800 units — 30% to be affordable — set around a landscaped courtyard, according to Burch. Lendlease will also redevelop the current India Street Pier and ferry stop.
JCFO is designing 1 India’s landscaped esplanade to include a softscape with natural grasses plus places to linger such as large steps. Such integrated resiliency efforts will hold back the rising tides.
“People will be able to get down and touch the water,” Burch said.
Following the East River south to Williamsburg, a new 500,000-square-foot, 8-story project known as 25 Kent has a center courtyard, outdoor space on every floor and a roof deck. Designed by Gensler, tenants already include Kith and Amazon Music.
“We’re Williamsburg’s first ground up speculative office building in 72 years,” said Stu Little of the owners, Rubenstein Partners.
But Two Trees Management and BIG are behind some of the splashiest new designs to hit the water.
First River Ring — which is seeking approval with the city — is a massive mixed-use endeavor that would include two 710- and 560-foot towers and 1,050 rentals, of which 263 would be “deeply affordable,” said David Lombino, managing director with Two Trees.
A unique, circular park and walkway scheme that calms the waves would also protect 500 neighborhood structures from rising waters, storm surges and pounding wakes from the East River’s heavy marine traffic that are equivalent to a 100-year storm every day, explained consultant Shea Thorvaldsen CEO of TMS Waterfront, during a recent boat tour of the site.
“We are not just putting in a breakwater — it’s also a nature trail, helping to create a habitat for aquatic birds,” said Lisa Switkin, a principal at JCFO, which is working on outdoor designs at River Ring.
The site is currently being activated with an urban farm and apiary plus a mini-golf course that will open in July.
A small city park separates River Ring from Two Trees’ ongoing work on the 11-acre former Domino Sugar Refinery.
Here, the landmarked Refinery building at 292 Kent Ave. is being converted to an office building.
Already open are a 45-story rental building at 1 South First which COOKFOX designed as an upside down “L” that is supported by the 24-story office building at 10 Grand St.
Half of the 18, 6,000-square-foot, full-floor offices are taken, with asking rents $50 to $60 per foot.
To its south is Two Trees’ 325 Kent Ave., a 16-story donut-shaped rental building with rooftop barbeques.
South of the Williamsburg Bridge are three striking glass towers at 420 Kent Ave. These “cubes gone wild” were designed by Eran Chen’s ODA and developed by Spitzer Enterprises. They include 857 residential rentals along a 400-foot-long waterfront esplanade.
At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the dramatic 15-story, 675,000-square-foot office project at Dock 72 was developed by Boston Properties and Rudin Development.
It has planted outdoor decks, a gym with skyline views, cafes, open meeting areas and collaborative offices with lots of light.
The largest full floors are 53,054 square feet and half-floors run at 32,682 square feet, with asking rents from $55 to $64 per square foot.
On the north side of the Manhattan Bridge, ODA also designed a rehab of the industrial building at 10 Jay St. for developers Glacier Global Partners and Triangle Assets.
The western façade is now spectacular floor-to-ceiling shimmering glass.
Rent the Runway, a designer clothing service, signed an 83,000-square-foot office lease in April of 2019, but after the pandemic hit, it put its top floors and roof deck up for sublease.
Now that events are back on the calendar, the fashion folks will occupy the space, said its broker, Ira Schuman of Savills.
But one of the most visible changes to the Brooklyn waterfront can be seen in Dumbo, where a “Welcome” sign has replaced “Watchtower” on Panorama, which has 600,000 square feet of skybridge-connected offices, 40,000 square feet of retail, plus 55,000 square feet of landscaped terraces and outdoor event space.
Architechtural firm Gensler redesigned the former Jehovah Witness property for CIM Group and LIVWRK Holdings, and the grandfathered-in sign with its name will be a perk for a future anchor tenant.
Finally, in Sunset Park, Andrew Kimball, the CEO of Industry City, is activating under-utilized spaces at the 35-acre, 3 million-square-foot site along the waterfront.
West Elm’s photography and Maker’s Studios have joined what Kimball calls the “Brooklyn Design District” that now includes ABC Carpet & Home, Design Within Reach, Porcelanosa USA and Restoration Hardware.
As dilapidated old industrial sites are sold to developers, more amazing places and innovative spaces are yet to set anchor along the city’s shoreline and turn it into one long green ribbon.