Skip to main content

Ketcham: Traffic/transit analysis so bad a Supplemental EIS needed

How bad would the traffic be? The Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) suggests it would be a challenge, but not unmanageable, by the time the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is issued.

Yes, 68 of 93 intersections analyzed would be “significantly adversely impacted,” according to DEIS Chapter 12, on traffic, but proposed traffic mitigations would take care of 29 of them, leaving 39 intersections with unmitigated impacts at certain hours by 2016. Moreover, “Additional measures to further address all unmitigated significant adverse traffic impacts will be explored between the DEIS and the FEIS.”

DEIS myopia

To transportation engineer Brian Ketcham of Community Consulting Services, that’s balderdash. “With Atlantic Yards, the entire Downtown Brooklyn area and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in 2016 will be at a standstill, radiating problems across the region,” he wrote in a recent unpublished letter to the New York Times. “It nearly is now and will be more so with completion of development in the pipeline by 2016, when Atlantic Yards is expected to be fully built.” (Ketcham has pointed out that the DEIS accounts for only about half of the planned development.)

Wrong model

Ketcham pointed out that the traffic model CCS used “graphically simulates the ripple effect throughout the area of delays of more than 10 minutes at intersections along major routes revealed in fine print in the DEIS.” Meanwhile, the intersections in the DEIS are examined “as if they were entirely unconnected.”

Many critics have pointed out that the state review ignores the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; Ketcham noted that the crowded BQE will push other traffic through local streets. One solution: congestion-based tolls to deter some traffic over the East River bridges.

Ketcham scoffed at Forest City Ratner’s proposal for half-price MetroCards as well as remote parking. “No savvy New Yorker would be believe that a $2 Metrocard discount would get enough $100+ Nets ticket buyers out of their cars to reduce auto use on game nights by 20% (even 2% based on the DEIS logic is optimistic), that the transit pass would do anything for non-game traffic and that it should be subsidized by MTA riders. Discount satellite parking would require a caravan of a shuttle bus a minute (not every 10 minutes as in the DEIS) to get fans to the game on time, add to the drop-off chaos, and necessitate nearby lay-over space and further tax-payer subsidies.”

Supplemental EIS

What to do about “this mockery of State environmental law"? Ketcham proposed a Draft Supplemental EIS (DSEIS) to deal with the problem more accurately, just as a DSEIS was issued to account for the effect of the proposed Atlantic Yards project on the Downtown Brooklyn Development DEIS.

Further warnings

CCS also issued a paper with further warnings. By 2016, with realistic growth, six of 10 subway lines will be over capacity, three with severe “crush loads.” Also, seven of 10 bus lines will be over capacity. The DEIS, doesn’t assess the probability that affluent Brooklynites use autos more than their counterparts in Manhattan.

Despite parking management strategies to divert drivers to more distant parking facilities, some drivers will try to find free on-street parking, and they are not accounted for. The only effective safeguard, CCS says, is a resident parking permit program, not mentioned in the DEIS (but part of the push-poll likely from Forest City Ratner).

Subway stresses?

DEIS Chapter 13, covering Transit and Pedestrians, acknowledges that there could be crowding on platforms, but argues that it would be resolved by additional subway service:
During the weekday 10-11 PM and Saturday 4-5 PM post-game periods, when surges of subway trips generated by an event at the arena would be arriving on the subway platforms, the potential may exist for crowding on the platforms at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station complex under certain post-game conditions. Such crowding, if it were to occur, could constitute a significant adverse impact, which could be addressed by providing additional subway service (i.e., more trains) during post-game periods.

The DEIS continues:
Subway trips generated by the proposed project would be distributed among the numerous subway routes serving Downtown Brooklyn... All subway routes through Downtown Brooklyn are expected to continue to operate below their practical capacity in the peak direction in the 8-9 AM and 5-6 PM commuter peak periods with development of Phase I of the proposed project in 2010, and at completion of the proposed project in 2016. The proposed project is therefore not expected to result in significant adverse impacts to subway line haul conditions in Downtown Brooklyn under CEQR criteria.

At CB2, disbelief

At the Community Board 2 Atlantic Yards hearing on August 3, former CB 2 member Kenn Lowy, representing Friends of Brooklyn Bridge Park, didn't buy the subway claims. He said:
The Atlantic Yards project is massive, and even when it is scaled back, it will drastically change this part of Brooklyn. In 2004, the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 2 looked at the Downtown rezoning plan, that plan had already been approved, and it’s basically next to where the Atlantic Yards project is... But the vehicular traffic is only part of the problem. The mass transit area is actually even worse. What [Forest City Ratner consultant] Sam Schwartz didn’t tell you earlier is that, in 2004, MTA officials told the Traffic and Transportation committee that Downtown Brooklyn subway stations, and this was in 2004, were currently at saturation. The Downtown rezoning plan is going to add an additional 5000 riders in the morning and 7000 in the evening. If the MTA has no way of addressing those riders, then how will they be able to accommodate the new riders from the arena and the 16 new buildings? This will make a bad situation much worse. I think we all agree a certain amount of growth is welcome in Brooklyn. The question is: how much is too much?

Lowy had in 2004 reported the anecdote on his web site:
At a meeting several months ago MTA officials told The Traffic & Transportation Committee of CB2 that the downtown Brooklyn subway stations were currently at “saturation”. Yet the DEIS ignores this.


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…