Skip to main content

As protesters warn of gridlock, Ratner’s security guards call the cops

They carried signs like “Atlantic Yards: Where Traffic Comes to Die” and “Atlantic Yards Gridlock Solution: Add More Cars.” Yesterday, they kept crossing the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, from 2 pm to 3:30 pm, warning drivers and pedestrians of the coming gridlock should the Atlantic Yards plan go forward—and, actually, even if it doesn’t.

(Photos by Jonathan Barkey.)

In the protest called “Merry Gridlock,” some 15 volunteers from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) helped escort seniors and those with carriages--and handed sheets with diagrams of gridlocked intersections to those they encountered on foot or stopped at traffic lights.

The message: "Tell the city and the state to FIX THE TRAFFIC FIRST!" (One solution could be congestion pricing.)

They also attracted the attention of three security guards from the Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal mall complex, owned by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner. First, the guards told two sign-carriers outside the Target store in the Atlantic Terminal mall that they should instead walk in the street, according to Schellie Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition.

Then, in front of four reporters, the security guards told organizer Jim Vogel of CBN and several others to stop, because they were trespassing on private property, including the sidewalks outside the mall, and the sidewalks outside the Modell’s/P.C. Richard complex, formally known as the Shops at Atlantic Center.

The protesters, somewhat incredulous at the assertion, refused. The security guards, who wouldn’t give their names to reporters, called the cops. Then they waited, away from their stations, on the south intersection on Flatbush outside Modell’s for at least half an hour as the protesters continued in their quadrilateral pattern.

The cops arrive

When a squad car from the 88th Precinct finally pulled up, the security guards had briefly moved away. I asked an officer what the rules were. A security guard materialized and joined the conversation. The sidewalks, the cop explained, were open to the public.

The guard asserted, “You can walk but not picket.”

The officer responded that Fort Greene Place, in between the malls, is private, “but I think they have a right to protest. I don’t understand who’s giving you direction.”

The guard suggested that the protesters had to keep a 30-foot buffer.

The second officer (left) explained that protesters standing in front of a building would have to get a permit.

“We’re not stopping,” insisted Patti Hagan of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition (right, in picture).

“So they’re allowed to…?” the guard (center) asked.

“As long as they don’t stop and obstruct people from going into the store,” the second officer said.

(Indeed, the New York Civil Liberties Union advises: If you want to distribute handbills on a public sidewalk or in a public park, have a demonstration, rally, or press conference on a public sidewalk, or march on a public sidewalk and you do not intend to use amplified sound, you do not need any permit. If you want to use amplified sound on public property, want to have an event with more than 20 people in a New York City park, or wish to conduct a march in a public street, you will need a permit.)

With that cleared up, Vogel of CBN called it a day, and said a group would return on selected weekend afternoons. “We want to be crossing guards,” he said. “The old people love seeing us.”

Mitigation situation

Vogel even acknowledged that some of the traffic mitigations proposed in the Atlantic Yards plan—such as an all-pedestrian phase—could mean progress. But he wasn’t convinced that the solutions would be enough.

After all, despite plans for high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) parking and shuttle bus service to the arena, the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) acknowledges numerous unmitigatible significant impacts--which could well mean gridlock on nearby streets at certain times.

During the protest, actually, the traffic could've been worse. The intersection was crowded, a few cars got stuck between pedestrians when the light changed, and various vehicles honked and speeded, threatening pedestrians. (I got some photos, but my camera later malfunctioned, so they're lost for now.)

There were some backups--but the situation was hardly as hellish as its been. Then again, as the 90-minute segment proceeded, though, traffic began to back up more. Expect the protesters to select even more opportune times to make their point in the future.

Fifth Avenue unimportant?

Another big traffic challenge presented itself a block away. Given the line of northbound drivers on Flatbush Avenue who aimed to turn right on Fifth Avenue to get to the malls, and the northbound drivers on Fifth Avenue already heading the same way, wouldn't the plan to demap Fifth Avenue to build Frank Gehry’s flagship “Miss Brooklyn” make people nervous.

However, the FEIS, in the chapter responding to public comments, downplays the issue:
The Unity Plan would not close Pacific Street or Fifth Avenue, but retaining these streets would not have a substantial benefit to local traffic circulation.

Uh-oh.

[Update: The plan is to turn narrow Sixth Avenue into a two-way street, accommodating traffic and the B63 bus. That would make for several turns, and backups at traffic lights.]

Looking at the map

Below, one of several diagrams in the FEIS regarding unmitigatible traffic impacts. Click to enlarge.

Comments

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…

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…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.