Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New school at AY would add 100,000 square feet

There's a curious passage within a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for an Environmental Monitor to oversee construction activities, mitigation measures, and "certain other activities associated with the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project."

It reminds us--in a passage that I and others had missed when first announced in November--that the project got a little bigger with the addition of a school.

Given "the projected significant adverse impact to the supply of elementary and intermediate school seats within ½ mile of the Project," developer Forest City Ratner, if requested by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) prior to January 1, 2010, would convey or lease "to allow for the development of an approximately 100,000 gross square foot elementary and intermediate public school." The likely location: Building 5, which would be east of Sixth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street.

Here's the news:
The space provided for the School shall be in addition to the Atlantic Yards program described in Table S-1 of the FEIS and shall not replace or result in a reduction of any part thereof.
(Emphasis added)

That table, on page 3 of the Executive Summary chapter of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), shows the mixed-use version of the project would be 7,961,000 square feet. The school would boost it to 8,061,000 square feet.

That's an increase of only 1.25 percent. Then again, a projected 6 to 8 percent decrease made the front page of the New York Times, so maybe the school is news. (The decrease, ultimately about 8 percent, had been mostly on the table for months.)

Slipping it in

The increase in the project size was not in the Response to Comments chapter of the FEIS, the new chapter which I and others scourted. It stated, in one passage:
As discussed in Chapter 19, “Mitigation,” if requested by DOE, the project sponsors would make a space available for a school in the base of one of the residential buildings east of 6th Avenue...

However, the Mitigation chapter does offer this new paragraph:
The floor area provided for the school would be in addition to the floor area assumed to be developed under either the reasonable worst-case Residential Mixed-Use Variation or Commercial Mixed-Use Variation as described in Chapter 2, “Procedural and Analytical Framework.” Thus, the provision of a school as part of the proposed project would result in additional floor area to be developed at one or more Phase II development sites. If located in Building 5, the additional floor area is expected to be able to fit within the development envelopes established in the Design Guidelines and in any event would not change the overall height of any building. This additional 100,000 square feet of school space would represent approximately a 1.25 percent increase to the reduced FEIS program; this total program size, however, would still be less than the program analyzed in the DEIS.

In other words, because the project had been reduced a bit, the increase doesn't matter much.

Who pays for traffic agents?

The RFP sets up the possibility that the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and the developer might not agree on who pays for traffic enforcement agents at arena events, leaving the ESDC as the arbiter.

It states:
FCRC shall enter into discussions with NYCDOT to determine the extent of FCRC’s financial responsibility for the traffic enforcement agents (“TEAs”) required to manage traffic flow for major arena events and shall comply with the terms of any such agreement with NYCDOT as required by the DOT letter. If necessary to ensure that the TEAs are deployed for major arena events as described in the FEIS, and only in the event that FCRC and NYCDOT do not reach a funding agreement, FCRC shall provide such funding for TEAs as ESDC shall reasonably direct, considering funding arrangements at other sports and entertainment venues in New York City.

In the Response to Comments chapter of the FEIS, the ESDC had been vague about who would pay and how much (see final page):
It is anticipated that on days when a basketball game or other major event is scheduled at the arena, police or traffic control officers would be deployed at key locations to maintain traffic flow and minimize conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians, as is standard practice at many major event venues in the City. The project sponsor is committed to working with DOT and NYPD to ensure that needed resources are available for this purpose.

Environmental monitor

The RFP states that during the construction period, the developer would pay "the reasonable costs of an environmental monitor" to:
(i) monitor FCRC’s compliance with certain provisions of this memorandum; (ii) review any submittals made by FCRC pursuant to such provisions and advise ESDC with respect thereto; and (iii) provide ESDC with periodic written reports concerning FCRC’s implementation of such provisions. The certain provisions referred to in the preceding sentence are paragraphs: E (with respect to protection of cultural resources near the project site from being impacted by construction on the project site); G.2 (pertaining to Hazardous Materials); I.9 (pertaining to reviewing the effectiveness of any modified design for stormwater management facilities); J.2 (pertaining to reviewing alternative fuels or boiler technologies); J.4 (pertaining to reviewing the location of HVAC intakes in the event that the design of the relevant Project buildings changes from the design subject to air dispersion modeling in the FEIS); K.6 (pertaining to decisionmaking with respect to the funding of TEAs in the event that FCRC and NYCDOT do not reach agreement on this issue); L.2 (pertaining to the adjustment of demand management measures); and N.1, N.2.d, N.2.e, N.2.f, N.3.b, N.3.c, N.3.d, N.3.f, N.4, N.5, N.6 and N.7 (pertaining to construction). The obligation set forth in this paragraph shall cease upon completion of the Phase II buildings.

What about the CBA?

There's no mention in the RFP about the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) and signatory Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, which has apparently not set up a Committee on Environmental Assurances to "address short and long term environmental issues."

As noted, the CBA’s environmental committee is limited to the construction phase, but the CBA is toothless. The developer would comply with the agreement “by following the state mandated process.” So much for the historic, legally-binding CBA.

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