Skip to main content

ESDC signs environmental monitor; AKRF’s tab nears $5 million

While the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has not yet hired the promised ombudsperson to represent the public or the “owner’s representative” to represent its overall interests at the Atlantic Yards site, yesterday it approved the hiring of a long-planned environmental monitor, a job that also be described as an “owner’s reprepresentative” for mitigation oversight.

The firm, Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (HDR), is expected to be on board in early June. AKRF, the consulting firm that wrote most of the Atlantic Yard environmental impact statement (EIS), has been serving as the interim environmental monitor since February, and been doing much more (see below).

All the three positions cited above will be paid for by the project developer, Forest City Ratner, which is business as usual in ESDC projects.

Nomenclature issues

On the ESDC’s agenda yesterday was a somewat confusing item:
Mitigation Monitoring Consultant Services–Authorization to Enter into a Contract with Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (HDR) for Owner’s Representative Services and to Take Related Actions.

That locution results from the ESDC’s own changes in nomenclature. The first RFP, in February, called for an “environmental monitor” to be hired in March, but generated no qualified proposals. More recently, the ESDC modified the RFP to more specifically describe the services requested. Eight firms were invited to respond; three did so, ESDC spokesman A.J. Carter told me.

The term is up to ten years at discretion of the ESDC. (Arguably, the project takes longer than the officially projected ten years, the term would have to be extended.) The cost is estimated at $250,000 to $500,000 a year, based on the level of services directed.

“We independently choose the ombudsperson, environmental monitor, and [overall] owner's rep,” explained ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield. “They will all be consultants paid for out of a fund that FCR replenishes periodically to pay for outside services. It saves the state and taxpayers money while maintaining our independence.”

Oversight issues

Among the oversight issues for the environmental monitor:
1. Compliance with the specific measures to protect historic buildings
2. Implementation of environmental investigation and remediation measures and construction techniques pertaining to hazardous substances
3. Measures to reduce the effects of construction on traffic conditions, air quality and noise, including the scheduling of truck deliveries, the use of designated truck routes, the use of on-site staging areas to reduce queueing on city streets, etc.;
4. Implementation of a rodent control program
5. Implementation of measures to retain and detain stormwater
6. Use of low emission boilers for the project buildings
7. Implementation of incentives to reduce traffic demand associated with operation of the arena

AKRF’s tab

Another agenda item yesterday stated:
Atlantic Yards Arena Land Use Improvement and Civic Project – Authorization to Amend the Contract with AKRF, Inc. to Provide Environmental Consulting Services

The ESDC authorized $630,000 in additional payments, bringing the amended contract total to $4.786 million, Carter told me. (I wasn't able to attend the meeting.)

According to an ESDC document, the additional funding “is needed to cover expenses related to unanticipated additional work, to complete the Final EIS, post-FEIS litigation support in connection with an Article 78 proceeding [the lawsuit challenging to the environmental review], and interim mitigation monitoring services. The additional funds are due to the unusually high volume of substantive comments on the Draft EIS, additional effort associated in responding to comments that were inadvertently omitted from the FEIS issued on Nov. 15, and preparation of the memo in response to post-FEIS comments.”

It would be interesting to see the breakdown of the bills. Did AKRF charge double time to get the FEIS revised over the Thanksgiving weekend so it could be approved before the end of the Pataki administration?

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.