Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Carlton Avenue Bridge reopening date now April 2012, in time for arena plan, more than twice the original time promised

Now that streets in the Atlantic Yards footprint are scheduled for closure, residents must also confront the news that the Carlton Avenue Bridge (outlined in map) will remain closed far longer than initially promised and announced.

I wrote last August that newly-discovered details about plans for the bridge confirm that the demolition and reconstruction not only would take longer than the officially announced two years, it would take at least three years and likely much longer.

Now that's confirmed, since work will last at least April 2012, according to the city Department of Transportation (DOT). That date is shortly before the Atlantic Yards arena, if it proceeds on schedule, is supposed to open.

And that means the bridge would have been closed for four years and four months, more than twice as long as originally promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

(I asked the DOT last week about the delay, and when the new April 2012 target was established, but didn't get a response.)

Original plans

The bridge, which connects Pacific Street to Atlantic Avenue and thus Prospect Heights to Fort Greene, closed in January 2008. In January 2009, the DOT said the work "is scheduled for completion January 2010."

By August, DOT had quietly advanced the official opening date (above left) to January 2011--three years after closure. I wrote at the time that there was ample reason to believe that the reopening would be delayed even more.

Longer sequence than promised

Why? Because Forest City Ratner is proceeding in three stages, a far slower sequence than that disclosed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

As I wrote, Chapter 17, Construction Impacts, of the FEIS prepared by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), made no reference to such phasing. Rather, the bridge was presumed to be fully demolished and reconstructed within two years, during the construction of the temporary yard.

Delay permitted

As I wrote last August, while Forest City Ratner has three years to complete the job without penalty, a clause in the contract, signed 12/17/07, provides up to five years to complete the work in case of Unavoidable Delay.

One definition of Unavoidable Delay is a delay in "completing the Master Closing," which includes the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain and the closing of a purchase and sale agreement with the MTA/LIRR for the Vanderbilt Yard.

The Master Closing, as most people understand it, wasn't completed until last month, but the contract language actually defines the Master Closing as including not only the purchase of the Vanderbilt Yard but also the condemnation of property and transfer of title, which has not been completed.

So Forest City Ratner was claiming Unavoidable Delay, as DOT officials said in June, and thus the developer is apparently trying to take much of the five years the contract may allow.

DOT officials in June seemed concerned that the developer would try to stretch the deadline. They should be. But they signed a contract that provided a lot of slack.

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