Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Council Members call February 24 public meeting on street closings; FCR and DOT reps will appear; Dean Street Block Association raises concerns

Those concerned about street closures (plan at bottom, by Forest City Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering( in the Atlantic Yards footprint will get another chance to query representatives of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and FCR at a public meeting at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street in Fort Greene on Wednesday, February 24, from 6-8 pm.

The meeting was arranged by City Council Member Letitia James, who represents the district (35) that includes the AY footprint, along with the Council Members who represent adjoining districts: Brad Lander (39) and Steve Levin (33).

It is co-sponsored by Community Boards 2, 6 & 8. Along with representatives of the developer and DOT, the Empire State Development Corporation's AY Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, is expected to be in attendance

There have been two previous public meetings, one lightly publicized, and both held about a mile-and-a-half away: one before the Transportation Committee of Community Board 6 and the other before the 78th Precinct Community Council. The church is much closer to the site.

Closures on hold

At the meetings, held last month, representatives of both FCR and DOT assumed that the closures--Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues--were on track for February 1.

However, a state judge put condemnations--and thus the closures--on hold, leading to significant confusion and misleading signs regarding whether the streets would actually close.

The dynamic of the February 24 meeting may depend somewhat on whether state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges has ruled on the condemnations; it's possible that if he upholds the condemnations, the streets will be closed before the meeting.

[Update: A press release from James's office says streets "are now expected to close on March 1." That assumes that Gerges will rule in favor of condemnation before then.]

Concerns expressed to DOT

Some area residents, notably members of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), have expressed doubts about the strategies chosen and the level of consultation with the community.

In a letter (below) February 10 sent to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue expressed dismay at the timing and called for "a meaningful period and process for public review and comment" in the future:
Although the plans had a projected implementation date of as soon as February 1st, our community board received these plans including their new details on January 8th. Only a delay in the implementation date of the plans has allowed us time to prepare comments. In the future it is essential the impacted community be provided a meaningful period and process for review and comment on all Atlantic Yards related transportation issues.
The letter called implementation of street closures premature but said that if they go forward, the plans could be improved.

78th Precinct Parking

The letter questioned the placement of of 24 parking spaces for the 78th Precinct and asked for the interim plans for the second phase to be released:
The developer has not released sufficient information across the first phase project construction schedule about the number and programming of surface parking units, or amount of interim open space in the second phase footprint, for the merits of the proposal to be gauged in any way. There is a high degree of risk interim surface parking will be in place longer than anticipated, and may lessen opportunities for the creation of interim open space.
New incentives?

Though there are incentives to reduce driving to the arena, the Empire State Development Corporation concluded that parking must be provided for construction workers:
This research concluded that a substantial number of construction workers would likely travel via auto, irrespective of the abundance of transit options in the area and the costs associated with driving. To avoid overtaxing nearby on- and off-street facilities, the project sponsors would provide on-site (southern half of Block 1129) parking for construction workers at a fee that is comparable to other parking lots/garages in the area.

Still, the DSBA asks:
We believe a meaningful program creating incentives to use transit is consistent with the project goals outlined to the public and should be made available to Precinct employees.
Move parking?

The letter also suggests that the 24 spaces be moved, possibly to the railyard bed or off-site and remote parking such as the Atlantic Center mall parking facility, the HPD parking lot on Dean Street and Metro Tech.

Pacific Street open?

Though the approved project plans state that Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt would be closed, ultimately for open space, the letter says the street should remain a public street and stay open for vehicles and parking.

Carlton Avenue Bridge

The letter states:
The Carlton Avenue Bridge was anticipated to be closed for eight months [AYR: actually nine months, then two years] , however the Department of Transportation has recently announced the bridge may be closed for as much as four years. No reason for this continuing delay has been provided. The total length of time the Carlton Avenue and 6th Avenue bridges together were to be closed was one year and eight months. The Carlton Avenue Bridge is a necessary route for emergency vehicles and a missing link for pedestrians, cars and bicycles. Reconstruction of Carlton Avenue Bridge should be initiated immediately.
Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street changes

The letter also states that Carlton Avenue between Pacific and Dean Streets should not be two-way for as long as two years but ratner Pacific Street should be turned into a one way westbound between Carlton and 6th Avenues.

Construction Traffic

The letter states:
Construction staging for the arena belongs inside the first phase footprint located directly off of two truck routes. Routing construction traffic west and east bound on the one way local Pacific and Dean Streets between 6th and Carlton is unnecessary and should be prohibited.
Street Signage

The letter points to incorrect signage:
The street signs and VMS [variable message signs] for the current street closure were put in place before community comment could be given in full. Incorrect street signs should be removed. VMS take up parking spaces. They should be removed until street closures are implemented.


Atlantic Yards Transportation Plan, by Sam Schwartz Engineering

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