Friday, December 17, 2010

The gap in yesterday's ESDC documents: the new use for 470 Vanderbilt and its impact on traffic, parking, and pedestrians

There's one very big gap in the seemingly comprehensive Technical Analysis (embedded below) released yesterday by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as part of its findings that a 25-year buildout of the Atlantic Yards project would not require a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

It's called 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, the former tire plant turned telecom offices turned combination office and housing complex, located just north of the northeast block of the Atlantic Yards site. (Click on graphic to enlarge; highlighting in red is added.)

The plans for 470 Vanderbilt have changed significantly in the past year, as it's slated to house the city Human Resources Administration, with 1880 employees and 1500 clients a day, opening in Spring 2012, just before the arena is scheduled to open.

And the city aims to add parking along Atlantic Avenue, which contradicts a mitigation in the Atlantic Yards plan.

When the City Planning Commission approved the plan in September, it noted that "a letter was received from a resident of the surrounding area suggesting that with respect to this action and Atlantic Yards that a full Environmental Impact Study should be performed by the City under ULURP which is outside the scope of this action."

Perhaps, but the changes are not acknowledged in the ESDC documents. As in the 2009 Technical Memorandum, 470 Vanderbilt is described as:
376 residential units, 115,424 sf retail, 579,645 sf office, 397 accessory parking spaces7
Build Year 2035
Footnote 7 states:
Includes 578,554 sf of existing office and 200 existing parking spaces; project will add 1,091 sf office and 197 accessory parking spaces.
The analysis

There's no mention of the new use. In the new ESDC analysis, 470 Vanderbilt gets a mention under the category of Pedestrians (but not regarding Transit or Parking):
As discussed in the FEIS, existing pedestrian volumes at the Project site are relatively low, and all analyzed sidewalks, corner areas, and crosswalks are expected to operate at good levels of service (LOS A or B) in all peak hours under 2016 No Build conditions. The Extended Build-Out Scenario would increase No Build volumes by approximately ten percent (i.e., 0.5 percent/year). Given the low existing baseline volumes, this added background growth would result in the addition of fewer than two persons per minute at any analyzed facility in any peak hour. This small increase in volume compared to the volumes analyzed in the FEIS is not expected to result in any new significant adverse impacts at any analyzed sidewalk, corner area or crosswalk.

As shown in Table 4 and discussed above, peak hour transit demand from discrete No Build sites in the vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn is generally expected to be lower than was forecast in the FEIS due to changes in anticipated No Build development since the FEIS analyses were conducted. Overall, this would be expected to result in somewhat fewer pedestrian trips at analyzed sidewalks, corner areas and crosswalks than was originally forecast. It should be noted, however, that one new development not previously analyzed in the FEIS—470 Vanderbilt Avenue—would add approximately 376 dwelling units, 1,091 square feet of office space, and 115,424 square feet of retail space in proximity to the intersection of Vanderbilt and Atlantic Avenues at the northeast corner of the Project site. As all analyzed sidewalks, corner areas, and crosswalks at this intersection were predicted in the FEIS to operate at high levels of service (LOS A or B) in all peak hours under 2016 Build conditions, the additional pedestrian demand from this one development, coupled with the additional background growth under the Extended Build-Out Scenario, is not expected to result in any new significant adverse pedestrian impacts.
Unmentioned is the actual expected use for 470 Vanderbilt.

Public comments yesterday

At the ESDC board meeting yesterday, Prospect Heights residents Wayne Bailey (first video) and Alan Rosner (second video) reminded the board of the impact of 470 Vanderbilt.

"These changes aren't cottage cheese," declared Rosner. They "must be addressed." At that point, no members of the public had seen the ESDC documentation.






The 470 Vanderbilt back story

The Times's blog The Local reported 9/16/10:
In an about-face, Community Board 2 gave their stamp of approval Tuesday to a plan to lease parts of a block-long building on Vanderbilt Avenue for use as a welfare services center.

...The vote passed Community Board 2 Tuesday night with 27 in favor and one opposed. Board member Lawrence Whiteside said the selling point was the influx of business from employees.

“The idea of 2,000 additional customers to Fort Greene restaurants and shops is critical at a time like this,” Mr. Whiteside said.
Adding parking, contradicting FEIS?

At the 9/21/10 meeting of the Community Board 2 Transportation & Public Safety Committee, board members considered a proposal to increase parking near 470 Vanderbilt. The notes (embedded below) state:
Christopher Hrones, Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator for the Department of Transportation (DOT), presented a conceptual plan to increase the number of parking spaces in the vicinity of 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, a building that will be occupied in 2012 by offices of the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA). Only five parking placards are to be issued to HRA staff. Although staff and clients will be urged to use mass transit, and shuttle bus transportation from and to the Atlantic Avenue subway hub and Long Island Rail Road terminal has been promised for staff, DOT has looked for additional curbside parking and identified the following potential locations:

Atlantic Avenue, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues: Elimination of 4-7 p.m. parking restriction on south side of the street would create 40 spaces.
(Emphasis added)

However, that seems to contradict the mitigation planned in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Statement, Chapter 19:
As shown in Figure 19-2 [excerpt at left, in full below], geometric and operational improvements to enhance vehicle flow and pedestrian safety are also proposed as mitigation at the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues. These improvements would include:
...
2. Implementation of a no standing anytime regulation for 150 feet along the south curb on eastbound Atlantic Avenue approaching Vanderbilt Avenue (in place of the existing no standing 4-7 PM regulation) and re-striping the approach to accommodate an exclusive right- turn-only lane
(Emphasis added)

Adding to the impact

The influx of people at the this intersection presumably would affect traffic, though it's likely the larger impact would be on transit. According to the Mitigation chapter of the FEIS, the intersection would already be burdened:
As shown in Table 12-16 in Chapter 12, the proposed project would result in significant adverse impacts at the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues in all but the weekday 10-11 PM peak hour in 2016. Eastbound and westbound Atlantic Avenue would experience significant adverse impacts in each of these periods... As shown in Table 19-4, with the proposed geometric and operational improvements at this intersection, unmitigated significant impacts would remain on the westbound approach in the AM peak hour, the eastbound approach in the PM and Saturday post-game peak hours, the southbound approach in the PM and the westbound left-turn movement in the weekday PM, pre-game and Saturday post-game peak hours. All other significant impacts would be fully mitigated.
(Emphasis added)

Note that the table seems to look at 2010, not 2016. The mitigations would presumably resolve traffic problems eastbound on Atlantic Avenue during the day--but not if parking is added along the south side of Atlantic.

Is there coordination going on? According to both the 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments and precursor 2006 Memorandum of Mitigation Commitments:
It is expected that NYCDOT will implement areawide signal coordination, timing changes, curbside parking regulation changes, changes in travel direction and other operational changes, as described in the FEIS. FCRC shall cooperate with NYCDOT in the implementation of such changes including keeping NYCDOT apprised of the progress of the Project’s construction.
ESDC Atlantic Yards Memo 121310a

ESDC Atlantic Yards Memo121310b

CB2 minutes re 470 Vanderbilt

DCP on 470 Vanderbilt

Fig 19-2 from Atlantic Yards FEIS, Vanderbilt at Atlantic

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