After snowstorm, sidewalks around perimeter of Atlantic Yards site still not cleared; if FCR and LIRR punt, will ESDC make sure something's done?
Much in the same way the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) memorably punted when asked in 2006 if the city or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) were responsible for "blighted" conditions--weeds and trash--on the sidewalks bordering the Vanderbilt Yard, so too has no agency nor developer Forest City Ratner yet taken responsibility for clearing the sidewalks after the December 26 snowstorm.
Dean Street resident Peter Krashes sent me several pictures take late Thursday afternoon, which depict a situation that remained substantially similar to the one I observed late yesterday afternoon.
At left, for example, is the northeast corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, looking east along Dean. The owners and residents in the background--the first three houses are slated for Phase 2 of the project--have cleared the sidewalk. However, the sidewalk bordering the lot created by FCR's purchase and demolition of two buildings has not been cleared.
He also made the map below. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)
Along Dean Street
At right is the sidewalk along the north side of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, closer to Vanderbilt, looking west.
This sidewalk borders Block 1129, the block designed for construction staging and, ultimately, lingering surface parking.
Who's in charge?
Krashes said that, last year, after the Dean Street Block Association won a Citizen's Committee for NYC grant to beautify the neighborhood, they asked to meet with LIRR, because of concerns about the sidewalks. ESDC ombudsman Forrest Taylor helped arrange the meeting.
During the meeting, according to Krashes, the LIRR stated that since its umbrella authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is a state agency that operates in many municipalities, it would be onerous for them to be held accountable to the laws of each municipality.
Thus, the MTA can ignore local law and follow its own regulations instead. As a result, he said, the LIRR maintains that they do not have the same responsibility as private property owners to maintain sidewalks adjacent to their properties in NYC.
(In other words, we finally got an answer regarding the source of the blight: inadequate regulations. At left, a photo of the south side of Atlantic Avenue west of Vanderbilt Avenue, looking west.)
Krashes suggested that, had Forest City Ratner not insisted on a change to the project agreements enabling them to purchase rights to the Vanderbilt Yard in stages, then the developer would have been responsible for maintaining the sidewalks from the point they took ownership.
Will someone take responsibility?
Now, he said, because they have delayed purchasing the railyard, they argue they are not responsible. Let's wait to hear a statement from the ESDC and FCR, but I'll point out that the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, signed 12/23/09 by FCR and its affiliates, is silent on sidewalk issues.
If MTA won’t be held responsible, and neither will FCR, suggested Krashes, the ESDC as the project sponsor should solve the problem, as it's their job to coordinate city and state agencies.
Jobs at Atlantic Yards!
Perhaps Forest City Ratner could fulfill some of its commitment to local hiring by spreading a few shekels to people with shovels. Shouldn't they have done that earlier in the week?
(At right, the east side of Sixth Avenue looking north, between Dean and Pacific Streets. This is just around the corner from the first photo up top.)
Below, a view of one of the most impassible sidewalks: the west side of Vanderbilt Avenue just north of Pacific Street, looking north to Atlantic Avenue. Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues, now a private street used for construction staging, is cleared, and guards are stationed at the entrance.
Below, the north side of Pacific Street just east of Sixth Avenue, looking east.
The Newswalk building is at right.
Below, the south side of Pacific Street at Sixth Avenue, looking east.