Thursday, August 11, 2011

The mysteries of after-hours work at the arena site: do people live nearby? (yes, but most permits say "no") and what's the rationale? (not made public)

Since February, contractors at the Atlantic Yards arena block have 36 times gained after-hours variance (AHV) permits for work at the Atlantic Yards arena block, according to documents available via the Department of Buildings (DOB) web site.

Nine of those instances regarded weekday work that began early or went to a second shift, and 27 regarded weekend work. No 24-hour variance has been granted yet, though the July 18 Construction Update, prepared by developer Forest City Ratner and issued by the Empire State Development Corporation, suggested one might be sought.

Lingering questions

According to the online versions of those permits--the site is known as 620 Atlantic Avenue or 2-6 Fifth Avenue--two things stood out:
  • Arena builder Hunt Construction, more than three-quarters of the time, apparently stated that there were no residences within 200 feet of the site. (Yes, there are--see photo below by Tracy Collins, looking west from the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue. As discussed below, Hunt asserts that the permits it files always acknowledge there are residences within 200 feet. Without seeing the original documents, that statement will remain a question mark.)
  • No rationale for the after-hours work was publicly provided. Yes, applications to the DOB must contain such a rationale, but apparently the DOB does not make that information public.
I tried to learn more, but didn't get too far.


What they must tell DOB

The application instructions (below) require, among other things:
  • Indicate if there is a residence within 200 feet of the site by checking the appropriate box.
  • Provide the date(s), hours of the day, and a brief description of the work to be done after hours broken down by weekday and weekend.
  • Indicate the reason for variance by providing a brief explanation as to why the work is necessary for the specified weekday and/or weekend date(s).
What's the reason? Lost at the DOB

The reason for the variance is part of the application form, but not part of the permit made public.

(I'm sure it's something like: We want to get our work done faster, even though we're ahead of schedule, in case we face bad weather, strikes or other unforeseen delays. In other words, maximum productivity.)

On Tuesday, I tried to find that out. I tried first as a regular citizen. I called the Brooklyn Borough Office Customer Service number. The voicemail box was full, and I was then automatically transferred to a nonworking number.

I called the DOB's Interactive Voice System and eventually spoke to a person who, after being shown the reference number for the site, understood my query and told me to call the Brooklyn Borough Manager.

I did so; he was out, but the woman answering the phone told me the information was at the Commissioner's Office.

How could I get that?

Are you the owner or contractor, I was asked.

I said no.

Then you have no access to the reason, I was told. Then she hung up on me.

I called the press office. The phone rang and rang, then was shunted off into a busy signal. I then sent an email to a DOB press person and to the DOB's Twitter account. No response.

Looking at the variances

The most recent variance, issued 8/4/11, regards weekday work 5 am to 11 pm this week:
Description of Work: (Atlantic Yards) Excavate and backfill foundations, formwork and rebar installation at foundations, spray fireproofing, ductwork installation, plumbing rough-in, electrical rough-in, steel erection and detailing. Deliveries (from 5am - 7pm ONLY)
The posted certificate is below.
After Hours Work Variance Permit, for Barclays Center, 8/8/11 - 8/12/11

Residence within 200 feet?

Note that according to this permit, Hunt Construction indicated that a residence is within 200 feet of the site.

A nearly similar request for such a permit, with the checkoff indicating that a residence was not within 200 feet, was revoked 8/2/11. (I suspect it wasn't the 200-foot issue, but more likely that the description of work in the earlier request did not include "steel erection and detailing.")

The previous week's request, dated 7/29/11, for weekday work 5 am to 11 pm, described similar work at the site, but indicated no residence is within 200 feet of the site.


Querying Hunt/FCR

I contacted Hunt Construction two days ago to learn more about this--did they make a mistake? do they classify "site" differently each week?--and got a response yesterday via Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco.

"[T]he contractor has gone back and reviewed and they have consistently noted that all work on the project and all permits filed for the same occur within 200 feet of residences," he wrote.

I sent back several screenshots, like the one above, indicating that the DOB, at least online, reports information to the contrary.

DePlasco said he'd check again--so if I get any more information I'll update it. (Could Hunt be wrong? Could the DOB have mis-applied the information when it went online?)

The DOB expects candor. According to the application (below), those filling it out state:
I understand that if I am found after hearing to have knowingly or negligently made a false statement or to have knowingly or negligently falsified or allowed to be falsified any certificate, form, signed statement, application, report or certification of the correction of a violation required under the provisions of this code or of a rule of any agency, I may be barred from filing further applications or documents with the Department.
Previous variances

Listed below are links to previous variances, with the words NO and YES appended to indicate the applicant's response to whether a residence is within 200 feet of the site.

8/2/11: for weekend work 5 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

7/29/11: for weekend work 5 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday YES (An earlier request, dated 7/26/11, was revoked, likely because the Saturday work was to start at 7 am. The check-off said. NO.)

7/19/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

7/19/11: for weekday work 6 am to 11 pm NO

7/12/11: for weekday work 6 am to 11 pm NO

7/12/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

7/6/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

7/6/11: for weekday work 6 am to 11 pm NO

6/29/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

6/29/11: for four days of weekday work 6 am to 11 pm NO

6/21/11: for weekday work 6 am to 11 pm YES

6/21/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday YES

6/14/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

6/14/11: for weekday work 6 am to 11 pm NO

6/7/11:  for weekday work 6 am to 11 pm NO

6/7/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

5/31/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday NO

5/17/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, 7 am to 3 pm Sunday YES

5/10/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday NO

5/2/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday NO

4/29/11: for weekend work 7 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday NO
(That had previously been revoked 4/27/11, with a NO check-off.)

4/19/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm YES

4/15/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO
(A previous request for work from 10 am to 4 pm, dated 4/12/11, was revoked, with a NO check-off.)

4/8/11: for weekend work Saturday 10 am to 4 pm NO

4/5/11: for weekend work Saturday 10 am to 4 pm NO

3/31/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO

3/22/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO

3/15/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO

3/8/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm YES

3/3/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO
(This updated a 3/1/1 permit.)

2/22/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm YES

2/16/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO

2/11/11: for weekend work Saturday 7 am to 5 pm NO

Below, I've annotated the full list. Note that the Y refers to the individual job on the closest horizontal line, except for the two jobs with the decision date 6/21/11.


The cost

Applicants must pay an initial filing fee ($100 for 1-3 days of work, $200 for 4-6 days of work, etc.), as well as a daily fee of $80 for each day of after hours work.

After Hours Work Permit Application


After Hours Work Permit Application Instructions, NYC DOB

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