Thursday, November 03, 2011

Latest consultant's report is murky: transit connection delayed, but no explanation offered; not-yet-public document indicates "delays" and "extension of the construction term"; 415 workers on site

Hints and statistical evidence that the Atlantic Yards arena and associate infrastructure have slowed somewhat are borne out--though not explicated and perhaps deliberately obscured--in the latest Arena Site Observation Report, dated 11/2/11 and based on a 9/28/11 site visit.

The report, based on cash flow, is prepared by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee.

It states that the Barclays Center remains barely on schedule, while the transit connection, for a good while two months ahead of schedule, is now behind schedule.

And some misleading information is provided regarding the latter delay.

Strong hints of delays, but how important?

The report also drops a significant hint that the project is delayed somewhat. For the first time, it mentions a "GMP2"--presumably a revision of the project's Guaranteed Maximum Price--that "includes all delays" and "extension of the construction term." That GMP2 was to be issued October 1, but has not been made public yet.

It's unclear how meaningful the extension would be. The arena has long been planned to open in the fall of 2012 even as final completion would occur in mid-2013. So an extension that affects final completion would have a lesser impact than an extension that affects the opening date.

Similarly, the transit connection is supposed to be finished by April 2012, which presumably leaves significant wiggle room.

Arena progress

The graphic below indicates arena construction progress--slightly ahead of schedule according to graphic and the statistics. However, as indicated by the highlighted number, actual spending in September was  below projected spending. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Still, they're only about one-third done, with some significant work left to go--which may be why there's now so much after-hours work.

Transit connection slows

The graphic below indicates transit connection construction progress--now behind schedule. No explanation was given in the document, though Forest City Ratner officials have indicated that Hurricane Irene caused delays, mainly at the railyard, given the below-grade location.

Much of the transit connection work is similarly below grade.


Why the delay?

The latest document offers no explanation for the delays in the transit connection.

Rather, offers a misleading explanation, attributing a one week slippage on "early delays with approval of the test piles."


But that's contradicted by the information provided in the previous month:

In other words, the "early delays with approval of the test piles" did not cause ongoing slippage in the Construction Schedule, since the project was able to return to schedule thanks to "excavation and demolition work." Indeed, as the graphic above indicates, the project was way ahead for a while.

Workers on site: 415

Page 42 of the document indicates 415 workers: 362 persons at the Arena and 53 persons at the Transit Connection.

The previous document indicated 422 workers.

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting 9/22/11, the developer provided no numbers, but a representative of the state said, “We've estimated that there are currently 520 workers on a given shift."

Forest City Ratner likely counts additional workers on the railyard, which is not subject to bond funding and thus not subject to the consultant's report.

Still, as I've stated, such discrepancies might be explained by a report from the Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) required by the Community Benefits Agreement, but no ICM has been hired.

Maybe we'll learn more at today's District Service Cabinet meeting.

A photo of the escalator

Whatever the rate of progress, they're building an escalator to the transit connection. Below is a photo from the report, dated 9/28/11.

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