Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mayor assigns Director of Special Projects to address Atlantic Yards quality-of-life issues (she's already doing that regarding the Second Avenue Subway construction zone)

Though Atlantic Yards is a state project, not a city one, the Mayor's Office is apparently stepping up and assigning a top staffer to ensure a better response to quality-of-life complaints and to ensure interagency cooperation.

(Have they been reading Atlantic Yards Watch and/or tracking 311 calls?)

Council Member Letitia James, at a meeting at Borough Hall last night on AY-related transportation issues, announced that she had recently met with a a representative from the Mayor's Office, "who is now an ombudsman for Atlantic Yards."

I think James was using the term loosely, but the staffer she named, Lolita Jackson, indeed has Atlantic Yards in her portfolio. Jackson, until June 2011, was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's chief liaison for all Manhattan related community issues. (She is, or at least was, a prominent Republican.)

The Second Avenue Subway and AY

Now her title is Director of Special Projects at NYC Office of the Mayor, and her LinkedIn profile states:
I bring together city agencies to address quality of life issues for businesses and residents that are adjacent to large infrastructure/construction projects. My main role is as project manager for NYC interagency operations to ensure items such as proper waste removal, rodent control, streetscape maintenance, and coordination with the construction entity. I am currently assigned to the Second Avenue Subway construction zone and the Atlantic Yards development project.
The announcement of Jackson's role--apparently it's a slow roll-out--was news not only to community members at the table, but to Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, who's officially responsible for the project.

And it was news to Carlo Scissura, Borough President Marty Markowitz's special advisor, who's the office's Atlantic Yards point man.

Jackson was not at the meeting last night. However, as discussions about transportation proceed, she should be present, James said.

The Second Avenue Subway example

Jackson's new role as Director of Special Projects may be a response to frustrations expressed by residents and businesses impacted by the Second Avenue Subway construction.

A Spring 2011 report from a Hunter College Urban Affairs and Planning team, Second Avenue Subway: Lessons Learned, reported on, among other things, Jackson's role in her former position as Manhattan liaison for Bloomberg:
Monthly construction coordination meetings with MTA contractors and city agencies currently provide a limited means of community input. Lolita Jackson runs these monthly construction coordination meetings, which allow the city to comment on contractors’ upcoming construction calendars. By virtue of living on East 96th Street, Jackson is able to understand the community impacts of these construction schedules, and is currently playing the role of community advocate by pushing for safer pedestrian crossings within construction zones and improved transit access for affected residents. This de facto role of community advocate, however, has its limitations: “Contractors make up their own schedules. I can comment on them and send them back,” explains Jackson. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone really preemptively thinking about the impacts of construction on residents when designing these schedules.”
Now, Jackson has a new job and, apparently, more power. She also has a longer trip to Brooklyn.

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