Skip to main content

The peril of car stackers on the arena parking lot, Forest City's modular alternative, and delays in (and questions about) the transportation demand management plan

Just before an oral argument tomorrow in the appeal of a state judge's decision to order an additional environmental review for the second phase of Atlantic Yards (I'll have more on this tomorrow), the New York Post reports, in an exclusive:
Stack-parking spaces — which use hydraulic lifts to stack anywhere from two to four cars atop one another — are expected to fill roughly half of an 1,100-spot parking lot going up next to the NBA Nets’ arena in Prospect Heights, according to renderings commissioned by project critics based on approved plans.
With nearly a square block— bordered by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, and Dean and Pacific streets— designated to be the only on-site event parking lot for many years, the renderings show what many feared: It’s mathematically impossible to fill a state-mandated 1,100 spots there without stacking spaces.
And if spaces are stacked, that slows things down, and that "major undertaking that’s never been studied,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, one of three civic groups that commissioned the renderings.

From Atlantic Yards Watch

Atlantic Yards Watch offers an illustration of how the parking lot with stackers might look, and how a parking lot following city design standards for trees and medians--not required in this case because of a state override of zoning--would look.

With required landscaping--one tree for every eight cars--and no stackers, the lot would be reduced to approximately 500 spaces.

Base photo and arena illustration:  Jonathan Barkey and Tracy Collins

Forest City's response and the modular solution

The Post quoted Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco as saying that reducing on-site parking is “important," and they are “conducting an analysis" to try to avoid stackers.

Translation: use a modular system that's never been tested. And that was discussed more than eight months ago, though no formal plans have never been announced.

According to an October 2011 report to Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, HDR, the agency's Atlantic Yards mitigation monitor, met with Forest City's transportation consultant, Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE), and reported:
On-site parking on Block 1129 was discussed in detail, in particular the use of strategies of avoiding extensive vehicle queues on the local street network due to the use of vehicle stackers for parking. Concern was raised especially for the post-event period, when potential excessive wait times would be experience by many event attendees as event staff retrieved vehicles parked in the stackers. To mitigate this concern, SSSE recommended investigation of the feasibility of constructing the use of a temporary parking stucture sold by MORE PARK, LLC, in lieu of the stackers. The temporary parking structure would consist of standard structural steel and precast concrete members and would be installed over a paved surface, without a foundation. SSE is to perform a detailed queue analysis utilizing the MORE PARK system to ensure optimal performance. FCRC and its consulting engineers will study code compliance with NYC Department of Buildings and FDNY.
I wrote last August that More Park was said to have been chosen for the arena lot, but it was unclear whether the company's modular model had been tested in the United States, though it has been used in Europe.

Recommended changes

Atlantic Yards Watch suggests a planted median, street trees on the perimeter, an a "green wall" for screening:
With these steps, the compliant lot has the advantages of absorbing most stormwater on site, taxing city sewers less and reducing the Heat Island Effect. In addition, the landscaping helps planners control pedestrian crossings and make the lot safer. Finally, aesthetics are improved for residents who live nearby, visitors to retail businesses on Vanderbilt Avenue and arena patrons.
The lot, however, would have to be smaller, which means Forest City Ratner would have to move parking--designed for VIPs and High Occupancy Vehicles--elsewhere. VIPs, at least, would not want that.

Atlantic Yards Watch recommends some additional  "improvements to lessen the lot's environmental impacts and integrate it more into the community given its interim status": 
  • No mid-block curb cuts on Dean Street, Carlton Avenue or Vanderbilt to enter or exit the lot, just on Pacific Street mid-block, rather than at the Carlton and Vanderbilt intersections
  • A small building or pavilion for retail at Dean Street and Carlton Avenue
  • The opening of Pacific Street "to restore a lost connection for the neighborhood for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles"  
  • "Green walls" along Dean Street and Carlton Avenue to provide more dense screening, lower the Heat Island Effect, and improve sound absorption
  • Use of permeable pavement is used to reduce stormwater runoff

Note that Pacific Street, according to current plans, is needed not only for the promised open space serving future apartment towers but also for construction staging.

Delays in the transportation plan

The Post reported:
Although the arena is set to open in September, the developer has yet to reveal a transportation management plan, causing neighborhood groups to fear the worst and lobby for permit parking.
The Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan was supposed to be released in December 2011, then bumped back to February 2012, and now is due in May 2012--delays that cut into the credibility of both Empire State Development and Forest City Ratner.

Changes in the TDM plan and concerns over its extent

According to the report from HDR, which I examined after a Freedom of Information Law request:
On May 23, 2011, SSE presented a detailed overview of Forest City's process for developing the Travel Demand Management (TDM) plan, based on the Mitigation chapter of the FEIS. Working with the New Jersey Nets basketball organization, FCRC compiled a travel survey from current season ticket holders focusing on travel mode share, and also interviewed fans within focus groups, and shared these results with ESD and HDR. Considering the results of these surveys, SSE has proposed to modify some of the recommendations put forth in the FEIS and also presented a more detailed analysis of the travel and parking projections that would be expected for a typical basketball game at the Barclays Center. Some of the notable findings presented by SSE include specifics on assigned parking for season ticket holders in off-site parking garages, on-site parking for high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs) and VIPs, remote parking with free shuttle bus service, the possible removal of bus service from park and ride lots in Staten Island (a TDM element identified in the FEIS), transit fare incentives, on-site bicycle parking, and cross-marketing of area businesses to reduce peak travel surges. For non-NBA games, FCRC stated that some of the TDM measures intended for Nets games could be utilized, depending on the type of event.
(Emphases added)

So it seems that Forest City may have recognized that not many people want to drive to Staten Island and take a long bus ride.

More importantly, the report leaves ambiguous a concern raised by organizations representing Prospect Heights and other neighborhoods: will the TDM plan apply to other events at the arena?

The answer is maybe, and that's an obvious concern, since certain large events, notably concerts, would fill the arena as much as a basketball game would.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.