Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Contradicting state agency, report says Carlton Avenue Bridge would not be finished before arena opens; as Forest City aims for speed-up, agency suggests plan to mitigate likely chaos

Update May 22: Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, said she did not know about the request for mitigation plan and said she had not asked for it. That suggests the request may have come from "EDC"--New York City Economic Development Corporation--though the writer of the report has not clarified that. Hankin says the bridge should be open before the arena does. 

So, is the Carlton Avenue Bridge on schedule?

Only if the state flunks transparency.

Last week, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for Empire State Development (ESD), assured those at a community meeting that "I'm more than confident that the bridge will be open before the first public event at the arena." That's a September 28 Jay-Z concert.

However, the regular site observation report issued yesterday by Merritt & Harris, the construction monitor for the arena bonds, predicted that the bridge would be completed five days later, by October 3.

At the meeting May 2, Hankin and agency CEO Kenneth Adams made no mention of that schedule, though it was surely known to them. While the October 3 date was referenced publicly in the report issued yesterday, it comes from a schedule dated March 30.

"The Developer is optimistic they can reduce the completion date by 2 weeks," states the report issued yesterday.

So it's possible the bridge will open on time. But the word "optimistic" indicates less certainty than Hankin's "more than confident" phrasing.

Mitigation possibilities

Indeed, officials aren't taking anything for granted. The report says that "the EDC"--surely ESD [I asked Merritt & Harris for clarification but didn't get it]--has asked developer Forest City Ratner to propose a mitigation plan to control and alleviate the traffic flow congestion for the first event.

If so, that may be necessary for more than one event; there's a New York Islanders exhibition hockey game scheduled for October 2 and it's not unlikely more dates would be added between September 28 and October 2.

Beyond that, the report indicates that Forest City has asked the city Department of Transportation to open the bridge with temporary street lighting and railing. No response was indicated.

Given the inevitable problems regarding traffic flow in the early days of the arena--it will take a while to deter drivers seeking free on-street parking--efforts to control and alleviate the traffic flow congestion would surely be only partly effective.

From the report
At the meeting

As indicated in the video below, Levin, asked the state officials about the expected date of completion, pointing out that the bridge was originally expected to be open on August, a month before the arena opened.

(As of March, STV, the ESD's own consultant, indicated that the bridge was "officially one month behind schedule and is forecast to be complete in late September.")



"We should know whether we're behind schedule or not," Levin said. "I'd like to know, from ESDC’s perspective, when this is going to be completed."

He never got a clear answer, much less an acknowledgment of the October 3 date.

"It's my understanding, and you can check with Arana here, that the Carlton Avenue Bridge is supposed to be complete by the opening of the arena," Adams said genially, repeating a generally known fact.

Levin indicated that the penalty, which is a stall on starting the first building, was not necessarily a lever.

Hankin said that, while the initial schedule indicated completion at the end of August, now it's scheduled to be open just before the arena opens.

She cited "really complicated construction progress" and added, "I'm more than confident that the bridge will be open before the first public event at the arena."

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