Skip to main content

Worth follow-up from the transportation meeting: disincentives, penalties, missing parking data, impact of tower construction, security, and truck routes

Sam Schwartz photo and set by Tracy Collins
Following up my coverage of the May 22 public meeting on the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, I want to focus on some exchanges that deserve more analysis, given that the questions didn't quite get full answers.

I already wrote this morning about one seemingly inadequate answer: whether the halving of on-site parking, and other changes, should have triggered revision of project documents. The answer was no, but the evidence seems otherwise.

Below, the embedded video (shot by Jonathan Barkey) is keyed to the specific questions.

Disincentives

One of the biggest issues looming: What disincentives will prevent people from circling neighborhood streets to look for free, on-street parking? When Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman read the question, there were some titters from the crowd.



Forest City Ratner consultant Sam ("Gridlock Sam") Schwartz answered incompletely, stressing incentives: to use the parking reservation system that will direct them to nearby garages, and to “intercept drivers” so they use remote lots--at 50% of the rate of lots closer to the arena--near the BQE and use a shuttle bus along Atlantic Avenue.

He didn't discuss disincentives such as residential permit parking.

Later, Hammerman asked Schwartz to pull the data from the EIS (environmental impact study) and show us the original projections for driving, and then to explain "how these distributed [transportation demand management strategies"--including increased transit service--would each impact on the worst-case scenario.



Sam Schwartz photo and set by Tracy Collins
Schwartz said he could provide the data, but said that such TDM measures "are taken in whole; they're not broken up so discretely. We think you need to take them as a whole. Discouraging parking is one thing and encouraging parking is another... and the cumulative effect from just the information alone, that part, we do know from the surveys [of future arena-goers], is [an increase of] 9% [taking public transit]." (That's a numerical increase from 45% to 54%; as a percentage change, that's 20%.)

Note, however, that as Tom Boast of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented on Patch:
"Interesting to note that staff at Sam Schwartz Engineering described TDM in a March 2009 professional paper: "TDM measures frequently include encouraging a modal shift away from the single occupancy vehicle by improving the convenience and availability of other modal options such as public or private transit, bicycling, walking, and carpooling. Other common TDM measures include congestion or parking pricing programs, or preferred parking for carpools and transit users." Concerned citizens should call on the State and the City (i.e., the Governor and the Mayor) to authorize and implement the other half of TDM plans excluded from the FCR plan presented by Schwartz: congestion and parking pricing programs (i.e., removing "free" parking on residential streets with a RPP program) and preferred parking for carpools."
In other words, Schwartz was working for a client that didn't--or couldn't--quite give him free reign.

Barclays Center vs. MSG

Schwartz was asked to compare Madison Square Garden Knicks events--visitors, parking--to the Barclays Center.



He portrayed the Brooklyn arena as in a superior position, as MSG provides no parking, nor a pre-paid parking system. Nor is there the kind of TDM plan unveiled yesterday. He didn't mention, however, is that MSG is in a business district full of available parking.

Penalties, and parking

What if the goals in reducing driving aren't met: Are there any penalties for nonperformance?

"No, there are no penalties," responded Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall.



Hammerman read the next question: do they have a document that details the number and locations of commercial parking spaces around the arena--details key to the promise that there are enough off-street parking spaces, even with the reduction in on-site parking.

"At the moment, we have the locations of every one of the parking facilities," Schwartz responded. "Soon we'll know which operators are participating." In other words, he doesn't even have a list of the participating locations, much less a count.

When will plans for the surface parking lot, on Block 1129, be presented to stakeholders?

Marshall responded by first augmenting her earlier answer: "I just want to point out that we're required to meet the levels in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement]. There may not be penalties, but there will be continuous follow-up."

As for the surface parking lot plans, she said this presentation wasn't the right forum for that discussion, and "Right now we are evaluating the responses we got" from lot operators.

Future snags from construction?

Remember, Forest City Ratner has plans to construct three or four buildings around the arena, with the first tower supposed to break ground this year. How will construction of Building 2 (at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street) and other towers affect traffic and pedestrian access to the arena block?



"We have plans to break ground on Building 2 sometime this year," Marshall responded. "At that time, we need to come up with a logistics plan to show how the building will be built... That plan will look at any impact it will have on the operation of the arena... In the months before we do that, we will start the process."

In other words, there sure might be impacts, but they don't know yet.

Who's paying for transit?

How much funding will Forest City be providing to the MTA for the additional service, such as the additional "gap" trains that add service after events?



The answer, apparently, is none, and Schwartz suggested--with no data yet--that it may be a net gain: "In the examples, we've had in the past, with the MTA, with New Jersey Transit and others, they see at as a way to provide service to their passengers. In the case of CitiField, it actually costs less and they made more revenue by introducing. So this isn't necessarily an additional cost."

Security

Given that the arena cantilever is closer than 20 feet from the curb at Atlantic Avenue, what protections will be needed to move traffic and curbside vehicles away?



FCR’s Ashley Cotton, a recent hire, said she didn’t fully understand the question, but said that arena operators had been working fully with the NYPD to ensure that the building is safe.

(Note that, because the arena in Newark was that close to the street, officials closed streets there, an issue that provoked obfuscation from Forest City.)

Trucks violating truck routes

Why are trucks leaving the construction site taking non-commercial routes, and how will that be controlled in the future?



Cotton gave a wobbly answer, saying that trucks routes are "encouraged and advertised," acknowledging that Forest City has seen photos (as posted on Atlantic Yards Watch) and saying the company was doing its best to stop the practice.
ESD's Arana Hankin photo and set by Tracy Collin

Arana Hankin, Manager, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project, got up and said the agency was “working very, very closely with NYPD... to step up enforcement.”

If so, it's taken a while.


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.