Friday, July 13, 2012

From the District Service Cabinet meeting: "Day Two” task force; report on hiring; construction timing; plans for parking for TV trucks

The big news at yesterday’s Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting concerned the city’s preliminary rejection of residential permit parking and the still unresolved plans for the first residential tower, B2.

But several other issues came up at the Borough Hall meeting, including a “Day Two” task force, a progress report on hiring for part-time jobs, plans for parking to serve TV trucks, and updates on ongoing issues.

Unresolved issues

For example, a final Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan is due in early August, said Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the agency overseeing the project. “We received a number of great comments” and are “trying to figure out the best way to tweak the plan.” Comments and responses should be posted with the final plan.

Also, a plan to re-order police precinct boundaries--the arena likely will be policed by a supplement to the 78th Precinct (nearby) or 88th Precinct--is in the works. A letter from the Police Commissioner has been sent to the mayor, who then must get it approved by the City Council within 60 days, which is a close deadline, given that the arena opens on Sept. 28.

The State Liquor Authority’s final hearing on the Barclays Center liquor license is still not scheduled; a report from the administrative law judge who heard testimony is not expected until July 25. (That’s also a hearing day; I’m not sure if the report could be delivered on the day of the hearing.)

“Day Two” Task Force

Lolita Jackson of the Mayor’s Community Assistance Office briefly described a “Day Two” Task Force to coordinate city responses to arena events, focusing on:
  • city properties and projects (fire/police/Dean Street Playground) and to coordinate activity of any large city projects nearby, such as water main work
  • security, parking, and traffic, working being done at the DSC
  • pedestrian experience (where people cross, wayfinding signage)
  • complaint management; how 311 calls come in and are responded to
  • a catchall category involving 67 topics/departments, with agencies assigned
Jackson said the goal was to have the document vetted and finalized by September 15. She said she’d already met with Council Member Steve Levin and held conference calls with the District Managers of Community Boards 2, 6, and 8. She said she’d happy to work with concerned civic groups.

Nobody had questions.

Hiring update

Forest City’s Ashley Cotton reported on progress regarding hiring for the “about 2000 jobs” at the arena, which is actually about 100 full-time, 1900 part-time.

For the latter category, Forest City had a “successful partnership” with the city’s Small Business Services and Housing Administration, which helped recruit 32,000 people, about 88% from Brooklyn, about 44% from public housing.

No job offers have been made yet, since they are subject to drug testing and background check, but about half of the first segment of pre-screened applicants have gone on to interviews. Cotton also cited Forest City’s own community engagement,
which involved visits to churches and other institutions.

But Cotton ran into some confusion when Council Members Steve Levin and Letitia James asked about the hours the part-timers would work.

“We can't put a number on it,” said Cotton, calling it event-driven. She noted that “up to 800 work at any given time.”

(I pointed out yesterday that such a number undermines Forest City’s claims of 1,135 FTE jobs for part-timers, since that implies a certain number of hours per week.)

Are part-time workers guaranteed a certain number of hours?

No, Cotton said.

What are the benefits, asked James.

“They will be unionized,” asked Cotton, who offered a perplexed smile. “They get incredible training, including Disney training... That's what comes to mind.”

“Of the 32,000 who applied, which goes to issue of the unemployment rate in this borough,” James asked, will we get a final number on where those hired come from?
James said her focus was on getting those from public housing hired, though Mayor Mike Bloomberg took the credit.

“We made that pledge without being asked,” Cotton countered.

Construction

Forest City construction chief Bob Sanna said that the arena and the Carlton Avenue Bridge were on schedule.

Is there a contingency plan for the bridge, which has been reported to be late.

“We really do expect to have the bridge in place,” said Sanna, noting the completed “cutover” in work at the Vanderbilt Yard, which facilitates work on the bridge. They have all the need permits to work after-hours.

Hankin intervened. “They are ahead of schedule and things are going extremely well,” she said, “so there's no concern on our end about them not opening the bridge in time.”

Most work now at the arena is on the arena, such as kitchen equipment and activating technology, Sanna said. “We have begun preliminary walkthroughs with DOB [Department of Buildings] to examine the building.”

Similarly, they have recently notified the MTA to start the inspection process on the transit connection, where ongoing work is primarily on the inside of station, such as tile and ceiling work.

The surface parking lot is being graded, with half the retention system in place, and curb cut started.

Broadcast lot

Screening for illustrative purposes, via ArtBridge
Forest City is working on the satellite uplink parking lot, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, which could accommodate six vans and one large truck.

Is queueing anticipated on Dean or Sixth, asked Rob Witherwax of Community Board 8?

“No, it's not a lot of capacity,” said Forest City’s Jane Marshall, who said that,
while trucks going to the arena loading dock must turn off Flatbush Avenue onto Dean Street, access to the broadcast lot can be via Flatbush or Atlantic avenues.

What if there are problems with queuing, either at the loading dock, or the satellite uplink lot.

“There will be a point person at the arena,” Marshall said.

Nizjoni Granville, chairperson of Community Board 8, pointed out that there had been a Department of Transportation plan for an irrevocable consent hearing, allowing the laying of cable for from the arena to the broadcast lot, allowing vehicles in the lot to get a video feed of arena activities.

The DOT’s Chris Hrones said the hearing will be on July 19 a 2 pm, 55 Water Street. The ten-year term would require payment of $13,778 a year, rising to $17,608.

“We hadn't been notified,” Granville said.

“It's been published by the agencies,” Marshall said.

“We'll reach out to all affected stakeholders,” Hrones said.

“You haven't dug under Sixth Avenue yet,” Witherwax asked.

“We began to build a trench and then we plated over it, it was a trench in anticipation,” Marshall said. “But it was at our risk but we plated over it and stopped it, because it upset people.... but work on the ground lot is under separate building department permit.”

In response to a question from James, Marshall said the loading dock has capacity for eight vehicles, including broadcast, plus a driveway on the arena block screened from the street that could accommodate another vehicle, along with the lot across the street.

Levin asked about potential problems if a broadcast vehicle shows up late, without a spot.

“I don't know,” Marshall said, “but that's not what's planned,” given that vehicles are supposed to reserve.

“You'll still get reporters outside, conceivably on Dean Street,” Levin suggested.
Marshall said she doubted it.

GM gone

Cotton said “we wanted to mention that the [arena] General Manager, John Sparks, has decided to relocate with his family, and has left New York and Barclays Center." David Anderson, who was previously heading the “front of the house” for arena operator AEG, has replaced him.

There was no elaboration regarding Sparks’ departure, nor questions. Sparks, who’d been working since May 2011, had moved from San Antonio.

Traffic issues

Levin said he’d heard concerns from residents on Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues, who worry about traffic backups, horn honking.

Hrones said the crosswalk was on the south side, not the north, because eastbound traffic on Pacific is expected to turn left (north) on Flatbush.

“Is it necessary that right hand turns are even allowed?” Levin asked.

“I don’t see a lot of right-hand turns,” Hrones responded.

James cited residents concerned about left-hand turns from Atlantic Avenue onto Classon Avenue. Would DOT consider a ban on left turns during events?

“We did get that request,” said Hrones, but decided against it. “I guess my feeling is, it's so far from the arena.”

James asked if left turns could be banned after events.

Hrones said it would be an operations question, coordinated with the NYPD.

If data indicates increased traffic, would you continue your position, James asked.

Hrones said it would have to “significantly increase safety... and/or it will have a positive impact on congestion. If we found that after the arena opens, conditions change, it's certainly something we could explore.”

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