Skip to main content

At second Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, signs of progress (oculus, lighting, DEP crackdown), but dispute over providing free parking to limos and black cars rather than pursuing enforcement

Compared to the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, in mid-October, the second meeting, held last night, was lower key, with no tabloid-ready headlines about rampant public urination.

Actually, there was no public discussion of public urination, but Pacific Street residents told me afterward that it’s still a problem, though in places diminished, and pre-gaming arena-goers still toss cans and bottles into the Bear’s Garden at Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue.

Also, there was incremental progress to report; for example, after complaints were aired at the previous meeting, Barclays Center managers increased the “dark hours” of the digital signage at the oculus from the original 1-5 am to midnight-6 am. (One person afterward wondered if that had been the plan all along and one resident said that the brightness, though diminished, is still jarring, and too busy.)

Developer Forest City Ratner has gotten its tenant, Modell’s, to install lighting on its Pacific Street back end to deter loitering and public urination. (Residents told me that such measures should be added to P.C. Richard next door, as well.)

Neighbors agreed that 311 complaints are being handled better.

Also, several residents who’ve long relied on neighborhood parking said that, without parking permits, they’ve been shut out of spaces and must go far afield to find parking. Such concerns were shunted aside, given the plan to conduct a post-opening traffic and parking study.

Fundamental flashpoint

Both police and the Department of Environmental Protection have this week begun to crack down on idling and illegally parked limos, with the help of maps compiled by contributors to the Atlantic Yards Watch initiative.

Still, a fundamental flashpoint remained: does the ad hoc effort to adjust to the influx of limos and black cars by providing free parking on Atlantic Avenue represent an accommodation by the public (and contradiction of the Transportation Demand Management plan), as several frustrated residents contended, or a necessary compromise to protect the neighborhood, as officials somewhat defensively explained?

"The staging area for limos was created before enforcement in a comprehensive way was tried," pointed out Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association. (The parking was assumed by many to extend only from Sixth to Carlton avenues, but a Taxi & Limousine Commission statement today indicated that it extends east to Vanderbilt Avenue.)

Essentially, there seems to be a flaw in the Transportation Demand Management plan prepared by arena consultant Sam Schwartz; it presumed that enforcement would be the solution to idling black cars and limos, but nobody confirmed that with the police, who don't seem to have the personnel or inclination to devote resources to that work.

By "doing a great deal to accommodate black cars and limos," said Pacific Street resident Jim Vogel, "this is economic discrimination against the neighborhood."

The meeting was held at the 78th Precinct in a somewhat cramped condition--there wasn’t enough room to accommodate committee members at one table--because Borough Hall was booked. It attracted about 50 people.

Little crime, some disorder

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri said there’s been no uptick in crime created by the arena. “The biggest quality of life concern is a traffic/parking condition,” he said.

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association brought up the issue of crowd management with the Justin Bieber concert, when pre-teen and teen girls collected on the Dean Street sidewalk at Sixth Avenue beginning in the morning, and lasting until midnight.

Krashes noted that filmmakers encouraged the “Beliebers” to sing along and otherwise mug for the camera. He asked about protocol for the future.

Kelly said that the new Director of Security, Martin Hagans, had just started at the time, and “adjustments will be made to ensure a safe environment... It is something he witnessed himself and wants to make adjustments.”

Ameri said that barriers would be set up to pen in boisterous fans. “We have a learning curve for everyone in the arena.”

Crowd management

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, noted that NYPD has been using bullhorns to corral people to use crosswalks on Atlantic Avenue.

Ameri said that, while Atlantic Avenue was shut down during the Jay-Z concerts, they don’t have to do that right.

Pacific Street resident Terry Urban asked for signage at the Pacific Street subway exit directing people to the arena via Atlantic Avenue, not a residential street. The Department of Transportation’s Chris Hrones said they’d consider it.

Pauline Blake, president of the 78th Precinct Community Council, said that “those of us coming home during rush hour... were overwhelmed by screaming teenagers” in the subway entrance. She asked for more cops to maintain order, and they said they’d take a look.

Krashes noted that post-event, some turnstiles in the new subway entrance are closed to slow people from coming down the stairs and keep platforms from getting too crowded.

Ameri said transit officials want cops to control the flow of pedestrians, but noted that a staircase remains dedicated to allowing people to exit from the stairs.

New staging area

Hankin announced that the NYPD has been working with DOT and Barclays to establish a staging area on Atlantic Avenue between Sixth and Carlton Avenues--about 27 spaces, Hrones later said. TLC has begun to inform all the fleets.

The solution allows for staging of vehicles during events with a minimal impact on the community, Hrones said, since it's not directly adjacent to residences. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Hankin said, on the previous night issued summons for idling to three limos, on a first-ever enforcement.

Geraldine Kelpin of the DEP said officials would be out tomorrow night for the Rolling Stones concert.

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council pointed out that the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan was supposed to reduce driving to the arena.

In a remark that had officials from the state and the developer looking sour, he asked, “I would look to the state and Forest City to explain how free parking for limos is consistent with the goal of reducing driving to the arena... To me, that sounds like we've produced an incentive....I'd like to hear that this is not in fact a permanent solution.”

Hankin said it was a response to community complaints, and that other solutions are possible after an analysis. and that “we have to be flexible. We’re not going to stick to a plan just because it's on paper.”

Who's being helped?

Veconi asked, “Is it your position that a car that’s hired for the evening to drive to the event is different” from a car that a driver takes to the arena?

“Yes,” responded Hankin, “Totally. Completely. Because someone who drives to the arena is not going to be sitting in a car during the event.”

“So the public has more of an interest in providing a concession to that later driver because he’s doing something objectionable?” Veconi asked.

“I wouldn't put it that way at all,” Hankin said. “I would say we're responding to an issue we were not expecting, because of community complaints.

One solution suggested by St. Marks Avenue resident Steve Ettlinger (who praised the 78th for doing better) was to provide lots for black cars, as at the Meadowlands, and charge them.

Krashes said that, in one night, he spotted 83 violations, 64 for illegal parking, and 19 for idling. (Idling must be for three minutes before it can be fined.)
He said the Barclays Center could finance a monitoring system.

Taxpayers vs. developer

“As we go forward, there can't be any indication that money talks and everyone walks,” Vogel said.

“I'd like to see this problem put forward onto the developer... rather than continuing to put it on the taxpayers,” Urban said. “Atlantic Avenue is our avenue. Gib is absolutely right. It shouldn't be free parking for someone who comes to the arena. Everybody knew there’d be black cars.”

“Not in the way” it’s occurred, Hankin responded.

“Did you really think the wealthy patrons who took the boxes were going to fly in by helicopter,” Urban responded, with sarcasm. “I’d like to see the developer put money toward this, instead of the taxpayers.”

“I don't feel as though it’s necessary right now,” Hankin said. “We have a solution we’ve only just implemented.”

“This is a taxpayer solution,” responded Urban.

“Well, the building of the arena contemplated the use of taxpayer dollars for a number of sources around the arena,” Hankin responded.

Drop-off lanes

Krashes noted that the north side of Atlantic Avenue, between Fort Green Place and South Portland Avenue, was supposed to serve as a drop-off lane for cars. Instead, it harbors parked cars, and the second lane becomes the drop-off lane.

“I think the arena should be having people there managing those areas,” he said.
Kelly said, “ I believe the pedestrian traffic managers doing a very good job,” citing more smooth traffic on a concert night than last night.

"Then why are cars pulling up in the travel lane?” Krashes asked.

Loading dock

Arena community affairs manager Terence Kelly noted that, at the last meeting, arena operators acknowledged problems with idling trucks on Dean Street outside the loading dock. “We’re happy to report operations have vastly improved.”

"Just the night before (the 5th) the 'pad' had three or four trucks and at least one idled," Krashes commented this morning. "The pad is a supplement to the arena's below-grade operations, but it is at grade across from homes. DSBA asked for the pad to be included on the agenda, but it was not included."

Arena noise and bass 

The DEP has tried to measure the sound and bass emanating from the arena, after complaints.

Kelpin said the agency could provide a copy of its report.

“We're aware of the reports on Atlantic Yards Watch, and we're investigating them,” Kelly said.

The impacts of B2 construction

Given a five-foot wide pedestrian passage on Dean Street outside the construction site for B2, Forest City Senior VP Jane Marshall said there would be additional security and arena operations officials, plus pedestrian managers, to direct traffic.

Also, inside the arena, they will try to direct people to use other exits, especially the main arena plaza.

Regina Cahill of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District suggested better signage inside the arena to direct people to the subway, and more vocal ushers.


Kelly said wayfinding would be improved, and staffers encouraged to direct people.

The Newswalk lot

Lolita Jackson of the Mayor’s office said both the Department of Buildings and the Department of Consumer Affairs have been looking into operations of the parking lot at the Newswalk, the apartment building on Pacific Street just east of the arena.

DOB is looking at issues of overcapacity and will return. DCA gave a $250 summons because the lot was posting different prices.

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.