Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Did an "emergency situation" really preclude alerting neighbors to overnight work last Saturday? Permit for crane was issued 11 days in advance

Let's take another look at the explanation given for the disruptive overnight work beginning last Saturday at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development, stated:
The work that was occurring this weekend was being done by the LIRR and had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards. The LIRR is typically very good at notifying us of work that they need to do after hours so that we can inform the community, especially when it relates to Atlantic Yards. But apparently there was an emergency situation in the yard this weekend and they had to get in there very quickly.
Well, maybe it had "nothing to do with Atlantic Yards," but, given that reconfiguration of the LIRR's Vanderbilt Yard is part of the project, it seems like there's some connection, even if not formally part of the Forest City Ratner-led work.

"Emergency situation"?

It's even more doubtful there was an "emergency situation." After all, it's hard to get cranes on short notice.

And, it turns out, the (almost surely) related Department of Transportation permits were issued January 17, eleven days earlier. The permits were for work on Atlantic between Sixth Avenue and the block immediately to the east, South Oxford Street,beginning Saturday, January 28,

Three sequential permits, listed below, were issued the same day. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Given that the announced purpose purpose was "Mobile Crane to Lift Electrical Equipment," and that's what happened, I trust that the permits applied to the work indicated in the photo above. I've asked Hankin for any further explanation, and will update this post if I learn more.


Minority/women contracting numbers lag 25% behind ambitious CBA "goals" (sometimes billed as "promises"); results better than WTC, other projects

Update February 3: it turns out that the Empire State Development's statistics are different, with lower numbers.

In building the Barclays Center and other Atlantic Yards construction activities, Forest City Ratner is lagging 25% behind its ambitious plan to devote devoting 20% of construction contract dollars to minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) and 10% to women-owned firms (WBEs).

According to statistics released last week (see below) by Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, the MBE awards total $91 million (about 16.3% of total purchases), while the WBE awards total $35.1 million (about 6.3% of total purchases). The total, as of the end of 2011, encompasses work back to 2005.

Thus the combined M/WBE participation is 22.6%, about three-quarters of the way toward the what ESD calls the "program requirement of 30% for M/WBE," which also appears as goals--20% and 10%, respectively--in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

The Atlantic Yards web site, as noted in the screenshot at right, presents the figures as certainties.

While Forest City had previously publicly reported the MWBE percentages for various components of the project, such as at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting last July, it had not done so in the context of the CBA goal of 30%.

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting January 26, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, said that Forest City is committed to submitting M/WBE reports monthly, as opposed to every other month, and she would then circulate them to elected officials and Community Boards. (I requested the latest copy. I didn't know copies were previously being circulated.)

In perspective

Asked to comment, Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco said Forest City aims for such a goal in all its projects, and "we endeavor/use best efforts to achieve" it.

He pointed out that the Port Authority announced the milestone of $1 billion in WTC contracts to M/WBEs, representing 17% participation. I'd add that MTA contract goals of M/WBEs or similar DBEs (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) are typically 15-20%.

Thus, while the Atlantic Yards numbers may outpace such other projects, Atlantic Yards--and the special governmental benefits attached to it--gained support, in part, because of promises to meet the goals of the CBA.

And had Forest City Ratner hired the Independent Compliance Monitor as required by the CBA, we'd have been reminded more often how well they're meeting those promise, including the status of M/WBE initiatives and lists of those M/WBEs selected.

Promises or goals?

The goals have been presented as "promises." For example, the 7/13/07 Brooklyn Daily Eagle presented this press release:
The largest class to date — 57 contractors — has graduated from the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) training program in June. The newest graduates, 57 in all, received certificates at a ceremony at Medgar Evers College School of Business in Brooklyn. Apart from what it might mean to some, the Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) Atlantic Yards development means work to minority- and women-owned Brooklyn contractors, because the CBA guarantees that 20 percent of construction dollars will go those that are minority-owned and 10 percent will go to those that are women-owned.
(Emphasis added)

Despite promotional statements (such as in this 2006 brochure) claiming "community commitments" that were "guaranteed by a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement," the CBA (p. 18) presents the targets as aspirational:
Developers will seek to award not less than twenty (20%) percent of the total construction contract dollars of each Development Phase to qualified Minority owned firms and not less than ten (10%) percent of the total construction contract dollars for each Development Phase to qualified women owned firms.
Even when the numbers were regarded as goals, as in this 10/24/05 press release, issued by the CBA Coalition, the issue was framed in a seeming effort to sway public opinion in favor of the project, which had not yet been officially approved:
McKissack & McKissack, the nation’s oldest minority-owned professional design and construction firm, will be announced as construction manager for the $182 million Atlantic Rail Yards at a press conference on Tuesday, October 25 at 1:00 P.M. at House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Herbert Daughtry, interim chair of the Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, signatories to the historic Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), and other members of the Coalition will join Assemblyman Roger Green and executives from Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) to welcome the award-winning firm as a partner in the CBA. 
Trends over time

It seems that, for certain contracts, it has been easier for Forest City Ratner and its contractors to reach out to MWBEs.

For example, early in the construction activities, in a February 2008 report (below) to the Downtown Brooklyn Advisory & Oversight Committee, Forest City said that MBE awards were 36.7% of total purchases, while WBE awards were 8.8%, for a total of 45.5%. That was well ahead of the 30% goal.

The recent report from ESD suggests that in certain aspects of work, M/WBE totals are well above the goals, while in others they lag.

For example, as the chart at left suggests, the entire $16.7 million (100%) spent on infrastructure has gone to MWBE firms.

On Stage II railyard/Carlton Avenue Bridge work, of the $48.6 million, the MBE total is more than 30%, while the WBE total is nearly 5%

However, of the nearly $392 million spent on the Barclays arena, the MBE total is less than 12%, while the WBE total is less than 6%.

With $52.7 million spent on the transit connection, the MBE total is less than 10%, while the WBE total nudges over 8%.

Some other projects aim for more consistency. The Port Authority press release states:
Each of the World Trade Center contracts has a specific M/WBE goal, typically 17 percent of the total contract amount, which is in line with the agency’s overall contracting goal for such firms.
Local MWBEs from Brooklyn

The new report from ESD describes some borough statistics, surely of interest to local elected officials:
The total contract amount for Brooklyn based M/WBEs is $34,416,541 which represents approximately 27.3% of the total M/WBE purchases. The total number of contracts to Brooklyn based MWBEs is 52 or approximately 28.2% of all contracts awarded to MWBEs.
Another measure

Earlier this month, Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee reported that about 12.3% and 9.5% of the workforce on the job last month were attributed to MBEs and WBEs. The CBA measurement, however, is contract dollars; after all, minority and women workers may be employed by a variety of companies.

MWBE Contract Awards as of December 2011


Report on the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement to the Downtown Brooklyn Advisory & Oversight Com...

Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)

Workers at the AY site: 666 people, but perhaps 500 full-time jobs; record of 41% minority hiring exceeds CBA goal of 35% (but women lag)

How many workers are at the Atlantic Yards site? Last week emerged two reports, with slightly different numbers, based on slightly different reporting times.

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting January 26, Forest City Ratner officials said there were 666 workers at the site, including the arena, transit connection, and railyard. (This number tends to exceed slightly the number reported by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee, because the latter does not examine railyard work.)

That total, I later confirmed, represents the total number of individuals employed at the site, not the average number of workers based on a five-day week, since some individuals do not work each day.

Thus the total number of full-time "jobs"--construction jobs are calculated in job-years--is probably some 25% lower, or closer to 500. (As noted below, Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing the project, calculate the average number of workers as about 75% of the total of individuals working.)

This confirms that the numbers Forest City has been reporting at the cabinet meetings represent the number of individuals employed, not full-time jobs. Had Forest City Ratner hired the Independent Compliance Monitor as required by the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), we might have had clarification earlier.

CBA goals met? Partly

Forest City does have some good news to report regarding CBA compliance; cumulative employment of minorities is 41%, while employment for women is 3%.

The CBA requires the developers to "use good faith efforts" to employ not less than 35% minority and 10% women construction workers, "of which 35% of each category shall have the status of journey level worker."

So they're well ahead of the goal for minorities, while behind for women. That likely has something to do with the difficulty in signing on with unions, but, again, the compliance monitor might help explain this.

Ditto for the question of whether "35% of each category shall have the status of journey level worker;" I didn't get an answer. But the Atlantic Yards web site reports all these goals as certainties, as noted in the screenshot at right.

Hiring from NYC/Brooklyn

The total of 666 included 355 workers from New York City and 151 from Brooklyn. Within those latter numbers were 101 people hired via a Community Labor Exchange (CLE) required by the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). In total, 150 have been hired via the CLE.)

Also, 72 are from four local community districts. Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco provided the breakdown:
  • CB 2: 5
  • CB 3: 10
  • CB 6: 5
  • CB 8: 52
More workers coming?

At the January 26 cabinet meeting, Carlo Scissura, special advisor to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, asked if the number of workers would increase as the opening date of the arena approaches in September.

"We may see a slight uptick," responded Forest City construction executive Bob Sanna. "I think we are approaching the peak, between all three parts of the project." At best 20 to 25 more workers would be added.

Overall, of course, the number of workers is well behind the total projected in the Technical Memorandum issued in June 2009 by ESD, since only the arena (and infrastructure), and not any of the adjacent towers, is under construction right now. By now, the peak was to have exceeded 1700 workers.
(Click on graphic to enlarge for clarity, and focus on Cur., for Current, as opposed to FEIS, which represents the numbers in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.)

ESD report

A report (below) circulated by Empire State Development after the meeting provided slightly different statistics, based on an earlier date, the week ending 12/25/11.

There were 705 individual workers on site, but not all were full-time. The average number of workers, based on daily workers divided by five days, was 529.

Of the workers, 390 were city residents and 167 were Brooklyn residents.

MWBE Contract Awards as of December 2011


Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Goodbye, Triangle Sports: in 2005, Atlantic Yards sounded like a boon; now it's a reason to close

From a 7/6/05 New York Times article headlined Brooklynites Take In a Big Development Plan, and Speak Up:
Henry Rosa, 55, the co-owner of a sporting goods store at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, said: "I suspect it will be great for us. Once the project is complete, with new residents here, it will bring us more traffic." But he said that if he lived in the area, he would probably be angry.
From today's Wall Street Journal, Bowing to Change: Brooklyn's Triangle Sports Feels the Pressure From All Sides:
A family-owned sporting-goods and apparel store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is calling it quits after 96 years in business, another sign of changes sparked by the coming of the nearby Barclays Center arena complex.

Feeling the pressure from big-box stores and the weak economy, Triangle Sports has put its building up for sale in hopes of finding a store or restaurant itching to be close to the multiuse sports, retail and residential project rising across the street.

"It's getting harder and harder for a smaller, independent retailer to survive," said an emotional Henry Rosa, one of the partners behind Triangle Sports, who started working in the shop as a teenager in the 1960s.

...National retailers and Manhattan restaurateurs have been quietly scoping out properties around the arena, real-estate brokers and property owners said.
See photos and comments on Here's Park Slope, and some not-so-happy former customers on Brownstoner.

What's going on here? Noisy, chaotic congestion during (unannounced) overnight work at Atlantic and Sixth avenues (updated: It was LIRR)

Update 4:50 pm: Arana Hankin of Empire State Development responds:
The work that was occurring this weekend was being done by the LIRR and had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards. The LIRR is typically very good at notifying us of work that they need to do after hours so that we can inform the community, especially when it relates to Atlantic Yards. But apparently there was an emergency situation in the yard this weekend and they had to get in there very quickly.
[I'm not so sure it was an emergency, given that the permits for a crane were issued 11 days earlier.]

****

It was a very busy Saturday night at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, but the street closure, noise, confusion, and heightened danger were not predicted in the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 1/16/12, that was distributed by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

Though no weekend third shift work was announced, the documentation appears in two postings on Atlantic Yards Watch.

On Saturday afternoon, January 28, trucks dropped off transformers that were later to be lowered into the Vanderbilt Yard. The trucks positioned themselves on the south side of Atlantic, east of Sixth Avenue, thus taking up a lane used as a bus stop.



In the evening

As noted in the video below, which begins at about 11 pm, the congested traffic led to some untoward consequences



The camera, which starts on Pacific Street east of Sixth avenue, at first moves to Sixth, passing an open gate to the Vanderbilt Yard, then goes north up Sixth to Atlantic.

As seen in the screenshot at right, Atlantic Avenue is occupied by construction-related equipment, with cones marking off the area.

The video shoes that there's a flagger in middle of Atlantic Avenue, but the flagger--as at 3:17 of the video--does not always direct traffic.

At about 4:05 of the video, drivers among the southbound traffic on South Portland Avenue (the extension of Sixth north of Atlantic), begin prolonged horn honking to indicate their displeasure with the situation.

A stall on Sixth

Meanwhile, northbound traffic on Sixth Avenue starts to get backed up, at about 4:30 of the video. Some cars, like the one in the screenshot at left, even start making illegal U-turns. In the background, the under-construction Barclays Center is visible.

At about 5:10 of the video, drivers even crowd the intersection--a key intersection when the arena opens, which raises questions of how well it will be managed.

A woman looking for the bus stop finds it unavailable.

More confusion

This next video shows continued frustration and confusion experienced by drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.



For example, at about 0:17, a bicyclist coming south turns onto the Sixth Avenue sidewalk to avoid a collision with northbound traffic

As  in the screenshot at right, at about 1:25, a construction worker has to move quickly to avoid the southbound bicyclist.

There's a significant amount amount of horn honking and aggressive driving, as at about 2:57 of the video.

What happens when a fire truck travels north on Sixth Avenue (presumably coming from the station house on Dean Street just east of the arena site)?

As seen in the screenshot at left, at about 3:59, the truck has to wiggle through some significant congestion.

A bit later in the video, workers bring out cones and barriers to protect the crane located on Atlantic just west of Sixth Avenue.

But Sixth Avenue is a narrow street, with relatively little margin for error, so when an obstruction (the crane) meets a complication (a large vehicle), which itself faces its own complication (another vehicle), things get dicey, as detailed at about 6:05 of the video.

Enter the tour bus

As seen in the screenshot at right, a tour bus going east on Atlantic wanted to turn right (southbound) on Sixth.

It had to overshoot somewhat to get around the crane, and as it turned, it came quite close to the passenger vehicle that had been going northbound on Sixth and was turning right on Atlantic.

What happens if and when large vehicles are using Sixth Avenue on the day of an arena event? Sure, there will be traffic agents in place, but an unanticipated event--say a breakdown of a vehicle--could have ripple effects.

What was the result?

At about 5:30 am, as detailed in the screenshot at left and the video below it, transformers were lowered into place.

What exactly will they be used for? Why wasn't this all announced?

I'll update this when I learn more.

And the next Construction Alert, for the two weeks beginning today, should be issued today or tomorrow.

Lingering questions: Where's the Barclays Center security plan? What precinct will be in charge? Who'll pay for traffic agents?

Local elected officials are still waiting to examine the security plan presumably prepared for the Barclays Center arena, but are not getting very far. No one knows yet which police precinct will be in charge of the arena.

And there's still no clarity on whether the developer would pay for traffic agents needed for the area.

In other words, as the opening of the Barclays Center approaches in September, some major questions remain unanswered, as was aired at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting January 26, held at Brooklyn Borough Hall with agencies and officials whose work touches on the project.

Cost of overtime

The issue came up near the end of the meeting. Council Member Letitia James asked about the cost of police overtime for arena events.

"As I understand it, I'm not saying this is exactly how it works," Marshall responded, "what other arenas and venues do is they have a contract with the city to retain off-duty police at the expense of the venue, and that's something that we're hoping to have the same accessibility to the Police Department, and it's part of our discussions with them."

What about NYPD traffic agents?

"Sometimes it's a negotiation," Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall responded. "But there are traffic agents, for example, for the construction of the project. They've been funded, most of them, by Forest City Ratner. "

"But when they've been typical, historical locations, we have not funded them," she continued. "The NYPD does that just as its course of business. But something related to an arena event, because of the event, we would be, in all cases I would think funding the TEA [traffic enforcement agent]. Now where they would actually go is a function of NYPD and DOT [Department of Transportation] decisionmaking."

"The arena is not expecting the city to shoulder the burden of overtime that's necessary from the police for an event," she added.

Actually, according to the 2009 Amended Memorandum of Financial Commitments Forest City signed with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the developer's obligations are fuzzy:
FCRC shall enter into discussions with NYCDOT to determine the extent of FCRC’s financial responsibility for the traffic enforcement agents (“TEAs”) required to manage traffic flow for major arena events and shall comply with the terms of any such agreement with NYCDOT as required by the DOT letter. If necessary to ensure that the TEAs are deployed for major arena events as described in the FEIS, and only in the event that FCRC and NYCDOT do not reach a funding agreement, FCRC shall provide such funding for TEAs as ESDC shall reasonably direct, considering funding arrangements at other sports and entertainment venues in New York City.
Where's the security plan?

James noted that, along with Council Members Brad Lander and Steve Levin, had requested a copy of the security plan from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and to meet with him.

Last October, state Senator Velmanette Montgomery made a similar request. The arena will be very close to Atlantic Avenue, and officials since November 2007 have asked for a security study, once it was learned that a streets next to the Prudential Center in Newark were being closed. Forest City has hired its own security consultants.

After design changes in 2009, Forest City officials said they would meet with the New York Police Department--but only after the project had been re-approved by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Querying FCR

"Do you know whether the plan has been drafted, completed," she asked Marshall. "Is there a courtesy copy that we could be provided?"

"Council Member, I'm not aware--I know that we have been in discussion with NYPD, and I know that they're focusing on analyzing the manpower that's used and other things," responded Marshall. "I don't know that there's any plan that gets produced. I know there's a coordination and a protocol that's set up. And it changes on an ongoing basis. You don't have a plan, because the plan is different for every event.... It's all about protocol and communication."

She seemed to be focusing on the plan to deploy safety officers, not an overall security analysis, which presumably would state definitively whether streets would be closed, or the impact, perhaps, of narrow sidewalks.

Which precinct?

James didn't follow up, but moved on to a new question. She asked if one police precinct--of the three in the area including the project--would be put in charge.

"We'll have to talk to the NYPD about it," Marshall responded.

Captain John Breslin of the NYPD's Office of Management and Planning chimed in. "Currently there is extensive research on who's going to be policing the arena," he said. "That hasn't been signed off by the Police Commissioner. So we have gone into a review not only of crime, the population density, and... this is all done to try to figure out which precinct will be best served.... I'm sure as soon as the Police Commissioner signs off on it, you and all the other Council Members will be notified."

Before then, James said, she'd like Breslin to remind Kelly that local officials would like to meet with him.

Breslin said he would do so.

With transportation plan delayed, Nets finally survey fans about transportation options regarding Barclays Center attendance

What a coincidence: a day after a public meeting in which officials revealed delays in the long-awaited Transportation Demand Management plan for the Barclays Center, Nets Basketball on January 27 sent "an important online survey about our move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season" to those on its mailing list.

The survey, which offered the opportunity to win "autographed merchandise, courtside seats to a NETS game or a NETS Fan Experience package!," seemed designed to alert people to the extensive public transportation options and deter them from driving.

However, should word-of-mouth or advertising attract drivers to non-arena-related garages or to residential streets in search of free parking, that will hamper the effort to promote transit use.

Last week, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development suggested that the delay in the NBA season hampered development of the plan. Perhaps, but there's no reason why those on the Nets' mailing list could not have been previously surveyed.

Opening up

After asking demographic questions, the survey asked about past attendance at events at the following venues:
  • Citi Field in Queens, NY
  • Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA
  • Hoboken Sports Arena in Hoboken, NJ
  • Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ
  • Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA
  • Madison Square Garden in New York City
  • MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ
  • Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, NY
  • Prudential Center in Newark, NJ
  • Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA
  • XL Center in Hartford, CT (formerly Hartford Civic Center)
  • Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY
Barclays Center

Then, after explaining that "Barclays Center will host over 200 events in its inaugural year, including world class concerts, professional boxing, college basketball, family oriented shows such as the circus, and will be the new home of the Brooklyn Nets," the survey asked how likely it will be that  "you personally will attend" specific events there.

Such events include concerts, college basketball, tennis, family shows, boxing, and Nets games.

Click a semi-positive answer, and you qualify to continue.

The survey asked how many events of various types you'd attend, including weekday/weekend basketball games. It asked if we know of the Barclays Center, and its general or exact location.

Getting there

Then it asked whether we'd given much thought to transportation options. What might we use?
Arrive by Car or Other Individual Motor Vehicle to Barclays Center...
  • Taxi/Livery/Car Service that you pay for by the ride
  • Limousine/Luxury Car that will be there for the duration of the event
  • Motorcycle or motorized scooter
  • Car (you or a friend/relative drive)
Arrive by Public Transit to Barclays Center...
  • Subway
  • Bus (specifically, a NYC MTA Bus)
  • Long Island Rail Road (to Atlantic Terminal)
Other ways of arriving at Barclays Center...
  • Bike (non-motorized)
  • Walking all the way (Don't count your walk to/from the subway)
  • Charter Bus
Any other method not listed above (Specify)

What would be the alternative option, we were then asked.

What are the most important factors in choosing a transportation option? We were asked to rank issues like cost, timeliness, safety, and convenience.

Public transit options

We were then asked about familiarity with bus, subway, and LIRR transportation options, with the option to see a map with bus lines and another one with subway lines.

Does such information, we were asked, make it more likely we'd use such public transit?

Parking

The survey seemed designed to deter people from driving. It stated:
Barclays Center is located at the intersections of Atlantic & Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn.  
Drivers can pay to park at a number of existing garages in the vicinity of Barclays Center.
One new parking facility will be constructed 1-2 blocks east of the venue that will give priority to High Occupancy Vehicles (3+ people per vehicle) and VIP cars.
On-street parking is extremely limited in the area.
Click here if you would like to see a map of the area showing the subway lines and the arena.
But there are, as noted, other transportation options.

Potential plans

We were then asked our best guess about travel plans for a typical weekday Nets game: would we come from home, work, or somewhere else? What's the location? What mode would we use?

I answered subway, and was then asked what subway line I'd most likely be arriving on, and whether I'd be transferring to it.

I was also asked the chances I'd use a motor vehicle and, if so, what kind.

We were also asked at what time we'd arrive in the the general vicinity of the arena, perhaps to shop, eat, drink or hang out in the neighborhood:
  • 2 or more hours before starting time
  • 1 hour before starting time
  • At least 30 minutes before starting time
  • Close to starting time - less than 30 minutes before/after event starts
  • More than 30 minutes after starting time
We were then asked how soon we'd leave.

Transit nuances

After I responded that I'd leave by subway, I was asked:
  • How many minutes would you consider to be a surprisingly short wait - in other words, a quicker than expected wait? 
  • How many minutes would be so long to wait that you'd seriously consider taking another form of transportation if you knew you would have to wait that long? 
Incentives to drive?

We were asked if certain options increase the likelihood to drive instead of take public transit:
  • Closer and/or discounted parking for vehicles with 3+ passengers.
  • Availability of less expensive parking in a remote lot with a free shuttle bus to the arena.
  • Ability to pre-purchase a parking space online for a wide variety of parking locations to have a guaranteed space.
Summing up

As noted above, the survey seems designed to get people to use public transit, and to help advise transit agencies where service might be beefed up.

But there are still a lot of variables, including the desire for free neighborhood parking and the role of local garages.













Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seen but not heard: the mayor's new emissary on Atlantic Yards issues

Lolita Jackson, director of special projects at the mayor's office and described (probably over-described) as an ombudsman to oversee quality-of-life issues regarding the project--attended the January 26 meeting--her first--of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which includes agency and governmental officials.

She was introduced by Sam Pierre, Brooklyn director at the Mayor's Community Assistance Unit. (Pierre was formerly an aide to Rep. Ed Towns, as well an officer in the powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, both of which have favorable postures toward Atlantic Yards, as does the mayor.)

“Lolita’s role will be to assist some of the work we're already doing here, working with city agencies, so that we can improve quality of life issues around the project," Pierre said. "We’ll be working with Carlo [Scissura, special advisor at the Brooklyn Borough President's Office], and Arana [Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development], and Forest City. We've had conversations, we’re going to be working together to make sure that we have our agencies work together... so that the project can be done.”

Jackson spoke individually to several people but didn't address the group. She had arrived at the 9:30 a.m. meeting--which normally starts ten minutes late--on time, despite a trip from the Upper East Side. You have to wonder what she thought about the delay in the Transportation Demand Management plan.

NetsDaily editor says Prokhorov's feelings toward US have been shaped by reception by Nets fans, ignores his own role as chief cheerleader

A 1/26/12 post on Nets Daily, Did Fans' Reaction Help Prokhorov's View of U.S., West?, contains a glaringly obvious omission:
Those close to Mikhail Prokhorov say his feelings toward the United States have evolved, shaped, in part, by his experience as the Nets owner. When he purchased the team he didn't know what to expect. Would there be suspicions? a Cold War hangover?
But they say he was pleasantly surprised by reaction he got from NBA owners and particularly Nets fans. As one said, he found it all quite endearing. Now are we starting to see the product of that in his foreign policy pronouncements as he runs for Russian president? Seems so. On Tuesday he told an English language television outlet that it's time for Russia to embrace the West.
(Emphasis added)

Particularly Nets fans? The Nets fan who's led the embrace of Prokhorov is the author of that post, site editor "Net Income," aka Bob Windrem.

A 4/26/10 Times Sports Section article, headlined Russian Billionaire Is White Knight for the Nets, stated:
The NetsDaily blog has dubbed him “the Most Interesting Man in the World,” after the suave fellow in the beer commercials.
That dubbing came from "Net Income" in a 6/26/09 post.

Windrem earlier even wrote a profile for MSNBC quoting the words and work of "Net Income," but didn't acknowledge on MSNBC that he's the lead contributor to NetsDaily.

A 10/31/10 New York Times Magazine cover story on Prokhorov, headlined The Playboy and His Power Games, reported:
Prokhorov had invited anyone who couldn’t manage the rasp in the middle of “Mikhail” to call him Mike, but on NetsDaily, the premier Nets fan Web site, he quickly emerged as “Proky.” Proky was the sweet sound of salvation. The Web site editor (a 65-year-old New York-based television producer anxious to keep his old- and new-media identities separate) coined a phrase for the euphoria coursing through reader comments: the Prokhorov Effect.
Why does he want to keep his identities separate? Because he shoots from the hip and makes claims--and gets nasty--that he wouldn't do as "Bob Windrem."

Illuminating disgraced Senator Carl Kruger: was he a good guy gone bad, or amoral from the start?

Earlier this month, New York magazine published an illuminating, somewhat sympathetic profile of King Carl of Canarsie: The gothic saga of Brooklyn power broker Carl Kruger, a state senator who loved a gynecologist and his family so much he was willing to sell his influence for them.

It allowed Kruger to half-explain how he slipped into corruption, clawing his way up from neglect (he was put up for adoption but returned to his mom) and poverty--and it provoked several (mostly anonymous) commenters, as noted below, to observe that Kruger was dirty a lot longer.

And, though Atlantic Yards is unmentioned, the Kruger saga provides excruciating context for the (then)-Senator's over-the-top support for Atlantic Yards, support that, at least in retrospect, seems provoked not by Brooklyn pride, or jobs, but something more.

It's not clear whether (guilty) lobbyist Richard Lipsky's payments to Kruger were predicated on support for Atlantic Yards, but Kruger pleaded guilty to, among other things, directing funds in response to a request from Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender. Was it just because they were old Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club cronies?

First, a video

For a glimpse of Kruger, with hardscrabble Brownsville in his accent, confidence in his affect, and toadying from a fellow official, watch the below video.

The title: Senator Carl Kruger Preparing Rosh Hashanah Meals at MASBIA in Conjunction with Met Council. (MASBIA is an Orthodox Jewish soup kitchen headquartered in Boro Park; the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is an umbrella funder.)




"Everyone waits for the Chairman of Finance," declares Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Also appearing in the video are William Rapfogel, CEOr of the Met Council and Sheldon Silver buddy, and Senate leader John Sampson.

From NY Mag

Geoffrey Gray writes:
Kruger had been a king of South Brooklyn. From the humblest of beginnings, the senator had turned his district office into a kind of one-stop shop for free constituent services like mammograms and flu shots. He artfully leveraged his ability to provide for Main Street into enormous power in Albany. He was a master tactician who was feared, not loved, and was appointed in 2009 to serve as chairman of the Legislature’s Senate Finance Committee, one of that body’s most powerful posts—all this with little more than a high-school education.
His beginnings in politics:
By the early seventies, Kruger was a neighborhood activist. He’d legally changed his name from Tack to Kruger, and he and his mother and stepsister cobbled together their savings to purchase a house on ­Avenue L with a small yard out front. He and his mother were concerned about the neighborhood, and they co-formed a civic association that met in diners and bowling alleys. Taking on quality-of-life issues made Kruger feel worthy. It also got him out of the house.

...His energy caught the attention of City Councilman Herb Berman, who hired Kruger to be his chief of staff, and later Assemblyman Genovesi, who saw that Kruger could organize people and run ground operations in Assembly races.
He helped the Turanos, his surrogate family, including his (alleged eventual) lover, Michael:
He micromanaged their careers. He helped them get scholarships and into medical school. He encouraged them to specialize in gynecology. When Michael graduated from medical school, he threw a party so big it made the local paper, the Canarsie Courier. Once the Turanos opened offices in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Kruger treated the joint practice as if it were a Jefferson Club political campaign. He targeted potential clients as if they were undecided voters. He sent out direct mail to 150,000 women.
In his way, Kruger was the ultimate doting parent, just like his mother. When the Feds were watching him, they noticed that Kruger brought the Turanos breakfast nearly every morning. When they went on trips, he bought them travel-size snacks. When Michael was working late, Kruger picked him up at the hospital to give him rides home.
The flip side

Gray reports significant hostility to Kruger:
All the loving-kindness Kruger showed to the Turanos had an opposite. “There’s some Jekyll and Hyde there,” said Frank Seddio, a former assemblyman who has known Kruger for four decades and looked on as Kruger earned a reputation in Albany for ruthlessness. While elderly constituents came to depend on Kruger and his staff for services, it’s hard to find a colleague who has anything good to say about him. One lawmaker who has known Kruger for decades said he was surprised to learn Kruger was capable of displaying emotion. “The Carl Kruger I know does not cry,” the lawmaker said. “The Carl Kruger I know is stone cold.” Said another lawmaker: “One character flaw that most politicians have is that we go into office because we feel the need to be liked. Carl feels the need to be feared.”
Over the years, Kruger managed to isolate himself from those he was once close to. While members of the Jefferson Club still carried his petitions—after all, as Senate Finance chair, he had been the most powerful official in South Brooklyn—Kruger rarely went into the club anymore.
The cancer story

Gray writes:
In 1980, Kruger was indicted with another civic booster for allegedly extorting money from a local builder, a Holocaust survivor, and his partner. Before the trial, Kruger claimed he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Seddio remembers driving Kruger to the hospital with operatives from the Jefferson Club and waiting in the car for Kruger to come out after meeting with his doctor. At trial, the charges against Kruger were dropped, as, apparently, were Kruger’s cancer treatments. Some thought he invented the sickness, perhaps to drum up sympathy from friends and colleagues at the Club.
The comments

The comments in response to the article are pretty rich, though most are anonymous.

Former Courier-Life "Brooklyn Politics" columnist Erik Engquist (now at Crain's New York Business) wrote:
It's not just the cancer story but the indictment that prompted Kruger to come up with it that tells you this is not a case of a good man gone bad, but of a guy who throughout his long career manipulated the system to his benefit and ultimately got busted. The case involved the Georgetowne Civic Association and the price of Carl's support for houses a developer wanted to build. I started dealing with Kruger 20 years ago as a cub reporter, when he was CB 18 chairman and Dottie was his district manager, and there were already plenty of stories floating around about his nefarious activities over the years. Morality? Never came up with Carl.
The rest were mostly anonymous, with a few positive. "brooklynbookworm" wrote:
The 18 years that Carl Kruger spent fighting relentlessly for the underdog and speaking out for the community's best interests should be his enduring legacy. As an elected official he was a rare breed -- always available to listen to a constituent's concern, intuitive, empathetic and quick to get a problem fixed. 
A former staffer, "Brooklynbornandbred," suggested Kruger had changed:
I know Carl well and was on his staff from 1995-2000. He ran a great office, had a wonderful consumer advocate, an assistant with an amazing knack for cutting through bureaucratic red tape...

Clearly he lost his way. The tragedy is that in becoming a state Senator he had fulfilled his dream. He had what he always wanted. He was respected, feared. I wish he could have left it at that. But he didn't and he's going away for it. I hope he has the strength to take what is coming and survive it. I hope Dottie will make it through although my guess is that she is in rough shape right now, as her boys meant the universe to her and Michael is also going away.

...Carl's crimes are relatively minor compared to his out-sized contributions. I hope the judge understands that when he sends him to prison.
Others were less generous. One, "TruthSojourn," wrote:
Since I know people who actually sat in a car waiting for Carl to come back from his alleged "chemo" treatments for his miraculously cured cancer, his denial of the cancer story calls into question anything else that he has said in this story. I know at least THREE people, TWO still living, who would attest to it. SO, a cautionary note to the guy/gal who works up the Probation Report, be skeptical, be VERY skeptical.
Another, "boredatwork" wrote:
I have known Carl Kruger for almost 40 years, and he was a nasty, vindictive, despicable p.o.s. from day one. And I hope no one believes Brafman that this is a "good man" who became a corrupt politician. This is a bad, bad man, who finally got caught. May he rot in jail. 
"Melvin_Green" wrote:
I told Kruger in 2000 when he tried to steal the city and state funds set aside for the youth of Canarsie that one day God would get him for all his evil and ten years later God finally got you, You Demon!!!
A reader adds:
I think it is necessary to read between the lines here, with regard to where these comments are coming from. Obviously, different people wish to convey different things, but it seems that most simply have a bone to pick with Kruger and, instead of being empathetic or compassionate, choose to gloat and wish ill upon him. It's one thing to expect (and subsequently receive) justice, and to be -- as so many of us are -- frustrated with the widespread corruption, but it is quite reprehensible, in turn, to revel in disparaging a human being whose world has come crashing down on him. Carl Kruger -- a man who tirelessly fought for his constituents, on seemingly every issue conceivable, and proposed legislation in the NYS Senate accordingly -- is not bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein. He is a person who erred, and is it not enough that he is going to prison? He must rot there too? The lack of humanity evidenced in so many of these comments is bone-chilling.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Street changes near arena site: planned "pedestrian refuge" on Atlantic Avenue at South Portland/Sixth provokes concern about eliminating turn from Atlantic

At two meetings January 26, Chris Hrones of the New York City Department of Transportation described two planned changes in nearby roadway configurations that were not part of the Atlantic Yards plan, but are relevant to neighbors--and got some pushback about one.

Atlantic Avenue going west of Flatbush/Fourth

At Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush, there are four lanes going west on Atlantic, with one right turn-only lane. The original plan was to make another lane right-turn only.

But that would fuel congestion on Atlantic Avenue, as multiple lanes narrow to two lanes west of Flatbush (and Fourth Avenue). Now, Hornese said, the plan is to to create a 100-foot merge lane on Atlantic west of Flatbush/Fourth, thus extending an existing bus stop space (115 feet) by eliminating five or six parking spaces.

No left on South Portland on Atlantic going east

The other plan is to create a "pedestrian refuge" (mini-median) in the middle of broad Atlantic Avenue at the intersection of South Portland Avenue/Sixth Avenue, across from the northeast corner of the arena block. That would eliminate the eastbound left turn from Atlantic onto South Portland--a turn currently not available because of construction-related traffic changes.

There still would be an eastbound left turn at Fort Greene Place, he said, and one will be restored at Carlton Avenue. (This was also noted on Patch.)

The plan provoked some pushback from Jim Vogel, a representative of state Senator Velmanette Montgomery. "Fort Greene Place is demapped," he said, noting it was privatized for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls. "In terms of utility to the community, it's more important to have a left turn on South Portland. Eliminating a turn on a through street to favor a private shopping road is going to raise a lot of waves."

Hrones said it was an issue of pedestrian safety, and there was no other opportunity to create that refuge. As for Fort Greene Place, "Forest City is required to keep it open to the public," he said.

Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, said he agreed with Vogel: "South Portland, the way it connects with the street network, is a much higher utility route than Fort Greene Place or Carlton Avenue."

Could Barclays Center beer sales be cut off before third quarter ends? Nope

In 2005, in response to a brawl between players and fans in Detroit, the National Basketball Association promulgated a Fan Code of Conduct, including a a ban on alcohol sales during the fourth quarter, a 24-ounce limit on the size of alcoholic drinks and a limit of two alcoholic drinks per customer. 

But no NBA arena will be abutting a residential neighborhood as closely as the Barclays Center, scheduled to open for basketball in October, and neighbors are concerned about noise, sanitation, driving--and inebriated fans leaving the arena.

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting January 26, Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall said that a code of conduct is being developed for the arena, and will be shared with the public. "I believe the NBA requirement is: after the third quarter, they stop [beer sales]. I don't believe we will be able to go any earlier than that.

When will that code of conduct be available?

"We're shooting to have a robust discussion about a lot of these issues, starting at the end of the spring," Marshall said.

Is there any possibility that the beer cutoff could be earlier than the end of the third quarter, asked Rami Metal, representing Council Member Steve Levin.

"I'm saying that I think it's impossible," responded Marshall.

BrooklynSpeaks criticizes delay in Transportation Demand Management Plan, limited scope, failure to address parking measures

A press release from BrooklynSpeaks, issued yesterday, addresses the January 26 meeting in which officials revealed that the Transportation Demand Management Plan would be delayed at least five months.

Let's see if any other press outlets (beyond this blog, and Patch) cover the news, in which BrooklynSpeaks advances the story with some specific criticisms of measures (apparently) not taken in the emerging plan.

The statement:
BrooklynSpeaks sponsors reacted to a presentation yesterday of Forest City Ratner’s planned “transportation demand management” measures meant to reduce the volume of cars traveling to events at the Barclays Center arena, scheduled to open in September 2012. The presentation was given at Brooklyn Borough Hall by representatives of Sam Schwartz Engineering, traffic consultants to the Atlantic Yards project, to a group of elected officials, city agency employees, and community leaders.

The outline of the “transportation demand management” plan (or TDM) was first disclosed in Atlantic Yards’ Final Environmental Impact Statement, published in the fall of 2006, and reiterated in project documents executed in December 2009. Among the measures mentioned in the 2009 documents are remote parking facilities near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with shuttle bus service to the arena; an HOV requirement for use of 600 of the 1,100 planned parking spaces at the on-site parking lot; free charter bus service from park-and-ride lots in Staten Island; and free roundtrip subway fare to Nets ticketholders.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) stated in June 2011 that the TDM would be released in December 2011. At a meeting with community leaders in December, ESDC stated that a draft TDM would be released in February. Yesterday, FCR stated it expected to release a draft TDM in May, four months before the arena opening. No new details of the TDM were presented.

Although Barclays Center is expected to host more than 220 events per year, most provisions of the TDM disclosed to date represent incentives for patrons to use mass transit instead of cars to travel to the arena, and may apply only to the 41 anticipated Nets basketball games. For other events, Forest City need only “encourage” event promoters to use the measures.

Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said, “The limited measures offered by Forest City won’t do the trick.” She added, “Studies have shown the most effective tactics to reduce traffic involve disincentives like reducing availability of parking and increasing its cost. But these are nowhere in the plan.”

The stated goal of the TDM is to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to a Nets game by 30% of the 2,400 initially projected. However, the zone for which the effectiveness of the plan will be measured extends only one-half mile around the arena—meaning that the final TDM may have limited impact in reducing traffic on highways and arterial roads leading to the arena.

The unrealistically short radius of the TDM’s focus is a recipe for congested residential streets in nearby neighborhoods,” said Michael Cairl, president of the Park Slope Civic Council. “Simply shifting the problem a few blocks away from the arena isn’t a solution, when traffic volume upstream from the arena, and congestion in the area, are already high.”

Other cities have implemented residential parking permit (RPP) zones around sports facilities, have extended parking meter hours to prevent patrons from taking on-street spaces just as metered parking ends, and have fined venue operators when utilization goals for remote parking are not met. Atlantic Yards’ TDM thus far contains none of these measures. Agreements between Forest City Ratner and the ESDC require only one review of the effectiveness of the TDM, midway through the first basketball season. No further oversight of the program by the State or City has been agreed.

“In the five years since Atlantic Yards was approved, the developer and the State have figured out how to change the project’s architecture, rework its construction schedule, delay delivery of its affordable housing and jobs, and reduce its labor expense,” said Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “But they don’t appear to have given any further thought to how to lessen the impact of Atlantic Yards’ traffic on central Brooklyn. The City and the State have to deliver the comprehensive plan Brooklyn needs before it’s really too late.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Delay in transportation plan for arena dismays residents, CM Levin; lack of info about area garages hampers efforts to reduce surface parking lot in residential neighborhood

The delay in the release of the long-awaited Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, from once-promised December to now-promised May, has distinct real-world consequences, notably stalling the efforts of Prospect Heights residents to argue for a reduction in the size of the planned 1100-space parking lot on Block 1129, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific Streets.

The availability of parking garages elsewhere might buttress their case, but more than five years after the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was completed, Forest City Ratner contractors are newly analyzing available spaces in parking garages near the project site.

During meetings yesterday of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet (made up of affected agencies and elected officials) and the Transportation Focus Group (including neighborhood and civic groups), representatives of Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE) did not discuss the emerging plan in great detail, but described the research process (e.g., surveys of attendees), the plan to select a vendor to manage parking, and shared how incentives for mass transit, including marketing, had reduced the number of drivers at other sports facilities, such as the Prudential Center in Newark and CitiField in Queens.

The pre-sale of parking spaces in local garages, plus parking in remote garages (with free shuttle buses), is aimed to steer drivers away from residential streets.

However, several residents expressed qualms about the effect in neighborhoods around the Barclays Center, given the failure, for example, to establish residential permit parking (RPP), which would deter out-of-area drivers looking for free on-street spaces.

And, in no surprise, they were told by Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development, that, despite a request for veto power over the transportation plans, that was impossible

Inevitable bumps

"I think it's very important to remember, we open the arena, it's Day 1," Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall said at the first meeting. "People have to settle down... Then we have to evaluate whether it works at all." So the plan will be tweaked.

She noted that Jay-Z would inaugurate the building with a concert September 28. "I would caution people not to pin your hopes on the most seamless operation, since it’s a new building, it’s opening, it is going to be a raucous--a very joyous occasion."

"Raucous is more appropriate," countered Council Member Letitia James.

“Yes, I know,” Marshall responded, to some chuckles.

Dismay about delay

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, at the evening meeting, pointed out that much of the SSE presentation could had been given in 2006, given that it described plans already in the environmental review. When Hankin, Marshall, and SSE’s Dan Schack met with his group last summer, “we were told they'd be done around Christmas or the New Year.”

Council Member Steve Levin expressed cordial dismay about the timetable. “Speaking for myself and the constituents that I represent, that's not welcome news," he said. "I don't think that's acceptable. We were told this would be coming out this month or in February."

"Obviously, time is running out. A plan put forth in May that's going to be implemented in September does not allow for enough time for adequate public input, for ideas to be addressed," he said.

“In a perfect world, we would love for draft plan to be presented earlier,” responded Hankin. "As Sam Schwartz [staff] mentioned twice today, they are very good at implementing plans with very little time, they did a plan in ten weeks," (I suggested earlier that a plan for Newark would be easier to implement than one for Prospect Heights and environs.)

"The plan does not take a long time to implement," Hankin said. "It does take a long time to analyze, and research, and collect the data. A number of the delays are because we are tweaking what was articulated in the FEIS, because it is so outdated... But I do understand your concern... which is why we're trying to come to the community."

“The clock is ticking,” Levin responded.

Reducing local parking

That 1100-space parking lot was originally supposed to be 900 spaces, and last three years before being put underground; now it's larger, and is expected to last much longer.

At the evening focus group meeting Danae Oratowski of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council suggested that Forest City should transfer some of that onsite parking, reserved for high-rollers in suites and HOV (high-occupancy) vehicles, to other lots, and “you can help us to advocate for RPP [residential permit parking] and maybe pricing measures for local garages.”

Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall demurred, calling the pricing issue private, but agreed “we should look at” trying to move planned parking into existing facilities. As for RPP, she said, “I know that DOT is looking at it."

At the morning meeting, Marshall had been even less encouraging. "Forest City doesn't have a particular position on RPP, though I understand that DOT and other people are looking at it," she said. "I think it's still important to assume that if there are on-street parking spaces available, people will want to use them."

(Forest City may not want to offend legislative allies from Southern Brooklyn like state Senator Marty Golden, who is adamantly against RPP.)

DOT’s Chris Hrones said the agency is examining RPP in the context of Yankee Stadium and the Barclays Center. “Some of you know this, it will require state enabling legislation, he said. He acknowledged skepticism about the policy, but agreed that the “best potential application” would be related to a major trip generator like an arena.

Analyzing the issues

Krashes expressed doubt about the utility of DOT's planned follow-up study of area conditions, given that the rest of the Atlantic Yards project is evolving.

DOT’s Hrones said the initial study would be as comprehensive as possible. “Do we need studies beyond it?” he asked rhetorically. ”It's a little crystal balling”

For all events?

Krashes noted that TDM is required for Nets games, but merely encouraged for non-Nets events. Will those buying tickets for a concert, he asked, also be steered to garages?

“That's how we are thinking about it, and we don’t see any obstacles,” Marshall said.

Medians in the parking lot?

Krashes directed a question to SSE’s Jee Mee Kim. He noted that her firm worked on the huge parking lot at IKEA in Red Hook, a lot built according to Department of City Planning (DCP) regulations, including such elements as traffic medians that absorb water and heat. “This lot won't be,” he said. “Is there any reason why this lot shouldn't conform to DCP regulations?”

Forest City's Marshall interrupted. “That's a question for me,” she said. “The answer to the question is that zoning is overridden for the project plan, including parking.”

The parking lot will include setbacks, landscaping, and screening, but will not see DCP rules applied on the interior. “Remember, it’s a temporary condition,” she said of the lot. “It it were a perfect world, and we could plant trees, it would be great, but A, it's temporary, and B, I don't know if we could ever do that.”

“It's a shared goal to use our research and our studies that we provide DOT and ESDC and Transit and LIRR so all of us can get to a point where we can provide fewer than 1100 spaces,” she said. “We just can't say today what that number is going to be. We all share the same goals: it’s just what's practical and what we can do when the arena opens.”

Updated info sooner than May?

Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2 asked if Forest City could provide “interim work products” for discussion before May.

“I pondered this,” Marshall said. “It can't be done in a piecemeal way. You can’t break off the parking from the transit. I don't think there are individual pieces that we can present.”

She promised an update in early May, not late May, and “earlier than May if we can do it.”

Perris asked if it was possible to report on the progress of research in specific areas.

“If we can think of a way of doing that we will try,” Marshall said.

Back to Block 1129

“There's a lot of interest in learning about the operations of Block 1129,” Oratowski said. “That's a fairly self-contained area.”

“It's not,” Marshall responded bluntly. “It's directly linked at transit... and the discussions we're having.”

“Are you not required to provide 1100 spaces” on Block 1129, Oratowski asked.

“At this point we are,” Marshall said, noting that the environmental review was done in 2006, and the list of garages is now being updated. “The best plan doesn't necessarily mean 1100 spaces on Block 1129. In May, we are going to present a plan for Block 1129.”

“If we're missing something, I'd like to hear what you think we should do,” Marshall asked at one point.

“We'd like the parking lot on 1129 to be smaller,” Oratowski said.

“And I'd like it to be zero,” Marshall riposted, referring to her personal opinion, not the policy worked out by her employer and the ESDC.

More questions about the lot

At the morning meeting, Council Member Letitia James asked if a contractor had been chosen for the parking lot.

"Not at this time," Marshall responded.

How long would the contract last?

"I think it would be relatively short, because we intend to develop that site with buildings," Marshall responded. She said it likely would be short-term, with renewable clauses.

Will the cars be stacked, James asked.

"We want to avoid stackers, if we possibly can," Marshall responded.

Construction worker parking

At the evening meeting, Wayne Bailey of the Newswalk condominium asked about the ongoing impact of construction worker parking over a 25-year buildout.

“First of all, the construction workers, I don't think they're a problem,” Marshall said, with no nod to the ongoing compilation of incident reports on Atlantic Yards Watch. “Secondly, we're not going to build it over 25 years, we'll probably build it a lot faster than that.”

“Third, Block 1129 and the bed of Pacific Street--portions are set aside, they are not part of the parking garage, because they are used to construct the permanent Long Island Rail Road railyard," Marshall said, "and to stage the construction. So there is not necessarily a conflict with the construction worker day, and the staging that was required... and arena parking.”

Other arena-related concerns

Oratowski added that community members have other concerns regarding how the arena operates, including noise, public safety, and sanitation. She asked for monthly meetings.

Hankin said she hoped to discuss such issues at the bimonthly District Service Cabinet meetings, but was willing to consider Oratowski’s request.

The next focus group meeting will be in March, she said.

Shuttle bus dropoff

Would shuttle buses from remote parking lots park, idle, or drop off on residential streets? "Not to make an untoward suggestion," suggested Jim Vogel, representative of state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (and a resident of Pacific Street east of Fourth Ave ue). "I'd urge you to consider the utility of Fort Greene Place (between the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls], which is already owned by the developer."

Marshall said the goal is for the buses to be "on well-used mass stransit streets that are not local."

"DOT would designate the bus stop for any new transit service," Hrones said, noting that the agency would aim to use existing bus stops first.

Reaching out to Southern Brooklyn

At the morning meeting, Carlo Scissura, special advisor to the Brooklyn Borough President, said he wanted to make sure that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority serves distant pats of Brooklyn, such as Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay, and Canarsie.

Not only are some neighborhoods not well served by transit, weekend outages make thing worse, said Scissura, who hails from Southern Brooklyn. He said he wanted set up a separate meeting involving the MTA to focus on those issues.

Wanting to drive

At the evening meeting, Jesse Hamilton, a representative of state Senator Eric Adams, a self-described four-year Nets season ticket holder and driver to games in Newark, said that he was told there was no parking available.

“It's interesting,” he mused. “You'd assume, someone would build a parking lot.” He added that he had not been told about public transit options, and asked whether there was a study of traffic impact on the local communities.

Marshall patiently explained that yes, there had been an environmental impact study in 2006, which generated mitigation measures that are part of the TDM plan. She said it was unwise to provide parking when that much mass transit is available. Focus groups and surveys, she said, revealed that Nets fans “didn't know how much mass transit there is.”

Forest City Ratner: Carlton Avenue Bridge "projected completion" early September; arena on schedule (no mention of report on delays); facade company catching up after temporary closure

At yesterday's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, held at Borough Hall, Forest City Ratner officials gave several assurances about the timetable for ongoing work--but also left some questions lingering.

Carlton Avenue Bridge

Construction chief Bob Sanna provided an update on the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which is supposed to be reconstructed before the arena opens in September, thus reopening a long-closed connection between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

"The bulk excavation is 95% complete, there’s an extensive storm retention system that’s below the tracks. We have two of the three detention tanks now complete," he said. "The north abutment is about 60% complete, we started working on the south abutments."

"We expect to be able to cut over the yard, transfer trains into the newly laid track in February, and cover the trains over in May," he said, "which will allow us to complete the bridge in the early part of September. So the projected completion of the bridge... is the early part of September.”

That doesn't give them a lot of slack, given that the arena is supposed to open September 28, following several pre-opening events. I wrote earlier this month about the possibility of the schedule slipping, and the non-punitive penalties--a stall on starting a new tower--facing Forest City.

Arena schedule

“And the arena is on schedule, just FYI,” chimed in Forest City executive Jane Marshall.

Sanna followed up: “The framing of the arena is now complete, we had a little onsite ceremony with the workers, last of the beams. The framing system is 97% complete... Much of that [roof] tarping has been put in place, so we can advance the interior construction... We're in the process of finalizing permanent connections to the electrical system.”

Unmentioned: the report earlier this month by the construction monitor to bondholders that the arena has been behind for three months, in terms of actual vs. projected cash flow.

Facade work

Sanna took note of the closure and reopening of ASI Limited, the fabricator of the metal facade.

"And the facade work continues," he said. "It's been noted we had some difficulty with the facade contractor in December. Fortunately, all contracts of that size, we have a bond, an insurance policy that requires an insurance company to step in if the vendor can't complete the work. That bond company is part of Farmers' Fund"

"Farmer’s Fund has now taken over that entire operation, and re-employed all the employees," Sanna said. "Fabrication of the facade has resumed since the first week of January... We have people at the plant monitoring the completion of that work... It’s not quite back on schedule yet, but we are about to turn the corner and have that work in place.”

He didn't mention, as Crain's New York Business reported, that contractor Hunt Construction was looking for additional subcontractors to make the steel.

Who was missing from the press conference last Sunday? Sen. Montgomery and other Atlantic Yards critics

Mary Alice Miller, the Our Time Press reporter/columnist who bluntly asked three belated critics of Atlantic Yards "Where were y'all?" last Sunday, offers her take, in Eye on the Politics of the Atlantic Yards Project.

Notably, she points out who was not present at the press conference instigated by Sen. Eric Adams, who was joined by allied Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara:
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, a staunch critic of the Atlantic Yards development as it was proposed and funded, was not invited to the presser. Neither were Assembly members James Brennan or Joan Millman. Montgomery is the Senate sponsor of the bill; Brennan and Millman are co-sponsors of the Assembly bill. Oddly, Adams has not yet co-sponsored the Senate bill.
And what about redistricting

Unrelated but intriguing was the news yesterday that the GOP-proposed Senate redistricting would pit two sitting Democratic Senators, as reported by City and State NY:
Brooklyn State Sens. Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery’s residences are now in the same Senate district, spokespersons for both the Senate Republicans and Democrats confirmed, potentially putting the two colleagues in the position of running against one another.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised a veto.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

First residential tower now delayed until spring or summer; Forest City admits "goal" of including more larger units won't be met; CM James says developer's not meeting commitment

For the umpteenth time, Forest City Ratner has pushed back the projected groundbreaking for the first Atlantic Yards residential tower, Building 2 (B2), at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street flanking the Barclays Center arena. Now the groundbreaking could be spring, as most recently projected, or summer.

Also, as acknowledged today at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Forest City will not meet its "goal"--purportedly guaranteed by the Community Benefits Agreement and long promoted by the developer--of ensuring that half of the subsidized "affordable housing" would be (in square footage) devoted to larger units of two and three bedrooms.

"It doesn’t dilute our desire to meet the commitment in the future," insisted Forest City executive Jane Marshall at the meeting, held at Borough Hall.

"I understand your desire," responded Council Member Letitia James, skeptically. "I desire to be thin, and young"--the audience chuckled--"but that’s not going to happen. The bottom line is that, there was a commitment, there was a promise. There’s a need in the neighborhood... I would hope you would honor your commitment to the community.”

Forest City Ratner's partner ACORN, or its successor, was supposed to hold the developer to its housing pledge, but Bertha Lewis, who promoted the project because of the pledge, has not yet questioned the commitment.

B2 delays

Forest City initially promised that the 16 towers, along with the arena, would be built out in a decade, as promised in the plan approved in 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

After the recession hit in 2008, Forest City asked the ESDC for help in achieving savings, and the agency, in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan, re-approved the project to allow for the use of eminent domain in stages, rather than at one time, thus saving the developer from paying for the land all at once.

The state agency allowed that the project might take longer than ten years, but insisted that the first tower was on schedule. That schedule has been slipping ever since.

June 2009, ESDC Technical Memorandum: "These potential delays due to prolonged adverse economic conditions would not affect the timing of the development of the arena, the transit access improvements, the construction of the new LIRR rail yard, the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge or the construction of Building 2."

September 2009: arena architect Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP said, "The current plan by the client is to get Building 2 started six to nine months after the arena begins." (The arena began in March 2010, so that meant a late 2010 groundbreaking.)

February 2010: Marshall said, "As we've stated publicly, we intend to begin design of the first residential building in such a way that it can break ground in the fourth quarter of this year."

September 2010: Forest City executive MaryAnne Gilmartin said, "We anticipate having funding in place to start the first building at Dean and Flatbush in the spring of 2011, the second six to nine months later, and the third about the same time after that."

November 2010: Gilmartin said the developer intends to release designs and start construction in the first quarter of 2011.

February 2011: Marshall said, ""We still believe we can get in the ground in 2011, and that’s our goal."

July 2011: Gilmartin said, “We expect to decide on our construction approach in the coming months, and we anticipate a groundbreaking by year end."

September 2011: Marshall said, "We hope to have something to report by the end of the year, and have the first residential building, in construction by the beginning of the year.”

November 2011: Marshall said, "“We still believe that, before the end of the year, we will be able to announce which way we’re going and show the design to the public. That's our goal, consistent with our goal to break ground on B2 early next year.

November 2011: Forest City Ratner releases plan for modular construction of B2, and tells the Wall Street Journal it expects B2 "to be started in the spring."

January 2012: Marshall says today, "We want to break ground in the spring or in the summer."

Today's explanation

This morning, Marshall told the group, which consists of representatives of elected officials and interested agencies, with some community members watching, "We are continuing on--pursuing our efforts in the design, finalizing the design for Building 2, and talking with the city about financing. We released a design and we released details of the building in the fall. And it’s a 50% market, 50% affordable building. And it has approximately 400 units total"--actually 350--"and we continue to pursue our efforts to build so we can break ground this year. We want to break ground in the spring or in the summer."

Marshall did not mention whether Forest City was still expecting to construct the building using modular technology--as announced--or whether it had put that plan aside.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, said that Forest City had submitted a design for the agency's design review, to ensure that the building complies with the Design Guidelines for the project.

Why no larger units?

Later in the meeting, James noted that there's a "desperate need" in her Council district for two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. How many would there be in B2?

"I believe that we have a goal of a certain percentage of two bedroom units, which I think is 20%,  although somebody can correct me," Marshall responded quizzically. (Actually, there's no goal for a percentage of two-bedroom units; there's a commitment to devote 50% of square footage to two- and three bedroom units, as she could have read two days ago.)

"I don't believe that the current design reflects or meets that goal," Marshall said. "We recognize the need for larger units...We are currently trying to achieve that goal, although we have to proceed with design, with trying to get this building into the ground."

What does that mean? "Trying to get this building into the ground," I suspect, means "delivering at least some of the promised affordable housing." Also, if Forest City does not get B2 started before the arena opens, it could see development stalled as a penalty, if the Carlton Avenue Bridge does not reopen in time.

Not giving up

"So in no ways have we deserted that goal," Marshall said. "We are continuing discussions with the city and financing agencies. It has to do with the way they calculate floor area and the subsidies in this complicated discussion... Right now, Building 2 is short of the goal that we all want to achieve, which is a larger number of two-bedroom units."

"My understanding is that sometime ago," James followed up, "there was a commitment that half of the units would be larger units, not just 20 percent."

"If I'm wrong about the percentage, it's just because I'm not specifically, in detail, knowledgeable about it," Marshall replied, a sign of either faux-naivete or some kind of memory loss. "Whatever the percentage is, it’s a goal. It's not something we're deserting or giving up on."

"We recognize that B2 right now does not meet that goal," she continued. "We also want to go forward with B2, so there is a chance B2 will go forward not meeting that goal. That doesn’t mean we won't pursue meeting that goal for all of the other buildings. We are still in discussions with the city about this, so we haven’t given up."

Will goal be met?

James said that the other units might not arrive until the "far distant future."

Marshall said it was complicated, that "the financing vehicles from the city make it difficult to reach those goals."

"You probably in all likelihood will not reach those goals," James countered.

"I don't think that's fair," Marshall replied. "We may not, on the first building, but that doesn't dilute our desire to meet it, and it doesn’t dilute our desire to meet the commitment in the future."

And that provoked James to comment that "I desire to be thin, and young, but that’s not going to happen."