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Showing posts from January, 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 situ…

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).

T…

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 n…

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.

&…

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…

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 v…

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 th…

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 Developme…

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 Russi…

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 …

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 Port…

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 dis…

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 firs…

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 r…

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 pr…

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 Ada…

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 audi…