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Showing posts from June, 2012

A timely t-shirt: the name Barclays, now attached to a subway hub (and the Brooklyn arena), comes with a $450 million taint

Maybe Deborah Goldstein was onto something in resisting the renaming of Brooklyn's most diverse transit hub as Atlantic Av-Barclays Center.

When the t-shirt maker (aka Miss Wit) came up with "I'm still calling it Atlantic Av-Pacific St," she was merely spreading the message that "everyone is not okay with this, still,”

Now, of course, Barclays is a wee bit tainted. Wrote Michael D.D. White in his Noticing New York blog:
Think about the appropriateness of naming New York City subway stops “Barclays Center” (while receiving virtually nothing of value to do so). “Barclays,” nothing but a name being advertised, is simply one more name in a sea of distracting ads. The “Barclays” bank didn’t build the arena that advertises its name; it’s being built by Bruce Ratner with the financial assistance of a Russian oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov. The bank contributed nothing to the city or the borough of Brooklyn in order to build it. It has nothing to do with the arena. “Barcla…

Getting some answers from ESD on transportation plan: is cutting parking a disincentive? will parking change be studied? where will savings on "NetroCards" go?

The draft Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan was presented to the local community and elected officials on 5/22/12 (my coverage), as noted by Empire State Development, and the public has until July 3, 2012 to submit comments and questions to AtlanticYards@esd.ny.gov.

ESD has prepared a document (also below) that answers several of the questions already raised. I highlight a few.

Parking disincentive

The key question is below, though it could be formulated in multiple ways. How can the reduction by half in on-site parking is an effective disincentive, according to the question, when there's sufficient off-site parking elsewhere nearby?

The answer is that "[p]roviding fewer parking spaces in an area with robust transit service is clearly a disincentive to driving." But the presence of free, on-street parking will be an incentive to driving, at least for some (and initially). That's not mentioned here.

Parking changes

Why was there no official analysis of the ch…

From the Arena Operations presentation: views of the Haier Store, loading dock, and parking lot

The Empire State Development has posted the Barclays Center Arena Operations presentation unveiled at the June 26 public meeting concern security, sanitation, and parking, and the full document is also posted below.

Below, I highlight several issues, including the Haier Store, the loading dock, and the parking configuration.

The Haier Store & plaza

The Haier Experience Store, "which will be part of the Barclays Center and accessible to the public from outside of the arena during event and non-event days" (according to January 2009 press release), is, for one of the first times, demarcated on a map.

There's a plaza in front of it at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and the extension of Pacific Street.

By contrast, a rendering issued via ESDC in a 12/16/10 memo (right), did not indicate that the narrow blue rectangle just east of the arena indicated the Haier Store. However, a retail store in that spot was indicated in a September 2009 presentation (first video) by aren…

Are there 1,079 (FT?) workers at the Atlantic Yards site? If so, that's a huge jump (and sign of crunch time?)

Patch reported yesterday, "Right now on the Atlantic Yards construction site, according to FCRC, they have 1,079 union employees in total...."

We don't know what that means in terms of FTE jobs. Generally, the number has been overstated by about 25%.

Still, it's a significant increase in workers, given that, in January 2012, Forest City construction chief Bob Sanna said about 666 workers was near peak. "I think we are approaching the peak, between all three parts of the project," he said, noting that perhaps 25 more workers would be added.

Does the increase relate to the 24/7 work now going at the site? That seems likely, and an indication of crunch time to get the project finished. Still, arena neighbors tell me they haven't seen signs of a major influx of workers.

Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco gave a brief response to my query: "That publication asked for the most recent number of workers on site and we provided. They change weekly an…

Lots of people looking for part-time arena jobs, but they were never the justification for the subsidies and tax breaks

There are 1901 projected-part time jobs at the Barclays Center, and "nearly 20,000" (according to NY 1) or 26,000 (as per New York Times) applicants, a sign, according to the Times, that Amid Gloom, Job Hopes Rest Heavily on New Arena.

Well, that's news, especially given the desperate economic times, with half of the city's black residents unemployed. In Residents Line Up For Chance At Barclays Center Jobs, NY 1 quoted a resident calling it "a good opportunity."

It's surely better than no job, or even certain low-wage jobs, given that it's expected to be unionized. And Forest City Ratner, as the Times pointed out, has fulfilled its pledge by recruiting in Brooklyn, at churches and housing projects.

But such part-time jobs were never the justification for Atlantic Yards, and the attendant subsidies and tax breaks. No wonder elected officials like Council Member Letitia James and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery scoffed at them, during a rally earl…

Consistently inconsistent: Marty Markowitz wants the Barclays Center (liquor license, metal detectors) to be treated like other sports facilities--except regarding its fundamental placement in a neighborhood

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, in recent comments on the proposed liquor license for the Barclays Center and the plan to use metal detectors, has had a seemingly consistent message: treat the Brooklyn arena the same as any other sports facility.

The inconsistency? From early on, the Brooklyn arena was not treated the same as any other sports facility.

The state agreed to override city zoning that bars sports facilities from being within 200 feet of residential areas, as well as override many other zoning rules.

So the tight fit of the arena into Prospect Heights has to be recognized, as even Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams--whose agency overrides the zoning--acknowledged this week, pointing to the dicey operation of the arena loading dock, with no ramp or holding area for trucks.

Markowitz on the liquor license

At right is testimony Markowitz submitted to a June 12 State Liquor Authority hearing.

All other arenas in the area have been granted liquor licenses, he…

At (belated) meeting on arena operations, some specifics on parking, questions about loading dock and traffic agents, and a flat statement that the public will pay for extra police

A long-awaited meeting last night on Barclays Center operational issues--parking, security, sanitation--was deemed useful but frustrating by community members who’ve been watching developer Forest City Ratner plow ahead with arena-related construction, even without official approvals.

“This is a start, six months late,” observed Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, noting the tight timetable before the arena opens Sept. 28. He said he told Empire State Development Corporation CEO Kenneth Adams, a convenor of the Borough Hall meeting, that he almost didn’t attend because he was so frustrated by Forest City’s decision, for example, to proceed on the planned surface parking lot without a work permit.

The Barclays Center operational team, which did most of the talking, delivered a good amount of boilerplate, as well as occasional specifics, such as the configuration of parking lot and planned entrances and exits. Krashes pointed out, however, that a lot of questions remain …

At meeting on arena operations, the shadow of today's court decision; also, while state agency seems open to new governance entity, developer Forest City Ratner remains opposed

There was a slightly surreal air to a long-scheduled meeting tonight regarding Barclays Center operations, notably security, parking, and sanitation, held at Brooklyn Borough Hall. (I'll have a full report in the morning.)

After all, Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton, a recent hire, led off by asserting that “we have learned that transparency and sharing details as we go is the best policy,” only hours after the state Court of Appeals rejected leave to appeal--filed by the developer and the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards--of a decision saying that the defendants had failed in such transparency.

No one mentioned that case until Gib Veconi, who as a leader of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and BrooklynSpeaks was a prime mover behind the suit, brought it up near the end of the two-and-a-half hour meeting.

“At this point, when we can see a draft scope of analysis for an SEIS?” Veconi asked Kenneth Adams, CEO of Empire State Development (E…

Court of Appeals denies effort by ESDC, Forest City to appeal timetable case; state must analyze impact of 25-year buildout; will leave cloud over project as arena opening approaches; provokes new call for oversight

Updated with comments from BrooklynSpeaks & DDDB.

Yes, the Empire State Development Corporation will have to conduct a court-ordered analysis of the potential 25-year impacts of Atlantic Yards construction after all, leaving a cloud of concern over the project--and a rebuke to the state agency--as the Barclays Center proceeds to a September 28 opening.

And the decision provoked further call for reforming oversight of the project.

The project was long expectedsaid to take ten years, but document signed in late 2009 gave developer Forest City Ratner 25 years.

The state agency, as well as Forest City, had sought to appeal a unanimous Appellate Division decision upholding a lower court's requirement of Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The state Court of Appeals, in a decision issued without elaboration, denied permission for such an appeal.

(Had the appellate court been split, an appeal would have been automatic. Here's the Appellate Division decision, which…

From n+1, "Berman's Children": how a key Supreme Court case furthered both the eminent domain that enabled Atlantic Yards and the landmarking that shaped the neighborhoods nearby

In the latest issue of n+1, attorney Andrew Jacobs offers an intriguing take on Atlantic Yards, titled "Berman’s Children" (subscribers only), explaining how the legal doctrine that enabled the state power of eminent domain--and the not-so-transparent agency overseeing the project--also brought us the Prospect Heights Historic District, and, of course, the earlier historic districts in the radius of the development site, thus creating enduring tensions from an expansion of state power.

"Efforts to designate the Prospect Heights Historic District began in 2006 and came to fruition in the summer of 2009," Jacobs writes. "The Yards, in some sense, created the District."

Jacobs finds a thread of connection in Suleiman Osman's The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, who explains how postwar, post-industrial New York faced both "urban modernism and antimodern, romantic urbanism."

The former, including eminent domain, relied on experts "w…

Behind the revision of the railyard deal: MTA says it leaves agency whole, won't try to put a dollar figure on work so far, says disruptive work to meet deadline not expected

As noted on June 7, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that developer Forest City Ratner, which successfully revised the Vanderbilt Yard development rights deal to build a smaller, cheaper replacement railyard and to attenuate payments, has managed to save cash flow by renegotiating another aspect of the schedule with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Instead of beginning the permanent railyard this June 30, as indicated in an MTA Staff Summary dated 6/22/09, the official start date has been moved back 18 months to 12/31/13, with terms disclosed to the MTA board members on June 4.

Now that I have the underlying documents and posed questions to the agency, I can attempt answers at some of the lingering questions: Does Forest City save money? Probably.Does it leave the MTA where it wanted? Yes, but thanks in part to the agency's own delays.Will a concentrated schedule mean noisy late-night work? No, they say.Can the schedule be extended/relaxed again? Surely. Does Forest…