Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Roof sponsorship signage" coming to Barclays Center: does Forest City's plan meet Design Guidlines?

Guess what: "roof sponsorship signage" is coming to the Barclays Center, according to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, released yesterday by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

Preparation for the installation of the signage will begin this week or next, according to the document, which does not explain the nature and extent of such signage.

I've asked for more details; for example, will it look like the rendering above right, released in early 2010, announcing the Barclays Center?

Either way, however, roof signage was never officially permitted. So it should be seen as a multi-million-dollar giveaway.

Raising the question in 2010

I reported 3/8/10 that rooftop Barclays Center logo that appeared in the latest arena rendering arena seemed to violate the Design Guidelines as stated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the ESDC.

Asked in March 2010 if the pictured rooftop signage would be allowed, ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded:
Images of the arena used for promotional purposes are renderings. Anything that is built out -- including final signage -- will meet the design guidelines, which we continue to review with Forest City Ratner Companies as specific elements of the design are finalized and evolve from renderings to reality.
From the FEIS and Design Guidelines

The documents approving the project in 2006 did not mention roof signage, likely because there was supposed to be a green roof. There's been no update of the Design Guidelines nor disclosure of permission for roof signage.

From page 5 of Chapter 8, Urban Design, of the November 2006 FEIS:
With the exception of limited signage for ground-floor uses, illuminated and non- illuminated opaque signs would be limited to the westernmost 75 feet of the arena block and to the Building 1 façades along Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues and would be limited in terms of overall surface area and height. Additional signage and lighting would also be allowed on the Urban Room (80-150 feet in height) on Building 1 (to a height of 60 feet), and on the arena façade (to a height of 40 feet)...
The Design Guidelines state (p. 28, 30) that signage "shall be permitted on the Arena street wall" on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. There's no mention of the roof.

From the Design Guidelines
That lost green roof

There was never any discussion of roof signage because there were never any plans for roof signage. When plans were announced in December 2003, Forest City Ratner promised:

The roof of the Arena offers an exciting opportunity to create new public space, with 52,000 square feet in four lushly landscaped areas for passive recreation and a promenade along the outside edge of the roof with outstanding panoramic vistas facing Manhattan.
 Herbert Muschamp, then architecture critic for the New York Times, wrote 12/11/03:
Here, the stage will be activated by a running track around the perimeter of the arena's roof. In winter, the track becomes a skating rink. Other areas of the roof will be set aside for passive recreation. Restaurants for the surrounding towers are planned at the arena's roof level.
In September 2005, however, the space became private; the state reported that the "rooftop open space would be accessible to users of the buildings constructed as part of the proposed project." In a friendly 5/14/06 interview with the Daily News, architect Frank Gehry was asked about green space on the roof. His response:
The first thing we wanted to do was put a basketball court up there and invite all the kids up there to play, which was a wonderful thought until you found out what all the technical issues were: exiting requirements, soundproofing. So now the idea is making a garden that you look at, that's a piece of art from above and that becomes part of a sustainable system, which could become a bird sanctuary.

When the project was first approved, according to the November 2006 FEIS, the roof was supposed to be grass:
The approximately 850,000-sf arena would be approximately 150 feet tall and include approximately one acre of private open space on its roof... The roof would also contain approximately three acres of landscaped green space, a sustainable design feature that reduces stormwater runoff, but would not be accessible. 
Three years later, the project was later revised, and the green roof vanished. ESDC reported, in a June 2009 Technical Memorandum:
The arena roof would not incorporate stormwater detention tanks, a green roof, or rooftop private open space. Instead, the detention tanks would be located in the base of the arena and enlarged to accommodate the additional stormwater load associated with the elimination of the green roof.
No change mentioned

In no document was there mention of a change in the Design Guidelines, nor any illustration of "roof sponsorship signage." The rendering below from the Technical Memorandum--before SHoP came on board-- states that it "does not include signage, which will conform to Design Guidelines."

I read that as saying that they will only do what is explicitly permitted, not be able to do what is not explicitly banned. Roof signage was never permitted.

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: the oculus and the Haier Store become more visible

There's some interesting stuff in the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 7/30/12 (and embedded below) and released yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

Not only will the oculus become ever more visible, so too will be the Haier Store at the east end of the arena, at the extension of Pacific Street. I've written separately about "roof sponsorship signage."

Below I've bolded changes from the previous alert.

Facade installation
• The installation of the entry canopy oculus façade panels is projected to start this reporting period. This installation will be performed on a second and partial third shift timetable, with the Work scheduled from 3 pm to 3 am.
• The installation of the Haier Store (east retail zone) façade panels is projected to start this reporting period. This installation will be performed on a second and partial third shift timetable, with the Work scheduled from 3 pm to 3 am.
Waterproofing & Fireproofing
• The waterproofing of the interior walls of the east and west stormwater retention tanks has been completed. The preparation for the testing of the tanks has begun. The testing is projected to start with the equalizer line this reporting period. The testing was delayed from the last period due to damage to the equalizer line. The damage has been repaired at the pipe and the tank entry and the testing program will continue in the field this reporting period. The reporting and documentation for the testing is under A/E and consultant review. The testing of the equalizer line will continue this reporting period, following the repair of a leak that the previous testing revealed.
• The preparation for the installation of the roof sponsorship signage will begin this reporting period.
Mechanical, Electrical, & Plumbing
• The chiller plant and the primary bowl air handling units (AHU’s) are projected to be fully operational this reporting period and arena cooling under full volume should be in place by the end of the reporting period
Interior Build-Out
The placement of the terrazzo flooring (shot blasting/scouring of the slab on metal deck) at the Main and Upper Concourse will continue this reporting period. The finish grind and polishing of the terrazzo at the Main Concourse will begin this reporting period. 
The installation of the arena blackout curtains and the high ceiling landary (noise dampening) curtains will commence this reporting period.  
Subway Entrance
Transit Canopy • Green roof is complete and fascia waterproofing will be underway. Fascia panels will then commence installation. 
• Tile work is underway. The steel stair nosings and stair tile work at the main entrance stair will be coming to completion. Ceiling panel installation will continue.  
Track Outages (General Orders) 
• IRT and BMT Tunnel inspections have taken place and the tunnel repair work is now substantially complete in both the IRT and BMT tunnels. Minor repair and cleanup work will occur on selective evenings under scheduled NYCT flagging protection. Platform signage will also continue during these flagging operations. 
Carlton Avenue Bridge
• Erection of bridge steel for spans 1 and 2 has been completed. Bolt –up and other activities associated with the steel work are ongoing in spans 1 and 2. Erection and bolt-up of bridge steel for spans 3 and 4 has begun and will be ongoing through the next reporting periods. 
• CAB underground utility work has begun and will be ongoing through the next reporting period at both the north and south end of the CAB. The MPT will remain in place until after all underground utilities and final asphalt approach work is completed. 
Post Cutover 
• The LIRR has begun operations in the north yard. Contractor forces are continuing work to finish various portions of the yard work that were not fully completed prior to the cutover. These include “Punchlist” items like the final coat of paving, installation of a few remaining lighting poles and fixtures and some other non-critical items. This will take another 3 to 5 weeks to complete.
Block 1129 Parking Lot
• Installation of the stormwater detention system will be completed during this reporting period.
• Interior curb work is approximately 50% complete and will continue during this reporting period.
• Site electrical work, including underground conduits, pull boxes and light pole installation, will commence during this reporting period.
• Installation of the permanent fencing will begin during this period.
Arena site work
• The curb installation work, sidewalk and street light installation work is now substantially complete on Flatbush Avenue from Dean Street up to Atlantic Avenue. Sidewalk along Flatbush is now substantially complete up to the tip.
Bollard and curb installation work along 6th Avenue and Dean Street is substantially completed. Excavation and grading of the B3 plaza has now been completed. Footings for the light pole bases are now complete.
• The construction of the site benches at the tip of the site is complete Electrical distribution work for the benches is also substantially complete. Planting mix has now been placed in the planters and the sedum has now been planted. 
Dean Street Playground Comfort Station
The contractor mobilized on June 11th. Excavation and foundations are essentially complete. During this reporting period, the contractor will continue with underground conduit and piping and begin masonry work. The work is scheduled to be complete this fall. 
Atlantic Yards Construction Alert 7-30-2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

With arena General Manager gone, more pressure on getting arena systems to work; Forest City exec once warned that "it is essential that the arena be completed by early July 2012" for testing

It's a bit of a mystery, and it has to be troubling for Barclays Center operators. Sports Business Journal reports today on the departure of the arena General Manager and (via NetsDaily's summary):
[John] Sparks decided to "go in a different direction" and left New York a month ago, [arena CEO] Brett Yormark told SBJ. The change is not expected to affect the arena construction timetable.
Well, it won't affect the construction timetable, as the arena's supposed to reach a substantial completion date of 9/5/12, itself nudged back from 8/12/12, after three other adjustments. But they have little more than three weeks after that to get the building ready for the first Jay-Z concert.

Sparks' departure won't make it easier to make the systems work in a complicated building that, Forest City Ratner's top Atlantic Yards executive once said, had "to be completed by early July 2012" to ensure "three to four months" for testing.

In other words, it was already a very tight timetable. Now, they've lost Sparks, who Yormark once said "brings to us a wealth of best practices." So the margin for error diminishes.

It was already a good bet that, upon the official opening Sept. 28, they'd still be working out the kinks to make the building work for both guests or neighbors. Now the likelihood of kinks is greater. After all, the Barclays Center hasn't even announced the hiring of a promised community relations official.

No public explanation

As I reported 7/13/12, this was the very brief statement in a public meeting the day before:
[Forest City External Affairs VP Ashley] Cotton said “we wanted to mention that the [arena] General Manager, John Sparks, has decided to relocate with his family, and has left New York and Barclays Center." David Anderson, who was previously heading the “front of the house” for arena operator AEG, has replaced him.
There was no elaboration regarding Sparks’ departure, nor questions. Sparks, who’d been working since May 2011, had moved from San Antonio.
There was something a little off about that.

No arena operator would want to lose a general manager three months before opening day--it's impossible to find a replacement from outside. Nor would any general manager want to leave before seeing a new arena in the nation's media capital through to opening, at least if things were going smoothly.

I've heard a series of secondhand explanations, all of which go beyond "deciding to go in a different direction."

Forest City: "arena be completed by early July 2012"

In an April 2010 sworn affidavit aiming to ensure that evictions of condemnees could proceed, Forest City Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin, who oversees Atlantic Yards, stated (p. 70):
Furthermore, it takes at least three to four months to commission an arena like Barclays Center--i.e., to test and refine the various buildings systems and the various operations (such as security and food services) that must be performing properly and efficiently before the arena can be opened for the professional basketball season. In other words, it is essential that the arena be completed by early July 2012, so that the commission process can be completed by the opening of the basketball season in October 2012.
It should be noted that Gilmartin's affidavit was not exactly airtight, since she also stated that the demolitions of all the buildings on Block 1129, the southeast block, was necessary. Instead, the one rehabbed industrial building, once owned by Henry Weinstein, serves as offices for contractors and construction plans.

Still, even if she was exaggerating by 100 percent, that means it takes six to eight weeks to commission an arena. They have three weeks.

Sparks once upbeat

In an interview last October with a Long Island newspaper, Sparks and his wife, who'd moved from San Antonio, sounded upbeat:
We’re going to have a huge arena, it’s going to be 18,000 people and we’re going to house the Nets there. They’ll be the Brooklyn Nets in 2012. We’ll do 225 events in the first year. I’m taking on the same role as I had in San Antonio, but I’m doing it in the largest stage in the country. “
And he and his wife sounded happy in New York:
Transitioning into New York life hasn’t been too hard, Sparks noted. “A lot of people are asking why we went from Texas to New York — we’re at a different stage of our lives and we wanted to experience more. And it’s really hot in Texas,” Sparks said laughing.
...Sparks’ wife, Gail, is enjoying the area. “I’m excited to be back on the East Coast... It’s very exciting for our family to be able to watch John’s continued success in this field after all the hard work he did serving his country,” Gail said. “Long Island is just far away enough from the city to be quiet but still close enough to be in the middle of everything.”
Sparks's hiring

Inside Hoops reported 5/25/11:
The Barclays Center of Brooklyn has named John Sparks as its General Manager, in which he will oversee the operations of the world-class sports and entertainment venue set to open September 28, 2012.
One of the nation’s most experienced major facility managers, Sparks will be responsible for food and beverage, security, event coordination/services, and parking.
Sparks will also be involved in several aspects of the development of the Barclays Center, including the completion of the standard operating procedures.
Sparks joins the Barclays Center after nine years with Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which included his serving as Vice President/General Manager of San Antonio’s AT&T Center since November 2004. Sparks had been charged with overseeing AT&T Center construction and establishing day-to-day operational procedures for the building.
Prior to joining Spurs Sports & Entertainment, Sparks was director of operations for Philips Arena during which he helped to open the Atlanta sports and entertainment venue.
“John has significant experience in launching major new sports and entertainment facilities,” said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the sales and marketing arm of the Barclays Center. “He brings to us a wealth of best practices and will be instrumental in guiding our operational transition to Brooklyn.”

Flashback to September 2010: Forest City's Gilmartin said "we anticipate" funding for first tower by spring of 2011

Less than two years ago, at a 9/29/10 public meeting on the arena plaza, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin aimed to mitigate some of the bad publicity that stemmed from Bruce Ratner's comments at a press event a day earlier about how the project might take longer than ten years.

"We explained the possibility that the project might be delayed by economic conditions and be built over a longer period than ten years," she said. "That being said, Forest City's plans for the buildout are as follows. We are currently working on moving forward with the three residential buildings on the arena block. 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."

Note that the Development Agreement gives them a lot more time--ten years for the third tower to start--before penalties kick in. Construction on the first building has been delayed again and again, though now executives say it will start before the end of the year, though it's not clear yet whether it will be modular construction.

"And then we move on the Phase 2, the development of the project east of Sixth Avenue," Gilmartin concluded. "Let me be clear. Forest City is a company with great determination and deep roots in Brooklyn. We are 100% committed to delivering the entire Atlantic Yards project and all of its benefits, to the borough of Brooklyn."

All of its benefits? As I wrote in October 2010, the modular option had emerged on Forest City’s radar screen in late 2009, which would save Forest City money and deliver a less expensive building, but not share as many benefits with the construction unions that rallied so vigorously for the project.

(Video by Jonathan Barkey)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Connecting Mayor Bloomberg's endorsement of Scott Brown, his downplaying of the Barclays/LIBOR scandal, and "corporatist privilege" (that connects to "Bankers Gone Wild")

Michael D. D. White has been writing up a storm on his Noticing New York blog about Barclays, the LIBOR scandal, and the possibility of local governmental agencies gaining recompense in a lawsuit.

In his latest, he muses about Mayor Mike Bloomberg's surprising announcement that he supports incumbent Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, against law professor (and Wall Street critic) Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat:
Come on now! No, it’s pretty clear, Brown’s gun control record is just a contrived cover for Bloomberg’s work to keep the banks unregulated and unaccountable. That probably puts the above point #3 in the lead for the reason that Bloomberg is also so eager to minimize the public’s LIBOR losses.
But maybe it doesn’t make any difference which exactly of those above three reasons explains why Bloomberg is minimizing the possibility of the public’s loses at the hands of Barclays and the other banks, because whether it's "Barclays" (Ratner/Prokhorov) arena boondoggling, Barclays bank president befriending or Barclays Bank LIBOR manipulations, all three of those explanations are probably essentially the same: Bloomberg supports a corporatist privilege for the 1% to manipulate, lie and scheme to scam the 99%.
"Bankers Gone Wild"

In this week's New Yorker, "Financial Page" columnist James Surowiecki wrote Bankers Gone Wild. It's a pretty chilling summary: manipulating LIBOR was easy; banks had much incentive to tell lies; and self-regulation doesn’t work in finance:
The Barclays traders, for instance, sent e-mails casually thanking their colleagues for lying, and sometimes talked with their supervisors about their plans, revealing a culture in which deception was simply part of how things got done. As the behavioral economist Dan Ariely writes in his new book, “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty,” cheating is contagious—when we see others succeed by cheating, it makes us more likely to cheat as well. So when institutions tolerate, and even reward, bad behavior, all that self-regulation gets you is bankers gone wild.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The modular plan versus Gehry's goal to not make it "look like a project"

"How do you make a complex that doesn’t look like a project even though one architect’s doing it?" asked Frank Gehry, then the architect of Atlantic Yards, in a 10/31/05 interview, describing some of the challenges he faced.

Modular construction does not seem to be the most likely solution. (The developer is still aiming at modular, but has not reached agreement with construction unions, even though an effort to finance the first building is in process.)

But by now Forest City Ratner's goal is cutting costs--not to mention that speedier construction would avoid arena snags. So Gehryesque architecture is not the priority. 

Looking northwest from the corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Streets, with three towers around the arena.
Note that the rendering, by SHoP, is from that curious hovercraft perspective that architects often favor, though it bears no relation to how pedestrians would experience the buildings. Also note the building in the lower right, which seems very small: it's not actually the 10-story Atlantic Terrace building, which should be there, but seven-story placeholder.

And where's the broadcast parking lot on the east side of Dean Street?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Downtown Brooklyn hailed for growth in jobs, income; rezoning lost to history; Barclays Center seen as opportunity; DBP portrays itself as nonpartisan

Downtown Brooklyn is booming--sort of. Yesterday, a press conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) unveiled reports about job growth, a residential boom, and the area's future.

While two publications (Patch and the Epoch Times) did check with FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), which expressed dismay at the lack of affordable housing, nobody pointed out that the rezoning passed in 2004 was aimed to increase office jobs for Wall Street and other large firms, which didn't happen at all.

Instead, there's been little increase in office space; the boom has been in health care/social assistance, education, leisure hospitality and tech. From 2003 to 2010, there was a growth of nearly 12,000 jobs, or 18.3%, in the Comptroller's broadly designated Downtown Brooklyn, which includes several adjacent neighborhoods, from Boerum Hill to Clinton Hill, but not Prospect Heights (though the arena gets listed).

Why's that important? Because neither legislators nor advocates focused on ensuring that property owners, newly gifted with the opportunity to build large residential towers or hotels, had reciprocal obligations. Thus the median income has boomed, but the benefits have not been broadly shared.

The DBP's report also includes a curious evasion, in which the organization claims not to be partisan.

The coverage

Reuters, in Economic growth in NY's Brooklyn holds lessons for cities, reported:
"Don't view investments in arts and culture as simply aesthetic, or for quality of life," DiNapoli said. "It is also an economic investment."

Comptroller DiNapoli said that collaboration between the public and private sectors bolstered the area's natural advantages, which include its historic neighborhoods, riverside land, and nearly a dozen higher educational institutions.

..."BAM is a dominant arts and culture institution, but they don't elbow out other organizations," he said. "They work very hard to create more venues in the BAM network of buildings so other organizations can participate in a low-cost way."
The Daily News reported Downtown Brooklyn has been exploding with job growth despite 2008 recession, new report shows:
Cheaper office rent and the area's close proximity to Wall St. has been a major lure, the report said. The average office space price in downtown Brooklyn is $30 per square foot, lower than the $42 per square foot cost in lower Manhattan and the $65 rate in midtown Manhattan.
Patch reported:
"The key, in our view, is how you go from being a hotspot, a high-tech Silicon Valley flash-in-the-pan to being a blue chip thing. And that's the whole objective," said Alan Fishman, chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

To accomplish that goal, DBP president Tucker Reed unveiled a strategic plan to draw tenants to underutilized spaces, particularly above Fulton Mall storefronts, and to better connect Downtown neighborhoods for pedestrians.

In his remarks, Reed announced plans for a network of parks, plazas, greenways and greenspaces to connect hotspots like the Barclays Center, MetroTech and Brooklyn Bridge Park
Also see coverage by NY1 and by MetroFocus, which stressed a new bus line to connect DUMBO, the Navy Yard, and Downtown Brooklyn, the so-called Tech Triangle.

The DBP video

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership offered a sprightly video, which the Daily News also posted.

The DBP Strategic Plan

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's Strategic Plan (below, in summary and full versions) focuses on five priorities:
  • connectivity of the pedestrian network
  • diversity of economic growth, especially in the area it calls "Brooklyn Tech Triangle," involving the Navy Yard, DUMBO, and Downtown
  • community, "to combat dated and inaccurate perceptions that we have held too much sway," the DBP will "work with area stakeholders" and, among other things, "seek out ways to integrate the Barclays Center with local businesses, activities, and public spaces"
  • culture, including promotion of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District
  • opportunity, including workforce development and connections to educational institutions
The DBP's role: non-partisan

The plan is careful to describe the organization:
In reading this document, it is important to understand the Partnership‘s unique and nuanced role in Downtown‘s development. The DBP is a champion for the area but not a lobbyist. The DBP works with public bodies but is not a government agency and lacks the authority to dictate public spending or change the regulations that govern development. DBP does convene public and private stakeholders for discussions of issues important to Downtown Brooklyn, but is not a political fundraising entity or a partisan organization. What the DBP does have is local knowledge, relationships and a strong, respected voice in the business and development community.
Is this a way to distance the DBP from the reported investigation into illegal lobbying by the state Attorney General's office? Surely the public testimony in favor of Atlantic Yards from Downtown Brooklyn Partnership leaders Joe Chan and Alan Fishman qualifies as partisan, even if the latter officially spoke on behalf of BAM.

The arena

Here's an elaboration of plans regarding the arena.

The arena location

Note that the DBP map seems to bootstrap the arena into Downtown Brooklyn, but acknowledges that the rest of Atlantic Yards would be in Prospect Heights.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Strategic Plan Summary July 2012 Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Strategic Plan Full 07-25-12 Downtown Brooklyn State Comptroller 712

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Promises, promises: how the ESDC said care would be taken at the construction site, how complaints have been documented, and what might be done about noise

As I wrote yesterday, a new report validates neighbors' concerns about disruptive Atlantic Yards constructions, and documents suggest that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its environmental monitor have condoned a cover-up of a Forest City contractor's falsification.

Some 19 months ago, an ESDC attorney--in retrospect, not so wisely--assured board members that all commitments to mitigate neighborhood concerns would be followed.

The comment came in the wake of the ESDC's breakneck preparation (via consultant AKRF) that a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout would not result in any community impacts not disclosed in the agency's previous study of an official ten-year buildout and a five year delay.

Such a finding, in a Technical Analysis (not to be confused with a Technical Memorandum issued in June 2009), was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, who ultimately ruled that it was inadequate, and that the agency had to perform a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to look at a 25-year buildout.

The ESDC and Forest City Ratner lost an appeal last month, though no SEIS has begun.

Board member's concern

After receiving the Technical Analysis (though with no evidence they'd had time to review it), the ESDC board on 12/16/10 unanimously approved the findings.

After the vote, public policy consultant Joyce Miller, as of June 2010 a new board member, offered a small olive branch to community members who'd expressed dismay and incredulity that a 25-year buildout, however attenuated, was no worse than a ten-year one.

"Having lived next to a construction site," said Miller, who lives on the Upper West Side near Riverside South, "I'm sympathetic to some of the complaints that are being made and I would like to know and be reassured that some of the complaints regard to construction hours, et cetera, noise you can't do anything about, obviously, pile drivers are pile drivers, but that care is taken to ensure that regulations and laws regarding the maintenance of the construction site, the hours of construction site, et cetera, the safety of the construction site, are all adhered to."

"Yes," came the response from ESDC attorney Robin Stout. (Video by Jonathan Barkey.)

Actually, as the report compiled for Atlantic Yards Watch indicates, care has not been taken to follow the rules.

What to do about noise

The report even counters Miller's observation that "noise you can't do anything about." It suggests that established mitigation protocols are insufficient, and not enforced, and that numerous steps could be taken.

What to do about extended periods of truck idling, a source of noise complaints? Reevaluate the volume and hourly distribution of trucks, and their associated air/noise impacts

What about numerous nighttime noise complaints? Schedule work that would generate high noise levels during weekday daytime hours to extent feasible. Provide required noise shielding to residents, beyond what's already been done. Monitor nighttime noise levels. Replace loud back-up beepers with lights or quieter devices. Incorporate modifications to dumpsters such as rubber wheels.

What about noisy equipment? First, follow the code. Then go beyond it, banning the use of impact devices (jack hammers, hoe rams, pavement breakers ) at night. Require noise measurements to be submitted on a weekly basis. Require contractors to use newer, quieter equipment, such as generators that have soundproofing. Design truck patterns for pick-up and delivery that minimize the need to back up.

What about the promised placement and shielding of equipment? Use noise curtains and equipment enclosures beyond the current plywood. Cover joints with duct tape. Monitor daytime and nighttime noise levels at residential buildings during noisy nighttime work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Atlantic Yards construction violations: not just neglect, but also a cover-up of "documentation falsified by the contractor"

For years, residents near the Atlantic Yards project have complained about deafening late-night noise ("I take sleeping pills," one lamented), delivery trucks using residential streets for staging, and construction workers creating free parking by any means necessary, even uprooting a "No Standing" sign (video).

A new report, commissioned by the community initiative Atlantic Yards Watch, catalogs violations in depressing detail, suggesting that neighbors' interests have been sacrificed in developer Forest City Ratner's rush to get the Barclays Center finished for that first Jay-Z concert Sept. 28.

The state agency overseeing the project, Empire State Development (ESD, aka Empire State Development Corporation), has barely enforced the official mitigation protocols, nor have other agencies stepped up, according to the report. (ESD recently lost a lawsuit, and must analyze the community impact of a potential 25-year project buildout.)

Forest City Ratner's response was predictable. Spokesman Jonathan Rosen told the Daily News, “We take every complaint from our neighbors seriously and work hard to address them and meet our commitments to the community.”

A cover-up condoned

Maybe not so much. Not only has ESD neglected oversight, documents suggest the agency and its environmental monitor, Henningson, Durham & Richardson (HDR), have condoned a cover-up of a Forest City contractor's falsification.

Forest City was supposed to hire its own On-Site Environmental Monitor, meeting daily with contractors and observing site conditions. But the developer dragged its feet.

"During the second quarter of 2010, HDR expressed concerns with lack of oversight," the new report states. "Chuck Baldwin of Turner Construction was hired to handle the position until mid-July and HDR noted an improvement in on-site compliance."

However, that compliance relied on a wink and a nod, according to documents I discovered.

Each week, HDR compiles an "Atlantic Yards Field Inspection Report" for ESD. According to the non-public draft of the May 20, 2010 report, monitor Baldwin passed on to HDR sobering information: five pieces of heavy equipment lacked the required diesel particulate filter, aimed to reduce asthma-causing exhaust.

HDR "asked Chuck if FCRC has been keeping daily inspection reports for each piece of heavy machinery," according to the draft report. "He stated that while they have been maintaining this documentation, it had been falsified by the contractor." (Emphasis added.)

Baldwin told HDR a corrective action plan was requested from Hunt Construction, though no penalties were mentioned; in turn, HDR planned to talk with Forest City.
From the draft report

That damaging admission vanished from the final Field Inspection Report made available to the public, below.
From the final report
The official record suggests responsible behavior after the discovery, not falsification.

Empire State Development already has the contradictory mission of pursuing economic development while overseeing the impact of projects. This example of "agency capture" surely furthers the call to reform Atlantic Yards governance with some independent oversight.

Report validates neighbors' steady complaints about Atlantic Yards construction: "continual violations and difficulty with enforcement"

So, maybe the neighbors near the Atlantic Yards project, who have filed complaints and reports about a never-ending stream of construction-related violations--late-night noise causing sleepless nights, dust clouds, illegal parking, jolting vibrations, use of residential streets for truck routes--will be taken more seriously.

And, as the opening of the Barclays Center arena approaches Sept. 28, perhaps officials will recognize that careful monitoring is necessary to ensure against untoward impacts.

A new report, prepared for Atlantic Yards Watch by a veteran environmental consulting firm, concludes that the Forest City Ratner and its contractors, bent on getting a huge project finished by a tight deadline, have regularly failed to comply with mitigation protocols officially agreed to, and that other mitigations were implemented late, poorly, or unevenly.

On the cover, a generator near the street
The report, Evaluation of Construction Air Quality and Noise Commitments and Mitigations (embedded below), was conducted by Sandstone Environmental Associates of Metuchen, NJ and first previewed in the Daily News.

Sandstone was paid by Atlantic Yards Watch, via a $4,000 grant from Council Member Letitia James; the company does not limit work to community groups, as it was hired by Forest City Ratner for its Ridge Hill Project.

The review, which compares official obligations in the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) with reports by the Empire State Development Corporation's own consultant, as well as Atlantic Yards Watch incident reports, strikes me as pretty straightforward. (It's based on a review of documents, not interviews, which surely would add to the record.)

“As the report acknowledges, Forest City committed to strict rules governing construction noise, dust and traffic mitigation that go above and beyond New York City's own building code because we are committed to minimizing disruption to our neighbors,” Forest City spokesman Jonathan Rosen told the Daily News. “We take every complaint from our neighbors seriously and work hard to address them and meet our commitments to the community.”

Of course, the main message of the report is exactly the opposite: neither Forest City nor the state takes complaints seriously enough. The report states, "However, many of the workers seem to 'get away with it' and the low probability of being caught creates little incentive to follow the protocols."

What could be done

Nor have overseers been stringent enough to protect the community. For example, due to the size of the project and the need for nighttime work, the report suggests that the noise mitigation plan should go beyond the city Noise Code and consider measures taken by other major construction projects such as the Boston Central Artery and Tunnel Project.

It bans the use of impact devices (jack hammers, hoe rams, pavement breakers ) at night and authorizes the site engineer to stop a contractor’s work, without compensation for lost time, if noise conditions are unacceptable. It also requires noise measurements to be submitted on a weekly basis.

The summary

A truck idles on residential Pacific St., not staging area
The report's summary acknowledges that the "construction mitigation measures... were intended to be state of the art," but "there are continual violations and difficulty with enforcement."

But why? The report suggests that Forest City's "focus has been on finishing the arena by the September deadline, not on conducting construction operations in a manner that minimizes disruption to residents."

Also, "state and city agencies have apparently been overwhelmed with the volume and frequency of complaints about construction and/or did not have adequate means of handling them," and there are few penalties for failing to abide by the MEC.

Even if most workers, drivers, and contractors do follow protocols, "the sheer size of the construction effort means that even a small percentage of violations can add up to a large number incidents and citizen complaints," the report says.

The report groups problems into the several categories.

Mitigation protocols in the MEC are insufficient
  • Too few air quality monitors are deployed to identify incidents and locations of high
  • particulates.
  • Meteorology equipment has longer averaging period than PM10 monitors.
  • PM10 monitoring system is not state of the art.
  • No provisions for monitoring PM2.5.
  • Construction parking demand underestimated and parking spaces overestimated.
  • Geographic areas subject to significant noise impacts underestimated.
  • OITC rating of double-glazed windows may not be sufficient for high levels of construction noise.
  • Air quality monitoring and other oversight during extended hours is absent.
  • Construction Mitigation Plans have not been automatically updated as local regulations have been improved.
Workers fail to follow mitigation protocols
  • Trucks use non-approved routes.
  • Wetting of surfaces is inconsistent.
  • Coverage of storage piles is inconsistent.
  • Coverage of loose material in trucks is inconsistent.
  • Noisy equipment is placed at property lines without shielding.
City agencies have not enforced regulations
  • Trucks idle for more than 3 minutes.
  • Trucks and construction equipment use non-approved routes.
  • Truck drivers and workers ignore parking regulations.
State and city agencies and developer communications and responses to complaints inadequate
  • FCRC construction coordinator/community liaison role is underutilized.
  • ESDC community liaison position has been vacant for over a year.
  • Responses to inspect damage slow or absent.
  • NYPD overwhelmed with the problem of frequent illegal parking.
  • FCRC’s OEM (on-site environmental monitor) function is understaffed.
  • ESDC’s on-site environmental monitor function is understaffed and visits are too predictable.
  • City and State agencies approve extended construction hours without fully understanding the severe impacts on nearby residents (e.g., use of a hoe ram late at night).
  • Quarterly reports and other information are not available on-line.
  • MTA is not included in oversight protocols for LIRR property.
Implementation and enforcement of mitigation measures by management has been lax
  • Equipment that does  not  meet air quality specifications permitted to remain for months pending replacements that can comply with specifications.
  • Notification to ConEd regarding electrical grid should have occurred sooner.
Penalties for failure to follow MEC are largely absent
  • Drivers can be dismissed under Two Strike policy.
  • Contractors may not be compensated for lost time when forced to mitigate violations of MEC.
  • Otherwise, MEC violations do not cause penalties for FCRC or ESDC.
Significantly more night-time construction has occurred in order to complete the arena
  • Ambitious construction schedule is so vulnerable to contingencies that extended construction hours have become the norm rather than the exception.
  • Confusion over which work is on the critical path leads to unnecessary extended hours.
Severity of construction impacts over 25-year period not known
  • New NAAQS for 1-hour NO2 and SO2 established after FEIS
  • CEQR Technical Manual protocols updated in 2010 and 2012 and additional updates anticipated for future.
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis, which is now required by CEQR Technical Manual, should be applied to the 25-year construction period.
  • Construction worker parking during arena events needs to be reevaluated, especially given the reduction in planned parking spaces.
Recommendation: implement promised oversight and community relations measures
  • Position of Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) required by Community Benefit Agreement (CBA)  should be filled. Filling this position as mandated by the CBA would provide citizen groups with leverage in requiring better implementation of the construction mitigation measures in the MEC.
  • Position of ESDC community relations liaison, which has been vacant for over a year, should be filled. Filling this position would a direct line between ESDC and citizen representatives and elected officials and would alleviate the difficulties of presenting community issues at the District Cabinet meetings.
  • Interagency Task Force announced by ESDC in May of 2007 should be formed and meet monthly, and include representation from local elected officials.
Recommendation: consider/implement additional mitigation measures
  • More effective implementation, inspection and enforcement for completion of future construction must be addressed in an SEIS.
  • A schedule for scoping and conducting the SEIS needs to be established.
  • Existing and past construction problems must be addressed in detail in the SEIS and solutions developed.
  • Any construction activities not directly tied to the opening of the arena (if they exist) should be limited to normal M-F daytime construction periods.
  • Quarterly HDR Reports  must be issued more quickly to identify problems  and remedies more quickly.
  • State and City agencies with enforcement responsibilities, the contractor, HDR and any other inspectors, and local elected officials should review and agree to improved enforcement practices.
  • Other specific mitigation measures as noted in the sections of this report.

According to the report:
Damage from vibrations, or water?
A resident on the 500 block of Carlton Avenue across from Block 1129, where
construction on the parking facility is ongoing, took the photo, right, on May 29, 2012. The resident stated, “vibrations are so strong that the ceiling in my home fell down,” and that, "the dump trucks on Carlton Ave are adding to the vibration
problem!" A 311 complaint about emerging cracks in the ceiling on May 22nd had been filed two weeks earlier. She again called 311 and an operator stated 311 would not take the call. Then she went to the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman’s office and was told an engineer would inspect the damage.
At 5:30 pm that day, an FCRC representative arrived and took pictures. A vibration monitor is present in the resident’s basement, but FCRC’s engineer eventually determined that water damage was the “primary” cause and that no exceedances of acceptable vibration thresholds occurred. However, FCRC agreed to repair the ceiling.
Dust problems

According to the report:
Failure to use dust suppression when unloading materials is evident... on June 1, 2012 at the Barclays Arena site at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street... The observer noted that dust drifted into the residential neighborhood, as indicated by the fallout on a nearby parked car (below, right). The observer called 311 and was told to contact the contractor.
OEM’s quarterly reports state that many observed dust plumes do not migrate off-site. However, residents have frequently observed off-site dust in public areas due to construction activities. On March 26, 2012, for example, pedestrians at the corner of 6th and Atlantic Avenues were forced to walk through clouds of dust blown from the Barclays construction site (below, left).
Dust clouds in a residential neighborhood

Training construction workers

The report states:
Despite the emphasis on training, the actions of individual construction workers are a prime source of citizen complaints. Illegal parking, illegal idling, driving down the wrong streets, standing by while equipment spews dirt into the street or stirs up clouds of dust, failure to cover loose materials, and placing noisy equipment at property lines near residences without shielding are just a few of the numerous types of complaints documented by angry residents over the past two years. Perhaps managers did not get the word to all of the employees. Perhaps the mix of employees changed during the course of the construction period and new ones did not get the message. Perhaps the construction workers are used to high levels of noise and dust and don’t understand the reasons for all the fuss. Perhaps the workers don’t want to be bothered with wetting soils or feel they don’t have time for it. Perhaps employees have been doing their job the same way for a long time and “nobody tells me what to do!” Regardless of the reasons, the training concept fell short.
Enforcement procedures include the Two Strike rule, which allows FCRC to remove a driver from the project if he parks illegally or uses the wrong route (e.g.) more than twice. However, many of the workers seem to “get away with it” and the low probability of being caught creates little incentive to follow the protocols. Although FCRC can suspend contractors without compensation until a problem has been remedied, this appears to have been applied primarily to emergency situations (e.g., the Casagrande drill), where contractors generally respond quickly. It does not appear to be applied to situations where workers fail to suppress dust during loading operations.
Better oversight

The report suggests that the work of ESDC consultant HDR should be far more accessible:
  • HDR’s weekly reports should be posted on-line on the ESDC website in a timely way.
  • HDR should complete the quarterly reports and make them available within 30 days of the end of the quarter
  • ESDC should make the reports available to community groups without the need to request them through FOIL.
  • The timing of HDR’s site visits should be less predictable, and they should visit the site on different days of the week and at different times of the day.
  • HDR’s staffing for site visits should be commensurate with the scope and schedule of the work.
  • HDR should regularly ensure Construction Mitigation Plans are updated to meet updated regulations.
And what about the ESDC itself? The report points out that the one-time not-so-empowered ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, was not replaced, nor was anyone hired for the listed community relations position. The report recommends:
  • An Ombudsman should be hired to address community concerns and facilitate accountability of other ESDC Atlantic Yards-related staff.
  • ESDC should specify the authority of the ombudsman to resolve construction issues. ESDC should specify the lines of communication among the ombudsman, the construction coordinator, the OEM, and HDR and the means by which issues will be resolved.

Mitigation Report Sandstone 62812

Mosley launches Assembly campaign, offers mealymouthed vagueness on Atlantic Yards

Thanks to the Observer's Colin Campbell, who posted Walter Mosley Hopes to Replicate Hakeem Jeffries’ Magic yesterday with video, we have the 57th Assembly District candidate (and current male District Leader), friend and presumed heir of the House of Representatives-bound Jeffries, talking about Atlantic Yards.

Campbell, like a lot of journalists not quite familiar with Atlantic Yards, got it wrong, writing:
And on the most charged and controversial issue in the district, the construction of Atlantic Yards, Mr. Mosley took a middle-of-the-road position of acknowledging his support but demanding more action on the chief complaints of the project’s opponents.
Actually, the chief complaints of the project's opponents are that it's a rigged process (see, um, Battle for Brooklyn) with a government willing to give the developer a pass (see the latest Atlantic Yards Watch report).

They've also turned into watchdogs regarding the project's failure to deliver promised jobs and housing because those who were supposed to keep watch, the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partners and political supporters like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, are silent or mealymouthed.

The question

"Where do you stand on Atlantic Yards?" asked the inimitable Stephen Witt, formerly of the Courier-Life chain and now of Our Time Press.

“Y'know, I supported the Atlantic Yards arena from--at the beginning, but obviously, promises have been broken, with regards to affordable housing going forward, with regards to the full-time jobs that were going to be there, in the residential towers," Mosley replied.

Except the residential towers were not supposed to be the source of jobs beyond a handful of maintenance/support positions. There were supposed to be office towers.

"We’re going to hold them to the task," Mosley said, without mentioning any steps, such as calling for the long-past-due Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA.

"Obviously, know, the the stadium is here. But we can't continue to carp on the past," he said. "We have to continue to move forward and hold them true to their word, as it relates to affordable housing for our growing families. Decent affordable housing for those that wish to make Brooklyn their home, while at the same making sure that the full-time jobs are going to be available to our residents right here in the 57th Assembly District."

Mosley, however, has sat out the opportunity to comment on plans for the first tower in the project, which does not do much for "our growing families.

We'll see if Olanike Labai or Martine Guerrier, Mosley's rivals in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, have anything more to say.

More from Mosley

His press release:
Walter is running with a progressive agenda. He has vowed to address the need for more affordable housing, improved neighborhood healthcare, better quality schools for our children, and more job opportunities.
"In Albany, I will be a champion for our working families and will fight to make sure that all of the concerns of the district are heard."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Naming-rights deals, suggests law professor, are "transparent efforts by dubious enterprises to buy goodwill by permanently associating themselves with famous landmarks"

In a 7/19/12 Boston Review essay headlined Names, Trains, and Corporate Deals: Why Public Transit Shouldn’t Sell Naming Rights, law professor Frank Pasquale writes:
Present-day plutocrats, from Berlusconi to Bloomberg, have focus-grouped more alluring slogans: “public-private partnerships,” “strategic plans,” and “entrepreneurial philanthropy.” Whatever these PR platitudes are trying to convey, these deals need to be recognized for what they are: exploitation of the public sphere by corporate interests.
• • •
Many naming-rights deals are not merely advertising. Rather, they are transparent efforts by dubious enterprises to buy goodwill by permanently associating themselves with famous landmarks....

Barclays also purchased the rights to name the New York Nets’ future home, for more than $300 million. The right to name the subway station next to it cost a mere $4 million, to be paid $200,000 per year for twenty years. There is poetic justice to naming professional sports stadiums after Systemically Important Financial Institutions, to use the Dodd-Frank locution. Both mega banks and mega sports franchises have benefited from sweetheart tax deals, exemptions from antitrust regulations, and other government backing [PDF]. Both feature immensely overpaid stars.
...What Barclays now stands for—rapacious financialization and outright fraud—directly offends the values that public transit represents. Perhaps its yearly $200,000 payments can fund two or three union jobs. But if we were really serious about both raising employment and reducing inequality, we would tax our cash-hoarding corporate behemoths, not beg them for ad money.
Clarifying the record

My comment aimed to clarify the record:
Actually, Barclays did not buy naming rights to the transit hub. Forest City Ratner, the developer building the arena, did.

Why? They didn't explain publicly, but it was likely part of the renegotiations regarding the naming rights deal for the arena.

New York state (nominal owner of the arena) gave away naming rights to Forest City to sell. Forest City made a deal with Barclays for a reported $300 to $400 million. That was for an arena designed by Frank Gehry, and supposed to open in 2009.
Ultimately, Gehry was dropped from the project, the arena was delayed, and the naming rights deal was reduced to $200 million (plus unspecified other payments). Forest City brought Barclays in on the arena bond deal (one carrot) and bought the station naming rights (second carrot).

The little economic engine that could? Once Atlantic Yards was called an "economic engine." Now it's the arena.

The Summer 2012 issue of Brooklyn!! (embedded below), Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional publication, offers an enthusiastic coverage of the new arena, with a curious claim:
Along with pumping up Brooklyn’s reputation as the place for sporting and entertainment events, Barclays Center is its own economic engine, providing 2,000 full and part-time jobs, plus a shot in the arm to the ancillary businesses around the arena.
From Brooklyn!!
Forest City Ratner says those 2,000 jobs add up to 1,240 FTE (full-time equivalent), but I think that's very doubtful.

Either way, it's hard to call the arena "its own economic engine," given the significant subsidies and tax breaks, and the fact that the New York City Independent Budget Office calls it a net loss to the city.

After all, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, at least before he delivered a report for his client, Forest City Ratner, told the 2/16/04, Courier-Life, "One would not say, 'Let's move the Nets to Brooklyn to help the local economy.'"

Now one would, at least if the one is Markowitz.

Little engines and big

The term "economic engine" has been used frequently by developer Forest City Ratner, such as a July 2011, claim to Crain's New York Business:
Atlantic Yards will be an economic engine for Brooklyn, New York City and the State generating more than $5 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years. In addition to tax benefits, the project will also create thousands of new jobs: upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs.
The groundbreaking press release, March 2010:
“When we announced Atlantic Yards in December 2003, we anticipated that this project would create buzz and excitement for the borough and the City, as well as needed jobs and affordable housing,” said Ratner. “We did not at the time appreciate that Atlantic Yards would be such an important economic engine. The fact that we can start construction in this financial environment is testament to the lasting appeal of New York City. Atlantic Yards will for many years stand as a reminder that we can build and create jobs and homes and dreams even during the most difficult of economic times.”
Back then, they didn't feel the need to tout those questionable part-time arena jobs.

Summer 2012 issue of Brooklyn!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Absurdist Post columnist Peyser: "Almost single-handedly, [Ratner]'’ll have brought the Borough of Kings... back to buzzworthy health"

Giddy, fact-challenged New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, having completely forgotten the 10,000 Atlantic Yards jobs she once promoted, but maintaining her dada take from 12/1/09, writes a valentine today to Bruce Ratner, headlined B’klyn revival’s ringmaster.

So, Ratner gets credit for Brooklyn's revival? Puh-leeze.

The tie-less developer

Peyser writes:
He thought he’d never pull it off.
Bruce Ratner doesn’t walk. He bounces. In a hard hat, rumpled suit and never a tie, Ratner vibrates giddily amid buzzing saws and deafening drills, before leaping amid never-sat-in seats covered in dusty plastic.
Ratner at April 30 press conference
Funny, but here are two examples where Ratner's wearing a hardhat at the arena and, yes, a tie.

The justification: entertainment

Peyser writes:
We’re in the brand-new crux of the known universe, Barclays Center, now under construction, talking about the rise of Brooklyn.
“It’s incredible!’’ enthused Ratner, 67, the hyperactive developer and CEO of Forest City Ratner.
“We’ve got Barbra Streisand!’’ said Ratner (who lives in Manhattan). “This is like the Dodgers and Yankees.
“It’s going to take people away from all of the tsuris in their daily lives. ‘Disney on Ice!’ Completely take you to another place with the person next to you.’’
You could say the same thing about Broadway shows and movies. Do they get Ratner's level of public support? Ah, but they didn't promise "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops."

Ratner's big lift

Peyser continues:
When Barclays is christened this fall as home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Ratner will have pulled off the seemingly impossible. Almost single-handedly, he’ll have brought the Borough of Kings, long neglected and overshadowed by Manhattan, back to buzzworthy health.
Right. When GQ dubbed Brooklyn "the coolest city on the planet," because of its indie food scene, there were exactly zero mentions of Ratner. And he had everything to do with the historic districts, right?

Arena = soul?
From SeatGeek.com

Peyser continues:
“A young person can go to Brooklyn to see hometown [rapper] Jay-Z. A family who lives in the projects will walk here or take the bus. This is the soul of Brooklyn.’’
Yeah, like the relatively affordable tickets were kept from re-sellers. According to SeatGeek.com, those $29 seats ($37.50 with fees), now range from $55 to $118.

Streisand fictions

Peyser continues:
We’re sitting near “Vom 2’’ — short for “vomitorium,’’ which architects insist on calling the entrances in deference to ancient Rome, not modern beer guzzling. Behind us is a gigantic window proudly overlooking the borough. When La Streisand helps inaugurate the center with two concerts, she’ll look on her Flatbush birthplace.
From arena to Streisand home
No, she won't. Streisand was born in the neighborhood of (East) Flatbush and raised, mostly, in Flatbush, at the corner of Newkirk and Nostrand avenues.

That's nearly four miles by foot. (It's 3.3 miles to 457 Schenectady Avenue, where she was born and lived briefly.)

"Selfish" opponents

Peyser continues:
That this project was nearly 10 years in the making speaks to the selfishness of a gaggle of well-heeled spoiled brats and celebs. People who would protest the opening of a drugstore (as they did in my neighborhood) and care not a bit about Brooklyn.
“I was confident I was going to get it done,’’ said Ratner, “but there were a few moments when I said to myself, ‘I don’t think this is going to happen.’ ’’
The low point came in late 2008, when “the world came apart.’’ The economy tanked and Ratner was hit by slow-moving lawsuits that might have stalled the project indefinitely.
“It was crazy. A lot of newcomers from outside New York’’ fought the arena. He tries not to be bitter.
Ah, the "selfishness" of locals who've shown, via the latest lawsuit, that Ratner and the state helped deceive the public.

Could Peyser even consider that it was maybe selfish for Ratner to hog subsidies, tax breaks, naming rights, a zoning override and more? The New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a net loss to the city.

"Newcomers from outside New York"? 

Peyser continues:
“It gets to me, in a sense. We were constantly attacked. Our company put hundreds of millions of dollars into something that many times looked like it might not happen.’’
The arena drew opposition from Rosie Perez, Steve Buscemi and the late Heath Ledger, whose loyalty to Brooklyn was suspect, at best.
But then, the last obstacle, a fellow named Daniel Goldstein, sold his house at the site to Ratner for $3 million, six times what he paid for it. The project was a go.
So because a few celebrities were newcomers, the thousands of locals with legitimate concerns get ignored?

As for Goldstein, yes, he got a premium over the current (already doubled) value of his apartment, but part of that was to compensate for legal expenses and a quick move. Whatever people think of it, the premium is far cry from the $100 million in taxpayer money given to Ratner to pay for, yes, property in the arena footprint.

The rail yards that "squatted"

Peyser writes:
When I toured this site in 2004, it was a disgrace. It was scarred with toxic rail yards that had squatted on this spot, like a disease, for decades. Then I spied a pile of hypodermic needles.It was long past time to breathe air back into Brooklyn. Or shut the lights and get the hell out.
Rail yards that "squatted," or functioned? They still "squat," by the way. As for the needles, and the weeds, well, that was a clean-up problem that neither the city nor the LIRR wanted to grapple with.

Even Roger Green, the Assemblyman who supported the project, said the neighborhood wasn't blighted.

Job fictions

Peyser writes:
The arena will pump 2,000 sorely needed jobs into the economy, putting a dent into Brooklyn’s unemployment, which stood at an unconscionable 10.3 percent in May, compared to 8.2 percent in Manhattan. Half the job applicants live in public housing.
Plus, 6,400 “awesome’’ housing units are going up next year, about a third of them classified as “affordable.’’
"2,000 sorely needed jobs"? Even Forest City claims the full-time equivalent figure is 1,240, which seems vastly exaggerated. So much for the dent.

The promised 6,430 apartments aren't going up next year, just--maybe--the first tower, with 363 units.

No worries on traffic

Peyser writes:
Threats of snarled traffic were greatly exaggerated. The arena sits next to 11 subway lines, 11 bus routes and a Long Island Rail Road station.
Um, we don't know how much the threats were "greatly exaggerated" until we see the arena operate, do we?

Protesters "will scurry back"

Peyser concludes:
And the place is intimate. “There’s not a bad seat in the house,’’ said Ratner.
In coming years, protesters will scurry back across the river and leave us in peace. Go, Nets!
Brooklyn is back.
Actually, neighbors will have to live with the arena, and not in so much peace.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Undoing development promises, in Chelsea and in Prospect Heights: shouldn't there be a quid pro quo?

There's a telling passage at the end of a 7/18/12 New York Observer article, Chelsea Marketing: Expansion Fits With Beloved Building’s Past, But What About Chelsea’s Future?, about the controversial plans to build on top of the Chelsea Market building, to take advantage of the High Line:
Architect Gregg Pasquarelli knows a thing or two about additions on top of Chelsea buildings. His SHoP Architects, better known for the Barclays Center and East River Esplanade, designed the Porter House across the street from the market. It happens to be one of the firm’s first successes, the dark metal box with the vertical lights running through it, perched atop the yellow-brick Old Homestead Steakhouse.

Mr. Pasquarelli has called it home since it opened a decade ago, and he said he welcomes his new neighbor, even if it will block his view.

“What’s wrong with congestion?” he asks. “I’m all for congestion, it’s the lifeblood of the city. The neighborhood can handle the density.”

This is the way New York, Chelsea, Nabisco, has always been developing. The city, Google, needs the space, needs the money. There is nowhere else to go but up. A development promise has been undone. It is not the first time, and it will not be the last. At least this is taking place atop an already big building in an already crowded district.

“I just wish they had been a little more ambitious with their design,” Mr. Pasquarelli said. “It’s fairly suburban.”
I don't know the issue well enough to judge whether the "neighborhood can handle the density," but I'll note that that's been an argument for Atlantic Yards: sure, the neighborhood can handle more density, but, for example, the amount of open space per person would actually go down, not increase, despite the much-promised eight acres of open space.

Undoing development promises

Writer Matt Chaban's observation ("A development promise has been undone. It is not the first time, and it will not be the last.") is both true and nonjudgmental.

Should one of the lingering questions be: when development promises are undone (see: Atlantic Yards), shouldn't there be consequences? For example, when developer Forest City Ratner renegotiated the Vanderbilt Yard deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, saving money by paying only $20 million down (instead of $100 million), and building a smaller railyard, the MTA extracted nothing in return.

The not-so-radical Regional Plan Association recommended "granting the MTA a greater portion of future proceeds, conducting a new cost benefit analysis and creating a new ESDC subsidiary to review design elements and oversee the development process as it goes through different iterations."

Didn't happen.