Friday, February 08, 2013

Quality of Life Committee round-up: better pedestrian management; unresolved problem with black cars; loud daytime railyard work coming on Pacific Street; B2 tower due "about" August 2014

Several issues beyond arena noise and the missing Independent Compliance Monitor were discussed at last night’s bi-monthly meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, held at Borough Hall.

While progress was mentioned in several areas, residents remained frustrated over continuing problems with black cars/limos seen illegally parking and idling.

There was no mention, however, of a planned business improvement district (BID) to encompass the Atlantic Yards site.

Pedestrian safety

The Department of Transportation’s Chris Hrones announced “an improvement... in pedestrian enhancement... building out a raised concrete island” on the southern leg of the intersection of Fourth and Atlantic avenues. That should be completed “in the next few months.”

Hrones also said a delayed green sign for northbound traffic on Fourth Avenue would be implemented.

Pedestrian management

Terence Kelly, the Barclays Center Community Affairs Manager, said that the arena has produced handouts that feature a map, directions, and transit information for its guest services representatives.

They’re also working to improve arena signage, in order to direct guests to public transit. New signs should be posted at the Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue exits to “shepherd and effectively direct people inside the arena towards the main entrance.”

The arena has managed a reduction in post-event jaywalking to “create a moving barricade on the south side of Atlantic Avenue” by staging buses to deter people from crossing mid-block. “In addition to barricades on the median, this has been helpful in deterring people from jaywalking,” he said.

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri of the 78th Precinct said that has deterred accidents as well. In the weeks after the arena opening, he said--revealing information not raised publicly before, as far as I know--there were two pedestrians struck, on Fort Greene Place and Atlantic Avenue.

He said a pedestrian hit by a street sweeper on Flatbush Avenue was not associated with an arena event, and was apparently intoxicated.

B2 update

Forest City executive Jane Marshall described progress of the first tower, the 363-unit B2, which broke ground in December.

She said excavation is ongoing, to be followed by the foundation, which should last about nine months. Also ongoing is “tenant fit-out we are doing inside the factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to prepare for manufacture of the mods”--the modules used to construct the building.

“We expect the fabrication will start in May,” she said, and “the first mods will start to arrive in August. Twelve months after that start, the building will be almost finished... August 2014 is when we think the building will be about finished.”

There may be a little drift back in the timetable. At a November 2012 presentation, they said the temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) should be by July 2014, while  at the December 2012 groundbreaking, they announced a target of “summer 2014.”

Modular deliveries

Marshall said six to eight mods will be delivered each day, between rush hours, and one delivered at night to sit on the site. “They are oversized trucks, we've looked at widest and longest mods,” she said.

The city DOT will issue a permit for each truck, and flagpeople will wave them in from Flatbush Avenue to the gate on Dean Street.

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council asked if ACORN successor Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY) would be involved in marketing/administering the affordable housing.

Marshall said yes, that the lottery is overseen by the city, “but the developer has an interface to make it successful.”

The affordable housing application process should begin in early 2014.

Black cars

Kelly said the arena is “in the early stages of a pilot program to direct black car drivers” to an assigned layover area on Atlantic Avenue between Sixth and Carlton avenues.

“It's successfully working,” he said in remarks that surely puzzled some residents who think it’s not working well enough. He said that arena staff “engage each driver, they're given written and verbal instruction to the Atlantic Avenue layover area.” Beyond that, arena staff have contacted 77 car companies via the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

“We know it's an evolving issue,” he said. “We are mindful of some of the hotspots and bad actors/.. but we're regularly observing conditions.” He said the layover area was being used the night a neighborhood survey found many violations.

He said there was a “small amount” of illegal activity observed and “all in all, we're happy with progress of the pilot program. We believe there's work to be done,:

A TLC representative said, since the arena opened, they have seized 71 vehicles, including dollar vans, for illegal operations, and have issued 120 summonses for things like double parking, illegal turns, and picking up in bus stop.

“What is the radius that you consider hot spots?” one resident asked. “I'm on Dean between 4th and 5th and it hasn't subsided.”

The rep cited Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

Enough information?

“How many black cars are arriving at arena events?” asked Veconi.

“Not that many,” replied Marshall.

“We don't have that number,” added Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton.

Veconi, who wrote about this issue in December for Atlantic Yards Watch, noted that research for the Transportation Demand Management plan said half of a percent of visitors were expected to arrive by black cars. “That may be lower than the experience of the community,” he said, as Cotton shook her head.

Marshall said data was being collected.

Steve Ettlinger, representing several block associations in Park Slope, said, “I'd like to acknowledge Terence and Barclays’ effort” in reaching out to limo drivers, but said the illegal parking problems persist.

Ettlinger said that Barclays months ago agreed to put information on about limo parking on its website, but that hadn’t been done, nor have pledges to use pedestrian managers to help direct limos been fulfilled.

He suggested that Forest City pay for or somehow arrange for traffic enforcement agents to patrol the area, to create a "cell phone lot" to harbor limos at the Navy Yard, and to ensure beefed-up  enforcement.

Cotton thanked him for offering “good ideas.”

“It's easy stuff,” responded Ettlinger, not mollified.

He also said that using 311 to report parking violations by phone was cumbersome and thus wasn't accurate, and that online or text submissions should be possible. He noted that, while Atlantic Yards Watch is useful, it does not offer an official count.

Idling

Is idling a problem, asked Dwight Smith of Community Board 2, and are enforcement actions being taken?

Geraldine Kelpin of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said that staffers found a couple of violations. Given that vehicles have three minutes to comply, often they just shut off engines. She said DEP was talking with Empire State Development to set up some additional dates for monitoring.

Smith also suggested a visit to the Atlantic Avenue layover area for black cars, given that many drivers might be idling.

“I don't have a problem passing an inspector by on nights they have events,” Kelpin said. “Right now I have people pulled in all kinds of directions.”

Changes on Pacific Street for railyard work

Marshall explained that Pacific Street traffic would next week go to one-way westbound as excavation proceeds for the permanent elevation of the new, modernized Vanderbilt Yard. A wall on Pacific Street must be demolished and piles must be drilled.

Work beginning Feb. 18 will take place for eight months, drilling 70 piles, in the area next to the retaining wall.

The work will be loud. “Acoustical blankets [will] go on the hoe ram, but this is not going to be quiet work,” Marshall said, “because, we all know, drilling piles is not quiet.... but it will not be done at night and will not be done on weekends.”

Excavation for the permanent yard starts in January 2014. The full sidewalk will be restored in 2016.

“And the platform and buildings over the yard?” Ettlinger asked.

“They'll come after that,” Marshall said, not providing a date. (Forest City has said it will build first over the surface parking lot.) She said the permanent yard is scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of 2016.

Sanitation

Terry Urban said that, while Forest City has added lights to the north (retail) side of Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues, “we have an ongoing problem... it’s still a half residential block, it's a target for people to come across and drink and throw garbage out... we don't see it at night, but we see it in morning.”

She asked if Forest City could clean the south side of the block.

Cotton said there are many complications in such an arrangement but would be happy to discuss it.

Public safety

Ameri repeated that there’s been very little crime attributable to the Barclays Center, despite having some 1 million visitors.

“When it comes to Quality of Life,” he said, “complaints are pretty much minimal.. most of the complaints are traffic and parking related.. but disorderlies, vending, drinking, basically are nonexistent... overall, crime is doing great.”

He got enthusiastic clapping and a big smile from Cotton. He made no mention of scalping and periodic in-arena pot smoking.

Alfred Chiodo, an aide to Council Member Letitia James, asked about Forest City Ratner’s deployment of paid detail--off-duty officers. He said he understood that, while they’re assigned to the interior of the arena, “my understanding is that when crowds are arriving, they're on the plaza and sidewalk.”

“Well, their primary function is inside the arena,” Ameri responded. “ But the plaza is a quasi public-private location. They do have them on plaza at times at the beginning of events and dismissals.”

Street lighting

Wayne Bailey of the Newswalk building said street lighting was low on Dean Street, as a light next to the fire station east of Sixth Avenue has been “out forever.” And lights at the surface parking lot a block east are off when there are no events.

“I thought you didn't want lots of light,” Cotton responded.

“We need normal street lights that are back on,” Bailey said.

Hrones said the DOT would check on street lights.

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