Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another reason why arena developers are lucky: missing tower at Flatbush and Atlantic would generate wind and cold (and wind study didn't address temperature)

Barclays Center backers are fortunate they have an accessible plaza open to arenagoers, rather than an office tower looming at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, offering an atrium, aka Urban Room, that would serve as more cramped entry for the arena.

That plaza that was never supposed to exist, and would not have been approved as a permanent feature, given that the office tower, and jobs within, was crucial to the cost-benefit analyses for the overall Atlantic Yards project.

There's another reason, too: that tower would likely have been a site for significant wind, and attendant cold. Last week, waiting outside the tallest nearby building, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank a block away, I was reminded how the bank tower is both one of the windiest and coldest spots in the borough.

The wind study

Interestingly enough, the Atlantic Yards wind study (embedded below) I wrote about on 12/5/06 was thorough about estimating the velocity of wind, but could have gone a lot farther to warn Brooklynites of the potential impact of wind plus high-rise construction on temperature.

The study pointed out that the Urban Room proposed for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues--the entrance to the arena and flagship tower--would quite serve as the project's promised promised “front stoop,” given that it would be too windy for the category of "leisure sitting."

But the 22-page report, conducted by Minneapolis-based Newmerical Technologies International for AKRF, the consultancy that conducted most of the environmental impact analysis, focused on the impact of wind on sitting, walking, and standing, but not on temperature. (The study was not formally included in the environmental review but later released.)

In other words, wind increases cold, especially near that particular crossroads, already noted for cold.

How cold does it get?

As the New York Times reported in a 2/2/03 article headlined FORT GREENE; Outside This Famed Bank, Everyone Knows It's Windy:
Until a hand-held anemometer -- a wind gauge -- becomes widely available to New Yorkers, pinpointing the coldest and windiest point in the city will be impossible. But there is a contender in Brooklyn: when pedestrians approach 1 Hanson Place, home to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, they wrap their coats more tightly, secure their hats, and hunch their bodies against the sudden blast of frigid air.

''I've seen thousands and thousands of people come through the doors of BAM,'' said John Jones, who has worked for 10 years as an usher at the theater, around the corner from 1 Hanson Place. ''If I had a dollar for every time someone comes in and tells me how cold it is on that corner, I'd be a wealthy man.''
The article quoted a National Weather Service meteorologist as suggesting this microclimate, caused by a solitary skyscraper, could cut the temperature 5 to 8 degrees. Bill Harris, the building's chief engineer, told the Times he estimated 10 degrees.

What about wind?


Harris also reported that "the wind sometimes blows the clock's 300-pound hands out of sync" and people need help walking across the street.

That suggests a more dramatic impact than that in the Newmerical report, which concluded:
In general, while ground-level wind speeds in the area are projected to increase with the addition of the proposed Atlantic Yards Arena project for all locations identified, these increases would not cause significant hardship to pedestrians.
And while "[a]ll receptor locations indicate wind speeds less than 16 MPH for an 80% recurrence level," suitable for walking and general activities--if not sitting--Harris's observation suggests something worse.

Further questions

That said, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank is around the corner, not at the Atlantic Yards site.

Could it be that the microclimate a block away would be more different, and influenced by the presence of the arena and (in time, presumably) other nearby towers.

Still, before they build that new tower--crucial to the cost-benefit analysis--it's worth evaluating it would affect both wind and temperature.

Atlantic Yards Wind Study, November 15, 2006

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