Wednesday, May 08, 2013

At community meeting, officials from FCR and agencies say arena operations improve; complaints continue about illegal parking, noise, and operation of "pad" next to loading dock


Last night, in the first Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting in three months (previous), Barclays Center operators and public officials stressed that they're doing better to minimize community impacts of the arena, while neighbors still registered frustration about arena noise, garbage, idling buses, and illegal parking.

Illegal parking and idling represents the large majority of summonses and 311 complaints related to the arena, police reported.

As for rumbling bass leaking from the arena, which was audible/palpable even last night after the meeting, operators said they were being "vigilant" and aiming to improve, though without offering specifics.

Police update

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri of the 78th Precinct said crime is down in the area, and “we're headed in the right direction.”

Some at the meeting, held at the YWCA on Atlantic and Third avenues, still expressed frustration. One reported that residents of Pacific Street between Flatbush and Fourth Avenues, as well as users of the Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden, “are still experiencing same problems,” including urination, dumping of trash, people vomiting, and “tons of liquor bottles.”

Ameri said “we dont have an officer assigned to one block” but do have personnel to respond to complaints and enforce quality of life issues--and that he hadn’t been informed of such complaints via 311 or Atlantic Yards Watch. (A complaint was posted yesterday,)

In the past three months since the last committee meeting, he said, of the nearly 250 arena-related calls to 311, there was one complaint related to urination, 175 illegal parking, four traffic, 29 street noise, and 49 commercial noise.

Terence Kelly, the Barclays Center’s Community Relations Manager, said the arena can ensure that its security officer posted nearby the Pacific Street corner keeps watch.

Parking

One resident thanked the NYPD for stepping up to “significantly” reduce the number of cars idling and double-parking on Fourth Avenue below the arena.

Over the past three months, Ameri said police wrote 600 parking summons, seized merchandise from 21 illegal vendors, issued 20 alcohol-related summonses, 25 vending summonses, and 15 summonses for scalping.

(Clearly, there’s an opportunity for more. In a ten-minute walk on and around the arena plaza after the meeting, I encountered 13 scalpers.)

Ameri added that the Taxi and Limousine Commission issued 71 summonses for violations.

Black cars and limos

Ameri said increased enforcement and community pressure “ has minimized the black car issue,” though not everyone agreed.

Given that concerts attracting older audiences seem to present the worst situations, a resident asked, is anything special planned for the upcoming Paul McCartney concerts?

“We think the operation systems that have been in place and we are continuing to refine are working extremely well, even for [events with a] very high auto share,” Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall said. “We're not planning to do anything special but be vigilant.”

Erika Clark, a Park Slope resident who lives at Sterling Place and Fifth Avenue, said police were “doing fairly well” chasing vehicles out of the blocks nearest the arena, “but you’re chasing them further away.” Clark, an officer in the 78th Precinct Community Council, said she observed illegal parking in a bus stop and in the nearby Key Food lot.

Study of black cars

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association asked if an upcoming post-opening study of arena operations  would analyze the role of limos and black cars.

Marshall said the surveys by consultant Sam Schwartz analyzed transportation to Nets games, “which is what we're evaluated on”, per the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That discounts the one-off events, like the Barbara Streisand and Andrea Bocelli concerts, that brought an older, wealthier crowd more dependent on autos.

Arena noise

Residents have complained about feeling/hearing noise in their residences from bass-heavy acts like Jay-Z, Sensation, and Swedish House Mafia.

“We are aware of complaints of ambient sound coming from the arena,” Forest City Chief of Staff Ashley Cotton said. “Everybody may know we've also been issued a violation and also paid a [$3200] fine [for Swedish House Mafia]... This is something we are going to be vigilant about and get better on; we are not interested in having any more violations.”

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, noted that the city Department of Environmental Protection was to be out later that evening, testing for sound at two locations. (I walked by the arena at 8:45 pm after the meeting and on three separate sidewalks on the perimeter could feel/hear the rumble from Rihanna’s opening act.)

Krashes asked Forest City if they could write contract language with concert acts stipulating sound limits.

“The update I gave is pretty much the best I update can give,” Cotton responded. “It's certainly at the top of our attention, and certainly something that we do not want to happen again. so we have our eyes and ears on it.”

Is there a timetable, Krashes asked.

“Obviously, there's a real incentive, they're building a tower” next door, said Hankin, whose agency officially oversees Atlantic Yards while also aiming to further economic development.

“The tower won't be done for year and a half,” Krashes said, noting there would be many events before then.

“They're working diligently to solve the problem,” Hankin responded, shutting down the issue.

The loading dock

Regarding the arena loading dock, which periodically has trucks lined up outside on Dean Street, “I do believe the situation has improved dramatically,” Hankin declared.

Kelly said reports from neighbors have been very helpful in improving procedures, and arena operators feel comfortable, even with a construction fence up for B2 work . “Our security officers have been empowered to move people off the block,” he said, and the delivery schedule has improved.

“As a start up,” he said, using a formulation suggesting they deserve some slack, “we're still seven months out... we’re learning the challenges that exist, and we’re improving every single day.”

The adjacent pad

Krashes pointed to the pad--the strip of parking next to the loading dock and screened off from the bicycle parking area (which itself is the site for a future tower).

Since the last meeting, he said, the pad had been used as a stable for the circus, a holding area for not just NBA tour buses but virtually every performer, “including Rihanna, which was idling.” What, he asked, are the proper functions?

“The pad, we have allowed, as the landlord, the operators of the arena to use the pad for parking,” Hankin responded, alluding to an issue that (as far as I know) did not surface during the project's environmental review. “Idling is not allowed, not tolerated... but the pad can be used for parking vehicles. The alternative would be for those vehicles to be staged on the street in front of arena.”

“What vehicles?” asked Krashes in his insistent but low-key manner. “Originally, we were never told this was going to exist. Then we were told, okay, it would be NBA tour buses... Now we hear it’s used for VIPs.”

“Tell me what the issue is, with cars parking there,” Hankin asked. “If they're not idling, what is the issue.”

Krashes said headlights pointed toward residences across Dean Street.

“They lights should not be on,” Hankin responded. “They should not be on.”

Krashes said vehicles were parking on the sidewalk itself last Saturday.

“Parking on the sidewalk is not allowed,” Hankin responded.

“Trailers with people living in them,” Krashes continued.

Marshall explained that, with the circus, “horse mongers, they had their vehicles.”

Newswalk resident Wayne Bailey said “the generators were running constantly” and that the people staying in trailers would exit at night, and “they’re in the neighborhood.”

“I view the generators as an issue,” Hankin allowed.

Cotton asked if the generators were attached to tour buses or trailers?

Bailey said he wasn’t sure, but they could be heard.

Kelley suggested that arena HVAC has vents that make a similar sound and the arena provides juice to the trucks. “Generators are not tolerated,” he said. “If we see bad behavior, we stop it.”

Krashes added that vehicles backing up also beep loudly.

Hankin repeated that vehicles are allowed to park on the pad, as long as they’re not idling, with lights on, or obstructing the sidewalk:. “The alternative would be to have those trucks staged in front of the loading dock on Dean Street. It’s our preference to keep the roadways, bike lanes, and sidewalks clear.”

“The alternative is the Navy Yard,” Krashes responded.

“Unfortunately, it’s not possible,” Hankin said, citing security checks. “To get trucks into the loading dock, there has to be a staging area. We’ve allowed that use as the landlord.”

“Is the Navy Yard used?” Krashes asked. (It was long promised as a staging area.)

“Yes,” responded Forest City’s Cotton. (Last September, she said there's “no reason there should be a queue of trucks... any staging that needs to be done will be done at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.")

Jim Vogel, a Pacific Street resident and aide to Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, asked sharply, “So the state, as landlord, has changed terms, without letting the community know until this moment.”

“That's not true,” responded Hankin.

“That's the first I've heard of it,” Vogel said, citing assent from others in the room. “We're being told that pad is necessary because the walkie talkie distribution that we were guaranteed that would allow only one truck to get on there to go in, that’s been suspended”--Cotton and Marshall shook their heads in disagreement--”and we’re being told that, when it’s necessary, people can actually live in trailers.”

“This is the first I’m hearing about people living in trailers,” Hankin said.

Bailey noted it was posted on Atlantic Yards Watch.

“I read 90 percent” of Atlantic Yards Watch, Hankin said, but “must have missed that.” She said she’d look into it.

Also, as reported on Atlantic Yards Watch, buses associated with the Rihanna tour recently ran generators and parked in a "No standing" zone on Pacific Street east of Sixth Avenue.

TEAs and ped monitors

Some residents observed that there were fewer city Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) than several months ago.

Marshall noted that Forest City was no longer paying for such TEAs to mitigate construction impacts, as was done during arena construction, but does pay for event-related TEAs (as well as private pedestrian monitors).

Krashes asked about the length of the contract terms.

Marshall wouldn’t specify: “we are going to have those services that we need to, to operate the venue, so it doesn't really matter, the detail of the contract.”

Krashes said he’d heard there was a two-month contract for the pedestrian monitors.

“Peter, we have extended the contract,” Marshall replied a bit sharply. “We will continue to do what is right, which is to have those services provided... for the events.”

“That is correct,” chorused Hankin. “It’ll be extended as needed.”

Signage to parking

Some at the meeting, noting they’ve waited for hours to find parking near their homes, asked why there’s no signage directing patrons to the arena parking lot at the southeast corner of Atlantic Yards site.

Chris Hrones of the Department of Transportation said “trailblazing signage” could open a Pandora's box to signage for other parking lots and trip generators.

How long will that parking lot last. “As soon as we start to develop Block 1129, it starts to go away,” Marshall said. (Parking would then move underground.)

Hankin noted there’s no timetable, because a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding Phase 2 must first be completed.

Signage on Dean Street

Hrones said a sign had been placed on Dean Street advising trucks with non-local deliveries to turn left at Sixth Avenue to the Atlantic Avenue truck route rather than continue down a residential street.

“Peter [Krashes] made a persuasive argument that actual placement was not optimal,” he said, so DOT is looking to move it.

Trucks on Pacific Street

A resident of Pacific between Fourth and Flatbush said trucks ignore signage and constantly turn up Pacific Street

Others said tour buses also drive on that street.

Ameri said, “I'll take a look at it.”

Construction: railyard work

Marshall said that the pile drilling at the Vanderbilt Yard is accompanied by shoring up of the retaining wall on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues. The pile drilling is scheduled to be done by October, and might finish earlier, if no problems.

Vibration monitors are set up across the street at the Newswalk condos, she said, and no readings have exceeded the allowable thresholds.

Then again, a Dean Street resident reported dismay on Atlantic Yards Watch:
“I have experienced severe vibrations in our building caused by the work they are doing on Pacific. I have actually gone outside during the vibrations to see the cause, and it appears that the vibrations occur when they are using the large drill-like machine on Pacific that is shoring up the wall. These vibrations are occurring every day, sometimes for minutes at a time. I am concerned that these vibrations are causing structural issues with our building and the building around us.”
Construction update: B2 residential tower

Marshall said excavation for the B2 tower at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue is basically finished, with the foundation under way. The factory at the Navy Yard set up to produce “mods”--the shipping container-sized modules will be building components--is still being fit out, in part, but already beginning production.

The mods, she said, would likely be delivered to the site later in the summer rather than earlier, as previously anticipated, but that shouldn’t affect the building’s opening date, still expected to be August 2014.

In 2014, the New York City Housing Development Corporation will run the lottery for the 181 subsidized units. (Access should be via NYC Housing Connect.)

Mutual Housing Association of New York, an ACORN successor, will be Forest City’s partner in marketing the housing. (Half the affordable units will be reserved for residents of Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8.)

Noise on the plaza

Vogel asked about electronically-amplified events, including pep rallies, recently held on the arena plaza: "That ain't cool, and I don't think it's even legal."

Cotton said they'd gotten sound permits. Ameri said the times were "relatively early," such as 7 pm, and there had been no previous complaints.

Oculus issue

Flashing ads in the oculus are still causing concerns. One resident said her neighbor mentioned the oculus had not been turned off at night--a problem that occurred in the early weeks. Kelly said that internal monitors did not indicate that the problem had recurred.

Clark said that, in her fifth floor apartment, with a clear visual path to the arena several blocks away, the flashing ads were visible: “I had people over, and somebody jumped” in reaction to the ads.

Arena-goers lining up on the street 

Before the recent Green Day concert and other general admission events, with no reserved seatings, attendees formed queues going east of the Atlantic Avenue entrance, wrapping around to Sixth Avenue.

Kelly said that, going forward, people would line up east to west stretching toward the arena plaza.

Building a new railyard

Though Forest City has acknowledged, in standard risk disclosures, the possibility of not building a permanent railyard by 2016, both the developer and the state agency overseeing the process said they were committed to doing so.

“The developer's committed to building a permanent railyard by 2016, and expanding the sidewalk, and that's their intention,” declared Hankin assertively. “That’s what’s going to happen... There’s no more to be said on this topic.”

SEIS timetable

Krashes asked for a timetable regarding the Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

Hankin said she couldn’t predict when the Final Scope--which will be revised based on comments at a February public hearing--would be issued but hoped for the “near future... We're moving diligently an expeditiously to finalize the SEIS as quickly as possible.”

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