Friday, July 05, 2013

At Quality of Life meeting, concerns about impact of vibrations, lights at playground, ongoing problem with Barclays Center noise

While the problems posed by the MTV Video Music Awards next month constituted the major issue at the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Tuesday night, several other issues were raised, notably continued bass leaking from the arena, vibrations from railyard work, illegally idling limos, and lighting at a local playground.

Given perhaps vacations and/or agency transitions, the meeting did not include two Forest City executives who typically attend, Ashley Cotton and Jane Marshall. Also, rather than being run by Empire State Development’s Arana Hankin, the project Director, it was run by her deputy, community/government affairs manager Derek Lynch. (Hankin is leaving at the end of next week.)

Construction update and vibrations

Forest City’s Brigitte LaBonte first described progress in work at the Long Island Rail Road site and the site for B2, the first modular tower. After the establishment of foundation walls and initial steel, she said, modular construction should start late summer or early fall.

Dean Street resident Peter Krashes said that the impacts of LIRR work have been dampened by the use of sprinklers to address dust and that some of the nearby property owners “have felt responded to.”

He asked if representatives of either the LIRR or the City Department of Buildings were present. The answer was no.

“When LIRR work is taking place, I think LIRR should be here,” he said.

“We have a full-time construction rep,” responded Hankin.

“In my opinion, they should be here,” he said.

“Good suggestion,” Hankin allowed, though no one committed to executing it.

“Especially because there have been reports of property damage,” Krashes continued. (See for example this post on Atlantic Yards Watch, citing "cracks in sheetrock seams on bedroom wall" and others, not citing damage, likening the experience to a "constant earthquake.") “We'd like assurance that DOB and LIRR is aware of that... is that the case?”

Hankin said she wasn’t certain.

Neither was LaBonte, who stressed, that “if there are any question or concern, Forest City has responded directly to the inquiry.”

“I think it's key that if DOB is providing oversight that they be aware,” Krashes said, “and likewise LIRR should be aware.” He noted that, while the current protocol assesses vibrations within 90 feet of the worksite, on a number of occasions residents have reported vibrations farther away, such as at Dean Street and Carlton Avenue. 

Barricades on Atlantic Avenue?

Noting that police had set up barricades on Atlantic Avenue to deter those leaving the arena to cross mid-block, Wayne Bailey of Newswalk and Community Board 8 asked if those barriers would be replaced by something less temporary.

“We are talking with Forest City about the possibility of a more permanent solution,” said Chris Hrones of the Department of Transportation.

Does that involve planters? asked Krashes.

“Possibly,” replied Hrones.

Bailey also noted that a sign on Atlantic Avenue at Fort Greene Place indicating to eastbound drivers that they should go around that center island has been regularly knocked down by drivers turning left.

Community members have asked for a more permanent barrier that would deter drivers from going onto the curb, given that those crossing the street are only a step away.

Traffic/transportation reports

Two reports on traffic and transportation issues are due by fall.

One, done by Forest City contractor Sam Schwartz Engineering at the request of DOB, used cameras to measure pedestrian and vehicular volumes on more than 50 intersections during arena events and also when there were no events.

The report does not analyze issues of idling that plague some nearby streets.

Jim Vogel of Sen. Velmanette Montgomery’s office pointed to my analysis suggesting that more than 1000 cars are “taking up”--actually, seeking--on-street parking at arena events. He suggested they be put in the parking lot.

Later, the question I posed last month was asked: beyond those who pre-pay for parking, as noted in the Transportation Demand Management report, how many pay?

Hankin said they had counts for the official lot on Block 1129.

“Our traffic manager has a good relationship with the garages,” said arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly. “If we needed to pull numbers, we could dig.”

Deterring limos

Krashes suggested the arena should step up to deter black cars and limos, providing resources to the 78th Precinct to increase enforcement. He noted that the original TDM plan overlooked the impact of such vehicles.

“Since the parking lot is underutilized, why don’t they park there?” one resident asked.

“Because there's no incentive,” Krashes said. But surely high rollers paying big money for a limo to wait would rather pay an extra $35 than a fine.

On Dean Street, trucks not deterred

Sign in left lane for eastbound trucks
Krashes noted that Dean Street residents are still waiting for DOT to reposition a sign that indicates there should be no trucks on the street.

The sign, which says "no trucks except local deliveries," was positioned at the northwest corner of Dean and Sixth, but may mislead drivers into thinking it applies only to traffic in the left turn lane.

Hrones said DOT has asked the borough office to reposition it.

Dean Street playground

Krashes said of the new comfort station at the Dean Street Playground less than one block east of the arena, “we thought it was due at time of arena opening.”
According to the December 2009 Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, that was left vague:
FCRC shall work with the Parks Department to supplement its planned improvements to the Dean Playground with a comfort station open to the general public.
It opened a few weeks ago, Krashes said and is “a nice facility, staffed sometimes.” But it’s hard to access, because a construction fence circles it, so those using it must exit the playground and walk on Bergen Street. “The way I view it, because of delay in delivery of the comfort station, the Parks Department was pushed into the busiest time of year” and thus hasn’t finished its work, he said.

He noted that, while the playground has always been lit at night, the lights were turned off at the end of July last year for the entire playground.” Now, with the playground open but the lights off, “you've created a worst-case scenario,” he said.

Lynch said he’d contact the Parks Department and try to find out why.

Arena noise

A representative of the city Department of Environmental Protection, Steve McCoy offered some vague assurances regarding reports of noise emanating from the arena. “We continue to monitor the Barclays Center, “ he said. “There's been a couple of violations that have been issued... if they're sustained, they come with a fine.”

He didn’t have specifics, but resident Robert Puca scornfully pointed to the one violation that was sustained into a fine: “What is $3200... what kind of incentive is that?”

“A board sets the fine, it is what is is,” McCoy responded. “I want to let the community know we're monitoring the Barclays Center... We’re trying to work collectively to come up with a solution that will satisfy not just the community but the Barclays Center and the agency.”

What exactly that was remained unspecified, since there were additional complaints last weekend regarding the Bruno Mars concert.

Krashes noted that arena noise was heard in an apartment on Dean Street between Flatbush and Fifth avenues at a time when DEP was monitoring.

“I don't know if that resulted in a violation,” McCoy said.

Where, asked Krashes, “geographically are you acknowledging a problem?” He said impacts were in a full circumference around the arena.

Hankin said she hadn’t seen complaints from Fort Greene.

“I'll forward them to you,” Krashes said.

Regarding noise-dampening, what about the impact on residents of the emerging B2 tower?

“We've been involved with conversation with Forest City to make sure B2 is going to be secure,” Hankin said.

Regarding any improvements on the arena end, “I don't think I have an update,” said Kelly. “The reports we take very seriously.”

Of course, arena reps have spoken similarly for months, but have not announced plans to either turn down the volume or to retrofit the building.


Starting July 17, the arena will host a greenmarket every Wednesday on the plaza, Kelly noted. The farmers market will operate through November 27 from 6 am to 4 pm.

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