Saturday, February 15, 2014

After criticism, ESD acknowledges that the impact of project delays on public health will be considered

A commenter on the Draft Scope for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) apparently provoked Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project, to at least consider that a delayed buildout, lasting 25 years, might affect public health.

That acknowledgement came in both the Final Scope for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards, and and the Response to Comments document that accompanied it.

(The Final Scope was issued 2/7/14 by ESD, but the actual court-ordered SEIS will not arrive until sometime in the spring. I'm excerpting the Response to Comments document in several posts.)

The complaint

The complaint came from North Slope resident Steve Ettlinger:
Comment 13: I vigorously object to the conclusion on pages 8 and 9 of your Draft Scope of Work that public health will not suffer adverse environmental impacts, as the additional 15 years of construction truck traffic and construction itself will quite obviously bring an additional 15 years of noise, dust, and dangerous truck traffic to the area despite FCRC's attempts at mitigating those effects. The problems will include those described often on the Atlantic Yards Watch.net site. Studies must reflect this issue. (Ettlinger)
From the Draft Scope:
Public Health—The delay in the completion of the Phase II Build-Out would not affect the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement] conclusions that the Project would not result in significant adverse environmental impacts with respect to public health....

Public Health—The delay in the construction and modifications to the construction sequencing of the Phase II Build-Out would not affect the FEIS conclusions that the Project would not result in significant adverse construction-related environmental impacts with respect to public health.
ESD backs away

The response:
Response: As discussed in the Draft Scope of Work, the SEIS will be evaluating potential air quality, noise, hazardous materials and construction impacts from the prolonged construction schedule of the Phase II program under the Extended Build-Out Scenario. If these technical analyses determine that the Extended Built-Out Scenario would result in any unmitigated significant adverse impacts, a public health analysis will be undertaken with respect to such impacts. This approach will be clarified in the Final Scope of Work.
This actually represents a step forward, since the Final Scope contains modifications of the Draft Scope sections excerpted above. Instead of conclusorily claiming that a delay "would not affect the FEIS conclusions that the Project would not result in significant adverse environmental impacts with respect to public health," it now reads:
Public Health—The SEIS will evaluate the potential for air quality and noise operational impacts from the completion of Phase II of the Project in 2035. If these analyses determine that the Extended Built-Out Scenario would result in any unmitigated significant adverse impacts, a public health analysis will be undertaken. If no unmitigated significant adverse impacts are found in the above-mentioned analysis areas, a public health assessment in the SEIS is not warranted....

Public Health—The SEIS will evaluate potential air quality and noise impacts from the
prolonged construction of the Phase II of the Project. If the air quality, noise, or hazardous materials technical analyses determine that the Extended Built-Out Scenario would result in any unmitigated significant adverse impacts, a public health analysis will be undertaken. If no unmitigated significant adverse impacts are found in the above-mentioned analysis areas, a public health assessment in the SEIS is not warranted.
Does that mean they'll find unmitigated significant adverse impacts? Well, probably not. If so, will they recommend serious mitigations? Not likely.

By now, we know it's unlikely to expect much pushback against developer Forest City Ratner's plans. But the above sequence counts as a small measure of progress.

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