Monday, February 24, 2014

Despite concerns, state won't study impact of post-event pedestrian surges; also unlikely is look at impact of roof revamp

If Forest City Ratner's new Chinese partner, the Greenland Group, will help revamp the Barclays Center roof, what might be the impacts? That question is among those expected to be brought up at the meeting tonight of Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee (6:30, Brooklyn Hospital).

But I don't expect it to be examined formally by Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, because it's not part of the court-ordered Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)--and it was, understandably, not part of any previous review.

 (That doesn't mean there won't be some memo to the "Atlantic Yards file" that declares roof construction workable.)

Post-event surges

Other elements of Barclays Center operations also fall through the cracks. After more than a year of operations at the arena, it's clear that post-event surges of patrons leaving stress the sidewalks and subway entrance(s) more than pre-game conditions, because attendees tend to arrive over a long period of time.

But ESD won't study post-game conditions, as noted in the Response to Comments document (below), posted along with the Final Scope for an SEIS. (The Draft SEIS will come in the spring.)

Two comments addressed post-event conditions, combining the impact of arena events with the new construction:
Comment 48: An updated pedestrian analysis in the SEIS should study post-event conditions in the project site. (Brooklyn Speaks)
We’ve got a lot of new information about Phase I. We know that the sidewalks have been overstressed. We know that the post event analysis, the post event games after an arena event is by far the worst time for pedestrians. There are surges. (Krashes)
The response was again to focus on pre-game periods, when commuters and event-goers combine:
Response: The pedestrian analyses in the SEIS will focus on the weekday AM and PM commuter peak periods and the Saturday midday, as these are expected to be the peak periods for Phase II residential and retail travel demand. The weekday 7-8 PM pre-game is included to assess the potential effects of Phase II residential commuter demand during a period of peak arena activity. Post-event conditions are not included in the pedestrian analyses as these would not typically be peak times for travel demand from Phase II development.
Another addressed the arena block:
Comment 44: The SEIS should detail the changes to the arena and arena block layout and assess them for the new conditions they create, particularly post-event. (Brooklyn Speaks)
The response:
Response: The 2035 Future Without Phase II transportation analyses in the SEIS will reflect conditions on the arena block based on current plans. The transportation analyses will focus on the peak periods for demand from the residential and retail uses that would be developed under Phase II. The post-event periods are not considered peak periods for these Phase II residential and retail uses and will therefore not be included in the analyses.
Impacts of construction

Another comment addressed construction:
Comment 97: The TDM did not take into account the dangerous situations caused by 15 years more of pedestrian walkways being moved onto streets, along with the narrowing of sidewalks. This is of particular concern nearest the arena where, especially in an emergency or at the end of a popular concert with younger clients, sidewalk capacity needs to be maximized, not minimized. All pedestrian safety issues during the extended Phase II construction are further compromised by the current issue of arena event attendees and their hired cars (buses, limos, black cars, etc.) parking illegally in areas immediately around the arena, a problem that the arena operators, in the aggregate, have been unable to eliminate as of March, 2013. (Ettlinger)
The response:
Response: The SEIS will address the capacity and safety needs of pedestrians during the Phase II construction period. The SEIS will discuss the use of sidewalk bridges and temporary walkways to provide pedestrian flow around the construction site. See also the response to Comment 129 [which addresses compliance].
This doesn't necessarily address the arena block.

Less sidewalk space

The comment:
Comment 99: In 2009, the construction of the arena and non-arena buildings were delinked. As a result, the amount of available sidewalk and street corner space on the arena block will be significantly reduced for twelve years longer, depending upon the construction period of B1. (Krashes)
The response:
Response: The SEIS will study the potential effects of extended Phase II construction activities. The SEIS will assume that Buildings 2, 3, and 4 will be complete prior to the start of construction of Phase II. In the analysis of construction impacts of Phase II of the Project, the SEIS will also take into account the potential for some overlap in the construction of certain Phase I and Phase II buildings. The SEIS will assume that Building 1 and Site 5 will be constructed at some point during the construction of Phase II, and will be considered part of the No Build Condition.
This allows for examination of the impact of construction of, say, Building 1, the tower slated to rise over the arena plaza. But it doesn't acknowledge the roof.

Pedestrian corridors

Several commenters raised questions about pedestrian corridors, which will, according to the state, be studied:
Comment 102: The SEIS should detail and assess how arena patrons are going to be managed through the construction of each building in Phases I and II. (Brooklyn Speaks)
The response:
Response: As described on page 2 of the Draft Scope of Work, the Draft SEIS is being prepared pursuant to the Order of the Supreme Court for New York County to examine the potential environmental impacts of the completion of Phase II of the Project in 2035. The SEIS’s construction analysis will identify the anticipated roadway and sidewalk disruptions at the project site and describe the anticipated route protection for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians during different phases of the Phase II construction under the Extended Build-Out Scenario. It will also assess how on-going construction activities during Phase II construction may affect pedestrians (including event patrons) walking in the areas adjoining the Phase II construction.
Another comment addressed pedestrian corridors:
Comment 104: Project documents identify the east-west and north-south corridors as significant features in the project's open space plan. In addition to providing pedestrian infrastructure, these corridors serve as connections between neighborhoods and, for that reason, were specifically identified by the FEIS as blight mitigations. The SEIS should examine the delay in the completion of these corridors, including:
 Whether delay in providing neighborhood connections continues existing blight;
 Whether delay would reroute pedestrians on to other streets;
 The utility of partial construction of the corridor, which might be a dead-end walkway; and
 The impact of the loss of pedestrian traffic to neighborhood businesses. (Brooklyn Speaks)
The response:
Response: The SEIS will evaluate whether any of the potential construction scenarios will create a change to the pedestrian experience that is sufficiently significant to require greater explanation and further study. If warranted, an analysis of urban design and visual resources will be prepared. The SEIS will also include a qualitative assessment of pedestrian trips generated by the projected construction workers and discuss how on-going construction activities during Phase II construction may affect pedestrians (including event patrons) walking in the areas adjoining the Phase II construction. In addition, the SEIS will include a neighborhood character assessment that will consider whether a prolonged construction schedule for Phase II would create conditions that would lead to substantial residential or business disinvestment in the areas surrounding the project site. It should be noted, however, that the pedestrian connections are Project benefits, and extending the time for providing those benefits would not be a significant impact of the Project. No changes have been proposed to the pedestrian connections in the Project open space as set forth in the Design Guidelines.
Atlantic Yards, Response to Comments on Draft Scope for Supplementary EIS, Feb. 7, 2014 by AYReport

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