Skip to main content

Somehow my comment to ESD on Atlantic Yards review went to spam; now, no cost-benefit analysis expected, but there will be analysis of modular worker wages

Who would have guessed that the one commenter ignored by the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards would be the journalist who's followed and critiqued the project most closely: me.

When, on 2/7/14, I perused the Response to Comments document issued by Empire State Development, summarizing comments on the Draft Scope of Work for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement addressing a potential 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout, I noticed my comment was missing.

To get a better sense of potential outcomes, I'd asked for a cost-benefit analysis that took into account various various development scenarios, and asked the state to compare construction worker wages/tax revenues once assumed with those projected under Forest City Ratner's plans for modular construction.

The response from the state, issued yesterday, was no to the first request and yes (as previously stated) to the second.

Following up

I'd sent my email last March to the listed email address: atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov. So, earlier this month, I forwarded that email from my outbox to ESD, and got a response from agency spokeswoman Kay Sarlin Wright:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We discovered that your email with scope questions had been filtered to a junk mail box associated with the Atlantic Yards email address and had unfortunately not been received by our staff until now. We are currently reviewing your comments.
It's curious that my email--and only mine--would be sent to spam. I asked if that happened to others; Sarlin Wright responded:
We regret that your email was filtered into our spam file and have taken care to review that mailbox and other possibilities. No other emails pertaining to the SEIS were found. We have also made changes to our protocols to ensure this will not happen in the future.
Revision issued

Yesterday, ESD issued an Amended Response to Comments document. While there's no explanation on the ESD's Atlantic Yards web site as to why it was amended, an email to community members from Derek Lynch, the community/government relations manager for Atlantic Yards, stated:
The Amended Response to Comments includes 2 comments that were inadvertently omitted from the original RTC. They are comments #35 and #80 in the Amended RTC.
Those were from me.

Cost-benefit analysis coming?

ESD divided my request into two comments. The first concerned the cost-benefit analysis:
Comment 35: I request that the SEIS provide a cost-benefit analysis that incorporates all public costs/subsidies and contains a range of scenarios for an extended buildout, for example:
 full residential buildout of project with office tower built in 5/10/15/20/25 years
 full residential buildout of project, with no office tower(s)
 partial residential buildout of project, with full # of rental apartments but no/25%/50%/75% of promised condos
 partial residential buildout of project, as above, with office tower(s) built at different times. (Oder)
The response was no:
The SEIS is being undertaken pursuant to the Court Order to evaluate the effects of a prolonged construction schedule of Phase II of the Project. The type of cost-benefit analysis requested is outside the scope of this SEQRA analysis. As outlined in the Draft and Final Scope of Work, the SEIS will assess the potential for environmental impacts during the Phase II construction period through 2035 under the three illustrative construction phasing plans.
That wasn't a surprise. After all, as I wrote earlier this month, when a commenter suggested public benefits would be diminished by a delayed timetable, the ESD's response was that it's irrelevant, mostly:
The socioeconomic benefits resulting from an action—including project-generated jobs, wages and salaries, and total economic output—are not the subject of a CEQR [City Environmental Quality Review] analysis of potential significant adverse impacts, and in general, the delay in the provision of public benefits announced and/or promoted by a project sponsor is not a determining factor in assessing significant adverse environmental impacts. The socioeconomic analysis instead focuses on the potential for significant adverse impacts that may occur from the build-out of Phase II over an extended period of time. With respect to this analysis, “delayed benefits” as described by the commenter will be addressed in the SEIS if those benefits were mitigating factors precluding a significant adverse socioeconomic impact where one otherwise would have been disclosed.
(Emphasis added)

See if you can make sense of that one.

Delayed benefits count only if those benefits--meaning the jobs and tax benefits--were originally seen as mitigations. But they weren't mitigations. They were selling points.

Construction workers in the modular plan

I also asked about construction workers:
Comment 80: I request that the SEIS provide an analysis of the difference between the FEIS estimate of construction worker wages/tax revenues and the estimate of construction worker wages/tax revenues based on a plan for modular construction. (Oder)
The response:
Response: As indicated in Draft and Final Scope of Work, the SEIS will discuss the Phase II construction period’s economic benefits as compared to those reported in the FEIS for Phase II of the Project, as well as any potential changes in construction benefits due to the potential incorporation of modular construction techniques. This discussion will include reporting of the total worker wages and tax revenues under both a conventional and modular construction scenario for Phase II using the Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II), developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
That wasn't a surprise, since in response to other comments ESD indicated it would examine those different economic benefits.

But an overall cost-benefit analysis, one that balances costs against benefits? They won't go there.

Comments

  1. Anonymous12:39 PM

    In the future, a suggestion is when emailing ESD you should cc: jchan@esd.ny.gov, mphillips@esd.ny.gov to make sure your comments are shared with ALL the staff who they say work on the Atlantic Yards project.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…