Thursday, March 27, 2014

Draft SEIS is notably cagey about goal of blight removal; provides three construction phasing plans but says they're not predictive

So, what's important in the 132 pages about Atlantic Yards released today in the board materials for tomorrow's meeting of Empire Statement Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, beyond the planned arena green roof I already mentioned?

Well, consider that the Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) understandably indicates that a delayed buildout of Phase 2 of the project until 2035 or so wouldn't cause significant problems.

Is that delayed buildout likely? Unclear. 

According to the ESD, illustrative phasing plans are not supposed to be predictive. In fact, the joint venture documentation with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group "includes a target construction schedule that is comparable to the duration studied in the 2006 FEIS," or a ten-year buildout.

What about blight?

Still, the DSEIS is notably cagey about one of the main goals of the project, the removal of blight, which gets mentioned infrequently. Here's one illustrative paragraph:
Except as set forth above, the 2009 MGPP [Modified General Project Plan] will remain unmodified and in full force and effect. Project goals remain unchanged. The Project, via completion of the Arena, has already begun to improve a blighted area, to create construction and permanent jobs, to generate substantial tax revenues to the City and State, and otherwise to provide significant economic and civic benefits for the community, the City, and the State. The Project still will create thousands of housing units, including not less than 2,250 affordable units. Project MWBE goals will remain unchanged.
(Emphases added)

Well, the completion of the arena improved an area blighted by the developer, at least in part. And it didn't touch the majority of the railyard, which was supposed to be the major blighting influence.

Delayed blight removal

Here's another paragraph, referring to the Final Environmental Impact Statement:
The 2006 FEIS found that the Project would offer the opportunity to further some of the City’s policies for housing and commercial development in Brooklyn, including removing blight and eliminating negative environmental conditions; maximizing the development of appropriate land use; strengthening the tax base of the City by encouraging development and employment opportunities; providing affordable housing and market-rate housing of high quality; and providing appropriate community facilities, parks and recreational uses, retail shopping, and parking. The completion of Phase II of the Project at a later date would delay the delivery of some of the aforementioned Project benefits.
Yes, it would, including the removal of blight.

Consistency with PlaNYC

Another paragraph:
PlaNYC was established in 2007, and provides a policy framework for sustainable planning in New York City. Even with a prolonged period of construction, the Project would assist in meeting many of the goals and objectives established in PlaNYC, such as by providing new affordable and market-rate housing to meet the needs of current and future residents at a transit-accessible location, providing new open spaces, and utilizing public land to facilitate development that would eliminate blighted conditions. The completion of Phase II of the Project at a later date would delay the delivery of some of the Project benefits that would be supportive of PlaNYC, but would not conflict with the goals of PlaNYC.
This is particularly rich, because the main blighted condition was the publicly owned railyard. Blight could have been removed by simply putting it out for bid, rather than reserving it for Forest City Ratner.

Three phasing plans

The document describes three Construction Phasing Plans:
  • Continuous Sequential Phasing with Block 1129 First; 
  • Continuous Sequential Phasing with Building 15 on Block 1128 First; and 
  • Start and Stop Sequential Phasing with Periods of More Intense Construction Activities. 
As noted, these plans are not supposed to predict the schedule and sequence but rather, in accordance with the Court Order, illustration how the "timing of the construction of certain project components may vary and to provide for a reasonably conservative analysis of the range of environmental effects associated with a delayed build-out of Phase II."

What about modular?

The document contains this curious paragraph:
It is possible that some or all of the buildings planned for Phase II would be constructed using prefabricated, or modular, construction techniques; however, the SEIS assumes that each building would be constructed using the conventional construction method. Where relevant, differences in potential impacts related to conventional and modular construction techniques are discussed qualitatively. 
It's possible? It's Forest City's plan.

Construction Phasing Plan 1

Under this plan, construction would be continuous and sequential, with the start time of each individual Phase II element generally a year apart from the start time of another Phase II element. Construction is assumed to begin on Block 1129, the southeast block of the project, moving from west to east. 

Forest City Ratner has already said it plans to build first on Block 1129 when it builds outside of the arena block.

Note that a platform over the blighted railyard would not be built until 2026.

Construction Phasing Plan 2

Under this plan, construction would be continuous and sequential, but the first building constructed would be "Building 15 on Block 1128, which like Construction Phasing Plan 1, takes advantage of the fact that Block 1128 is situated on land, i.e., would not require the construction of a platform before building construction can begin."

This is the building directly east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets. Construction would require the acquisition, perhaps through eminent domain, of three private houses. Thus, I think this plan is unlikely--they want to avoid potential bad publicity.


Construction Phasing Plan 3

This start-stop plan would involve stalled construction, then restart with concentrated construction until project completion in 2035, As with Plan 1, it would start with construction on Block 1129. But there would be a lot of overlapping construction.



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