Thursday, March 27, 2014

From the Response to Comments: the conundrum of an unfinished Phase 1, plus unexamined impacts of undisclosed arena elements

I've been going through the Response to Comments document produced by Empire State Development to accompany the release last month of the Final Scope for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. (The SEIS is coming this spring, and more information may be announced at the ESD board meeting tomorrow.)

A judge ordered a SEIS regarding Phase 2 of the project, but Phase 1 isn't finished.

So that sets up a conundrum: the baseline condition will assume Phase 1 is finished, but...  it's not. So the construction impacts of the remaining Phase 1 buildings will also be analyzed. But Phase 1 as construction will be assumed to be part of the background condition.

No, it doesn't quite make sense to me, either.

What's the baseline?

The comment:
Comment 18: The baseline should start now, not at the time of the completion of all of Phase I. There is no logic to moving the baseline to a point the project agreements don’t even require to exist, especially given changes to the project and its background effect on the first phase of construction. (Krashes)
The response:
Response: The SEIS is being undertaken pursuant to the Court Order to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a prolonged delay in the completion of Phase II of the Project. Phase I has been approved and is under construction. Therefore, the Draft Scope of Work notes that for all areas of analysis Phase I of the Project will be assumed to be constructed and to be part of the background condition. Thus, all Phase I elements of the Project, including associated mitigation measures as well as any recent changes to the traffic network, will be assumed as part of the baseline conditions for the Future Without Phase II (2035), and therefore the effects of Phase I will be accounted for in the analysis. In the analysis of construction impacts of Phase II of the Project, the SEIS will take into account the potential for some overlap in the construction of certain Phase I and Phase II buildings. In describing the Project, the SEIS will summarize the status of Phase I construction, and the assumptions made with respect to the construction sequences and schedules analyzed.
Another comment:
Comment 70: The baseline should start now, not at the time of the completion of Phase I. Even if the Phase I project is completed in full, the project agreements enable the construction of Phase I to overlap with Phase II in multiple scenarios. (Brooklyn Speaks)
The response:
Response: As described in the Draft Scope of Work, Phase I of the Project will be assumed to be constructed and to be part of the background condition. This is consistent with the Court’s Order that the SEIS assess the potential for impacts associated with a prolonged schedule for the construction of Phase II of the Project. Any potential overlap between Phase I and Phase II will be reflected in the construction schedules that will be developed for Phase II of the Project under the Extended Build-Out Scenario.
What about B1 and Site 5 towers?

The comment:
Comment 69: If it is built, B1 may be constructed at any point in the project’s construction phase. It is perched above the key transit entrance to the main entrance to the arena. What is the MPT [maintenance and protection of traffic] for the construction, what are its impacts? Please detail the construction of B1 and Site 5 over the course of the project’s development (Krashes, Brooklyn Speaks)
The response:
Response: B1 and Site 5 are elements of Phase I of the Project. Accordingly, as with the other Phase I elements of the Project, the SEIS analysis will take into account the effects of the construction and operation of these buildings as background conditions in assessing the environmental impacts of Phase II of the Project, and will account for the possibility that there may be an overlap between the construction of certain Phase I elements and the Phase II construction. To the extent that information regarding construction of these buildings is available and relevant to the analysis, such information will be taken into account and disclosed in the SEIS.
New impacts from the pad and other functions?

The comment:
Comment 139: The SEIS should assess whether there are any new land use, zoning, public policy, neighborhood character impacts not previously disclosed in the FEIS, and whether any additional or different mitigation measures would be required. This assessment should include the land use and neighborhood character impacts created by arena operations to the south of the arena on Dean Street like the pad, whose operations may be permanent but were not disclosed in the FEIS.
The SEIS should examine how use of this site for at-grade arena operations like security screening as well as truck and bus storage is consistent with the FEIS’ land use analysis which states B2 and B3 would serve as a "buffer" between the residences to the south of the arena and the arena itself, and that "security screening and loading functions would be entirely within the building." (FEIS p. 3-2). Other functions not studied in relation to their locations in the FEIS include the satellite uplink parking lot, LIRR operations, a trailer area in the B4 footprint and construction offices in 752 Pacific Street. The SEIS should detail and assess the interim locations of unanticipated project elements until the time they are placed below grade.
The SEIS should assess whether these unanticipated functions reduce opportunities for the project to implement the commitment in the MEC to provide publicly accessible interim open space in the event FCRC does not expect to commence construction of a particular portion of the Project site or to use such portion of the Project site for interim parking facilities or construction-related activities, including staging. (Brooklyn Speaks)
The response mostly ignored the request:
Response: The SEIS will assess opportunities for interim open space during the construction period for Phase II of the Project under the Extended Build-Out Scenario.

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