Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On eve of hearing, Forest City discloses plan to accelerate elements of platform construction, delay permanent railyard

With a public hearing on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) coming Wednesday, developer Forest City Ratner has suggested that it can accelerate building of the platform needed for vertical development over the Vanderbilt Yard--but it does not provide a firm timetable and also asks for 15 months' delay in the required completion of a permanent railyard.

A letter from Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin to Empire State Development (ESD) President Kenneth Adams was posted today on the ESD's Atlantic Yards site and is reproduced below.

Accelerating certain work

Gilmartin wrote:
As a result of our recent partnership with the Greenland Group, Atlantic Rail Yards, LLC (ARY) will be in the position to accelerate the construction of certain platform and building and foundation work, which, if done concurrently with the construction of the yard, would have several benefits. It would accelerate our ability to complete the construction of the platform over the yard. It would reduce the overall duration of construction within the yard, and it would minimize the disruption in the yard for the construction of the platform following the completion of the yard.
The letter does not estimate exactly how much time would be saved, how much of the necessary work would be completed, or when the platform would be built.

Forest City has until 2025 to start the platform, which is needed to construct six towers over the below-grade railyard, the clearest example of the blight the project was supposed to remove.

This would represent an earlier start--but it also could portend a further renegotiation later on.

Short decision time, delayed railyard

In building the arena on the western segment of the Vanderbilt Yard, Forest City had to create a 42-car temporary railyard to the east, so Long Island Rail Road trains could be cleaned and maintained.

A larger permanent railyard, with capacity for 56 cars (though it was supposed to be bigger), is supposed to be finished by 9/1/16. Forest City twice got the MTA to push back the deadline to formally start the permanent railyard and post the completion guaranty for the work. The current deadline to post that guarantee, 6/30/14, would remain under Forest City's proposal.

But Forest City wants an extension of the deadline to finish the permanent railyard to 12/1/17.

MTA posture

Forest City's proposal will be presented for consideration at the MTA Board’s June 25 meeting.

I suspect that the agency will be amenable to the change. First, it's controlled by the governor. Also, the new railyard is needed to facilitate East Side Access: service to Grand Central Station, with Atlantic Avenue to Jamaica trains as a shuttle service.

As of 2012, the MTA had been predicting 2016 as the start date for East Side Access; hence the requirement, in the 2009 revision of the Vanderbilt Yard deal, for the railyard to be finished by 2016. The start date for East Side Access has been pushed back; it will be ready no earlier than 2020 (see p. 25 here).

FCR Letter To Ken Adams 4-28-14

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