At community meeting, laments about failure to disclose noisy, bright night work, and signs that Forest City, not the state, is in charge
Bailey responded that exploratory work in April for the West Portal railyard project, at Sixth and Atlantic avenues, was done from 10 pm to 6 am.
"Did we notify people?" Cotton asked colleagues.
"We were told we can only do that limited work at night," responded Tom Bonacuso, a Forest City Senior VP. "Maybe we failed to notify the community beforehand."
Some in the audience laughed bitterly.
Will there be future night work? "It will be occasional, it will be on an exceptional basis," he responded.
"Why were there spotlights for two weeks?" asked an aggrieved Rob DiRenzo, a resident of the Atlantic Terrace building just north of the railyard on Atlantic Avenue. "If you had notified us, we would have put blinds up. Maybe we would’ve gotten ear plugs.... We lived there for two weeks with huge lights in our apartment."
"All night time work, you’re supposed to be notified of," Cotton responded cordially. "That’s not acceptable. It's beyond embarrassing for me as the public face of this company, who’s supposed to come out here, spend all this time with all of you guys, and then not know what Wayne knows because he lives there and has windows and I love up the street and I don’t see it. So we’re incredibly sympathetic. I know that’s not good enough, after the fact. The rule is, you’re supposed to be notified, we have something called two-week look-aheads. You’ve obviously not been getting them."
"If it is the middle of night and you guys want to call me on my cell, please do," she said. "I’d rather that than hear there’s night time work I hear about three weeks later at a community meeting."
Looking at the evidence
Cotton soon called up the April 14 two-week look-ahead on her iPad. She began reading it, noting that it did state that the DOT required the work to be done at night: "Again this is not perfect, and we’re sympathetic to your life experiences, but this is the kind of stuff we notify you guys on."
"Doesn’t that two-week look-ahead say the work has already started?" I asked from the audience.
"I can read it," Cotton responded, then started to do so: "Work will be performed within the time frame of March 24, 2014 and April 23, 2014. We put this out late, is that what you're saying?
Looking at the sequence
|Alert circulated March 26 for work said to begin March 25|
However, that disclosure was circulated on March 26 the day after the work was supposed to begin.
At the meeting, Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association several times stressed the importance of having an environmental monitor on site who doesn't work for the developer or contractors. "Nothing against Forest City Ratner, but we need somebody who's in place who's impartial," he said.
As reported in July 2012, a report prepared for the initiative Atlantic Yards Watch by a veteran environmental consulting firm concluded that Forest City and its contractors, bent on getting the arena and associated work finished by a tight deadline, had regularly failed to comply with mitigation protocols officially agreed to, and that other mitigations were implemented late, poorly, or unevenly.
"We do have people on the ground," noted Lynch, responding to Krashes.
The state's environmental monitor, Krashes responded, "appears to largely to look at the paperwork of the monitor who works for Forest City Ratner and the contractors."
Jimmy Greenfield, who owns a gallery on Dean Street, commented that "it just seems ludicrous to me you wouldn't go back to the people above you and demand these little accommodations are made."
Cotton got the last word, noting that she talks with Krashes periodically and isn't in a position to provide what he requested. "Independent oversight is a really tricky word," she said. "He’s talking about someone we do not pay. At some point he's talking to the state about this environmental thing."
"Olive branches, accommodation, peace of mind, if you don’t get that from me that, I'm failing," she said. "I'm not paid to get him a private impartial environmental blah blah blah that we don't pay."
(Actually, Forest City did agree to pay for an Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement, which has an environmental component. But they never hired the compliance monitor.)
Where was the MTA?
"Let me raise that question, it's an interesting question," said Marion Phillips III of ESD. "It's something to contemplate."
"Let me speak to MTA," Phillips countered.
"I worked very hard," Krashes said, expressing frustration. "I asked for MTA to be at this meeting... The fact that they're not here--they're entity the work is happening on behalf of. They're the entity that oversees construction."
"We've been talking to the MTA," added Paula Roy, who oversees the project for ESD, from the audience.
"It’s insulting to us for them not to show up," Krashes continued. "It's insulting for ESD to allow it. Not everyone can have a scheduling problem."