Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who's responsible for late-night lights at the Vanderbilt Yard? In Final SEIS, ESD blames MTA

It's confusing, and confounding.

Disturbing late-night lighting appears at or near the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, and it's not clear each time who's responsible, or whether anything can be done.

Last night, for example, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch, high-intensity floodlights were on with no notice, disturbing residents of the nearby Newswalk building across Pacific Street. (Here's video.) Lights were on all night.

Was that Atlantic Yards work? Long Island Rail Road work? Unclear.

Update 2:55 pm: MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg says, "We were not doing any work there last night. We are investigating whether we inadvertently left lights on that were required for earlier work. In the future, our crews will work carefully to ensure that all construction lights are extinguished once we no longer need them."

The lighting--never before needed before Atlantic Yards, residents say--was described as "brutally high intensity" in comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS).

ESD: it's not Atlantic Yards

In the Response to Comments chapter of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued and approved last week, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, eschewed all responsibility:
As described in Chapter 3F, “Construction Urban Design,” as per the MEC [Memorandum of Environmental Commitments], any lighting on interim construction staging and parking areas must be equipped with directional lighting angled to limit light intrusion beyond the site, and must employ controls to reduce lighting during periods when the facility is not in active use, consistent with site security. Furthermore, any construction lighting on individual construction sites would be directional, and angled to limit light intrusion beyond the site itself. As described in Chapter 3A, “Construction Overview,” no regular night work is expected to be required for Phase II construction except at limited times when foundation and construction work for the platform deck over the existing LIRR yard is required to avoid interference with yard operations of the LIRR. However, MTA conducts routine rail work (unrelated to the Project) which may require nighttime lighting. As this routine yard work by MTA is not subject to the Project’s MEC, it does not operate under the same lighting limitations.
Two gaps

That's a legalistic but not particularly helpful response. Shouldn't ESD and developer Forest City Ratner, wanting to be good neighbors, at least communicate and coordinate with MTA regarding such issues?

Also, there are two gaps in that description. First, the foundation and construction work for the platform deck may represent "at limited times" in comparison to a potential 25-year project construction schedule, it still could represent a substantial amount of time.

Also, there has been Atlantic Yards-related night work requiring high-intensity lighting, such as exploratory work in April for the West Portal railyard project, at Sixth and Atlantic avenues.

At the latest Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, residents on both sides of the railyard complained about overnight light and noise.

Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton suggested residents had not gotten the two-week Construction Alerts, which stated that the city Department of Transportation required the work to be done at night.

However, the alerts did not explain that the work would require floodlights and beeping noise.

Also, as I pointed out, the work began, at least according to Forest City, on the evening of March 25, as disclosed in a Supplemental Report (sent by, not ESD) to the March 17 two-week look-ahead, which had not alerted anybody to such night work. 

The sequence seems suspicious. Surely Forest City knew eight days earlier that night work was planned.

However, that Supplemental Report was circulated on March 26 the day after the work was supposed to begin. (The disclosure did continue in the two-week look-aheads dated March 31 and April 14.)

Where's MTA?

Some at the Quality of Life Committee meeting raised questions about the MTA's role.

"I asked for MTA to be at this meeting," said Dean Street resident Peter Krashes. "The fact that they're not here--they're the 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."

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