Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On-site environmental monitor due Sept. 15 delayed one month, leaving gap as construction activities accelerate; more transparency needed

So, how about the new monitor promised to help ensure that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction--which is ramping up now--meets state requirements? It will arrive later than planned, and later than promised earlier this month.

The Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments for Atlantic Yards (p.15), issued in June, has the following clause:
2. FCRC [Forest City Ratner Companies] shall promptly seek to retain the services of a qualified engineering firm to serve as the on-site environmental monitor (“OEM”) pursuant to a scope to be reviewed by ESD [Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards], and shall use commercially reasonable efforts to retain the engineering firm to serve as the OEM on or before September 15, 2014.
At the 9/4/14 Quality of Life meeting, Forest City acknowledged that timetable would not be met, but  executive Ashley Cotton said that the delay would be "very short."

I'd say "very short" means a week, but I gave them one more week before following up. Yesterday, I queried ESD and got the following response:
The firm will be retained by mid-October – ESD has been working with FCRC to ensure that the best firm possible is retained for the work. 
So "very short" apparently means one month.

What happens in the interim? Update from ESDC: "FCRC continues its role as OEM and ESD (with HDR) is monitoring its performance – the current OEM staffing is appropriate for the level of activity currently on the site and the new OEM will be in place in time for the anticipated increased activities."

How much might it help?

I asked Dean Street resident Peter Krashes, who at the earlier meeting had asked about the timetable, for his take. 

He suggested that, while the delay was dismaying, it was part of an unfortunate pattern, and we shouldn't expect too much from the OEM unless more transparency is applied:
Delays in filling oversight positions are part of a long-time pattern with Atlantic Yards. Right now the State’s community liaison position is only filled part time, and the current OEM is presumably still a FCRC employee, a condition the State apparently acknowledges is unsatisfactory or a change wouldn’t be made. It is important to keep in mind the new engineering firm will still be paid by and report directly to FCRC. It is reasonable to be concerned they will know who butters their bread.
In the past a lot of the OEM’s work has actually been executed by employees of the contractors doing the work, including the placing the air monitors. Since the ESDC is to review the scope of work of the OEM, they ought to make that scope public. And why can’t the engineering firm functioning as OEM be made available to the community for questions on a regular basis?
At the end of the day, what the community impacted by construction deserves is transparency in real-time, meaningful recourse like penalties when things go wrong, and oversight during work that is impartial and motivated.

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