Friday, November 21, 2014

State official Kenneth Adams meets reality: traffic on Atlantic around Barclays Center crane "a mess"

Note constricted Atlantic Avenue, in blue (click to enlarge)
Kenneth Adams, the Brooklynite who heads Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, makes a point of empathizing (and usually no more) with locals concerns about project impacts, and yesterday offered his personal impressions of the traffic problems outside the Barclays Center.

"I wasn't able to make the [Atlantic Yards Quality of Life] meeting last night," Adams commented yesterday at the end of an ESD board meeting, where the board--at that point, only he was present--got an update on the project and heard from some nearby residents. (I'll have a separate post on that.)

"I had a question for Jane [Marshall]," Adams said, referencing a Forest City executive who was at the Quality of Life meeting but not the ESD board meeting. He was setting up a discussion of the giant crane on Atlantic Avenue set up to help install the planned green roof, aimed at tamping down noise escaping from the arena and improving the esthetics for future residents in the towers bordering the arena.

"This a little bit personal, but I’m just curious. No doubt the green roof is a good thing," he said. "I don’t know how this works, but there's a very big crane on Atlantic Avenue, next to Barclays, which to me looked like is that for working on the green roof."

"The short answer is yes," confirmed Joe Chan, the ESD Executive Vice President in charge of real estate and public-private partnerships.

"I dropped my daughter off [by car] last Saturday afternoon in Fort Greene," Adams continued, " but the traffic on Atlantic Avenue going westbound by Barclays was pretty bad. It was also a Saturday at five o’clock. It looked to me that that crane forces eastbound traffic either out of a lane or, I don’t know. Is that crane there for the green roof? If it has that traffic impact… when does that get resolved, because it was a mess."
The crane takes up traffic lanes and forces a shift in traffic, including use of the curb lane next to the mall
The timetable

Chan said completion is slated for 2015. (Actually, according to the project timeline released in June, below, the Atlantic Avenue crane was supposed to be up only for three months, and gone by now, but it was installed nearly three months late, in late October.)

"Traffic on Atlantic Avenue and the adjacent streets is obviously an issue," Chan said, noting that the Department of Transportation and New York Police Department, based on comments at the meeting would take a look.

"The traffic is insane," commented one resident of the Atlantic Terrace building, Rob DiRenzo, at the Quality of Life meeting. "After the MPT [maintenance and protection of traffic plan] has gone up, there has been consistent traffic, the whole time, it's really affecting the quality of life."

Responding to DiRenzo, Chris Hrones of the Department of Transportation acknowledged that, as the lanes on Atlantic were shifted, "we have to rely on that [north] curb lane adjacent to the mall as a traffic lane, and people tend to still stand there. We'll talk again with NYPD."

DiRenzo pointed out, however, that he'd seen NYPD trucks double-parked there. "I have zero confidence [in a solution]. It's getting dangerous."

How long until a solution?

Following up on Chan's comment at the ESD meeting yesterday, Sam Filler, Atlantic Yards project director, said "The crane's going to be there 'til May 2015." (I'm not sure about that, given the timeline below that indicates a three-month period, but if that's true, it's definitely mission creep.)

"'Til May," continued Adams. "But everyone’s fully aware of the impacts?"

"Yes," said Filler. (Well, not necessarily if that crane is up longer than expected.)

"It's a tough intersection when you hit Flatbush anyway," Adams said.

"There’s other work occurring," noted Filler, citing tunneling under Atlantic Avenue for the west portal to the Long Island Rail Road yard and replacement of a water main.

"When I take [my daughter] to [her friend's] house, I will not drive her any more," Adams pledged.

(I'd add that a Flatbush Avenue crane is supposed to appear for a month, after the Atlantic Avenue crane is decommissioned. That Flatbush crane also will cause traffic problems and, if it is up while the Atlantic crane is up, that will be compounded. Note that the crane on the B3 site, at the southeast corner of the arena block, does not occupy any street space.0

The approval process and the issue of fairness

"Just to clarify," added Chan. "The crane, the crane's siting, and the crane's approval, obviously, had to go through Department of Buildings and [Department of] Transportation. Clearly there are concerns, but the siting of the crane and the MPT plan was shared with the community."

"I'm sure it was," said Adams, with what I'd say was a bit of world-weariness. "My sort of personal experience is irrelevant... At the end of the day, the green roof is supposed to address the sound problems, among other things.. so the solution come May is a positive one. In the meantime, there’s at least to me, that impact.”

Yes, an impact on the community, but no cost to Forest City beyond the business expenses of installing the roof.

Note that, as I wrote last April, the green roof evaded any environmental review, since the installation, after construction of the arena, was not addressed in the first round, and the court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was ordered regarding Phase 2 of the project, east of Sixth Avenue.

The green roof was thus considered part of Phase 1. For the purpose of the review, Phase 1 was an "existing condition," even if it wasn't built yet. At the time, I noted that, despite the environmental and esthetic benefits, a review might disclose that there'd be trucks and cranes and other equipment for a period of time.

In other words, it surely would have been easier to install when the arena was being built.

It now seems clear that the state--more partner than overseer on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park--missed or ignored a potential opportunity to extract concessions from Forest City in exchange for allowing the green roof. (Though it didn't require environmental review, there are often ways to set up potential roadblocks.)

If Forest City would improve its business positioning--both for the arena and the towers--thanks to the new green roof, why wasn't it reciprocally required to do something to offset the impact, in terms of enhancing the neighboring community?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:22 AM

    My concern is that Ken Adams is only commenting on this ongoing problem since HE was stuck in traffic.Concerns for years were addressed to him while he was Brooklyn Chamber President, nd he ignored all these future issues. Joe Chan also while Partnership President ignored concerns by residents years ago. These two are just lobbyist - they really don't care what residents have to say and it needs to be exposed.