Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cranes around Barclays Center (including for unplanned green roof) linger; potential tension between arena operations and larger project

I'm leading a walking tour Sunday of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park/Barclays Center/Prospect Heights (via Municipal Art Society), and present several posts in preparation. One thing to remember: the project remains very much in process. Some impacts feared, expected, or welcomed have not emerged because they were calculated on a larger/full buildout. Others were never anticipated. 

(Updated with comment at bottom)
The B2 crane; the B3 crane is in background

One lesson from Atlantic Yards, as I've said, is that it's a "never say never" project. For example, today, the arena is ringed with three cranes, and they're lingering longer than projected.

No one expected cranes on the arena block for long, because four towers were supposed to be built along with the arena.

That didn't happen. The arena was shrunken to save money, decoupled from the towers to allow a slower buildout, and constructed first.

Beyond that, no one expected the crane for B2, the modular tower at the intersection of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, to linger so long.

It arrived in August 2013 and was supposed to be gone by the end of 2014, when the building was supposed to be done. Instead, it's still here, through the third quarter of 2016, when the troubled, delayed building is now expected to be finished.

And no one expected two--and ultimately three--cranes to be used to install a green roof on the Barclays Center because, well, there was no plan for that green roof. (There was an earlier plan for green roof to be built with the arena. That was scrapped, and this one's not the same.)

The new green roof construction--a new exoskeleton--was driven by the desire to make the roof look more attractive to potential residents in adjacent towers and the need to tamp down bass escaping during certain concerts.

The cranes come late, so the roof is late

From Atlantic Yards Watch's AY Cam
So now there are three cranes around the Barclays Center, and there may be four.

The B2 crane, as noted above, arrived in August 2013.

The green roof crane on Atlantic Avenue, which blocks traffic, arrived in October 2014. So did the crane placed on the site for the B3 tower at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue. (This doesn't block traffic.)

Actually, both were due in August, as the chart below indicates. So they're behind.

As I wrote in February, the green roof is several months behind schedule, not that representatives of the arena developer have fully explained.  (Yes, it has been a cold winter, but they got a late start. Was it to keep the site clear for the DNC visitors?)

Note that, according to the project timeline released last June, all cranes were supposed to be gone by the end of January, with the Flatbush Avenue crane placed only that month.



Instead, as disclosed in February at the periodic Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting, Forest City Ratner external affairs executive Ashley Cotton said  structural work on the arena should be completed in May, Cotton said, after a crane is placed on Flatbush Avenue, "probably towards the end of April."

That's about five months late, though faster work at the final end of installation may make the overall project only two months late.

Note that the Flatbush crane will necessitate the closing of a lane of traffic and likely additional traffic congestion. It was not originally supposed to be erected while the Atlantic Avenue crane was still up. Now that seems likely.

And the Atlantic Avenue crane has already snagged traffic, as even Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams observed.

The installation of sedum--the plants serving as green roof materials, as with the top of the subway entrance on the arena plaza-- will be done in September, Cotton said.

If so, that means they'd be catching up on a good part of the delay, since the sedum was supposed to be installed by July, two months before September.

The view from Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, looking northwest
Inevitable tensions?

There surely are tensions between those operating the arena--who presumably would prefer no cranes or construction interrupting the path of eventgoers--and those building the towers and infrastructure around the arena.

Looking east along Atlantic Avenue
Then again, those tensions should be ameliorated by the fact that those two parties share ownership: Forest City, which is building B2 on its own and everything else in partnership with the Greenland Group, owns 55% of the arena operating company.

But the arena is for sale.

If Forest City sells its share of the arena (likely along with its 20% share of the Brooklyn Nets), its focus--and that of Greenland--will be getting the residential buildings done, plus infrastructure.

If that interferes with arena operations, I suspect plowing forward will take precedence. If so, that means the new operators of the arena might feel frustration at the unfinished situation around them.

On the other hand, they should know what they're getting into.

The long view

And in a few years, most likely, the cranes--not just for the roof but also tower construction--will be gone.

By then, when the towers are finished, most people won't remember the cranes. They'll be looking at an arena block that looks *something like* the below image, which clearly diminishes the actual scale (see above to see how much the arena looms from a pedestrian's view).

Then again, if and when they build B1, that would expunge the arena plaza and open up another can of worms.

Update: a comment from resident Peter Krashes:

I would add that it is not just construction that produces a potential tension between the arena and a developer of residential buildings in the area. Arena operations -- when they spill out on public sidewalks and streets -- are also a potential source of tension. After all, the developer has to market homes, and not every potential tenant or property owner will embrace the sidewalk or street outside their home being co-opted by a private, for profit entity on a regular basis.
This is not just an issue for those events for which the City permits street or sidewalk closures. In some cases pre and post event, it is difficult to walk in the opposite direction from crowds associated with the arena. This is because the sidewalk widths on the arena block were not designed with the idea that crowds would arrive or leave in a short time frame.


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