Thursday, August 06, 2015

Consultant says developer is "actively fulfilling" requirements regarding noise control, but neighbor says letters about air conditioners came late

At the 7/28/15 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), a representative of Henningson Durham and Richardson (HDR), the outside mitigation monitor for Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, reported on the developer's compliance with noise control requirements.

"HDR considers the Developer to be actively fulling these mitigation requirements," declared HDR project manager Jennifer Bienemann, though one neighbor later pointed out that Greenland Forest City Partners was actually delayed in alerting neighbors. The issue remained unresolved.

Project requirements

Tracking the slides in the presentation above (extracted from the board materials posted on Monday), Bienemann explained the project's Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC; see p. 22-23) requires double-glazed or storm windows and one air conditioner per bedroom or main living room with a window along a facade predicted to experience.

Letters were sent to approximately 550 building and unit owners/tenants in 2007, with more than 190 responses.
From HDR presentation below
About 400 vouchers were issued for air conditioners, with, 275 redeemed. In 9 of 18 units eligible for windows, new windows were installed. The others either got financial aid to install windows, did renovations, or did not respond.

New locations

The court-ordered Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Final SEIS), finished in June 2014, as well as the Amended MEC triggered new locations and criteria for eligibility.
From HDR presentation below
Some 160 buildings were identified as facing significant adverse construction noise impacts. Most had been offered receptor controls in 2007, but the Final SEIS analyzed a greater number of noise model receptors, including rear and side building faces. (Previously, the Final EIS looked only at the front of the buildings.)

A second outreach program began in late 2014, with flyers affixed to front doors and secondary entrances of buildings, in English and Spanish. "This is a work in progress," Bienemann comment.

As noted on slide 10 below, the developer's tracking system includes the eligible building and unit, the impacted floor and facade, the construction site-specific trigger, the dates of outreach, and the implementation milestones. HDR has met with the developer to discuss refinements to the tracking system.

As stated on slide 14, certified letters were sent in December 2014 and March 2015, about 350 flyers were distributed in May/June 2015, with 45 vouchers issued and 30 redeemed. Four eligible historic properties will receive financial assistance to install windows if they wish to do so. One eligible building unit is in discussion with the developer regarding window installation.

HDR's monitoring efforts includes spot-checks on the tracking system regarding whether the developer reaches qualified units, responds within two weeks, and provides the units with noise receptor controls.

"HDR considers the Developer to be actively fulling these mitigation requirements and will continue to monitor its progress," Bienemann read, tracking the slide.

Going forward

As noted in slide 15, HDR recommends that the developer initiate outreach three months prior to establishing a construction fence or MPT (maintenance and protection of traffic) barriers.

It also recommends that a way be established for potentially eligible residents who don't receive flyers to contact the developer. For example, the flyers could be distributed to community boards, at Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meetings, or even in the two-week construction look-aheads.

(Indeed, the program was mentioned in the most recent two-week Construction Update. See screenshot at right.)

HDR also recommended that the developer maintain a website for residents to ask about eligibility.

Some questions

How many units, asked board member Jaime Stein, are in the 160 buildings? Bienemann didn't know.

Have there been complaints regarding noise attenuation, asked board member Kieran Harrington. Some, mostly from new residents, who arrived after the "first flyering," said AY CDC President Marion Phillips III.

Stein asked if those experiencing noise but outside the map could appeal and get assistance, noting there are noise complaints on Atlantic Yards Watch beyond the map.

No, responded ESD's Rachel Shatz, saying the process relied on information in the Final EIS and Final SEIS, which "went through extensive analysis."

Dean Street resident Peter Krashes chided the state agency and its consultant, calling it a "failure of monitoring." The letters said to be released in December, he said, "we saw them in January or February... but backdated to opening of construction... That is a failure of the developer."

As Krashes noted, the MEC says "Noise mitigation measures shall be implemented... in a timely manner so as to avoid the significant adverse noise impacts identified in the FEIS and FSEIS where practicable." In other words, he said, it should have been in place before construction activities began on the southeast block of the site in December.

He also suggested that the Final SEIS was "in my view inappropriately narrowed," since it assumed that the first phase of the project was complete--not so--and only looked at the geography of the second phase.

"If you depend on those documents, then the community is the casualty," he said, his voice passionate. "You guys have to help us," pointing to ESD staffers Phillips, Shatz, and Sam Filler.

"This is a comment period, not a Q&A," observed AY CDC Chairman Ken Adams, former CEO of ESD, in a conciliatory manner. Krashes, he said, suggested "what can we do to do better... and let's talk about it at our next meeting."

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