Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why do construction trucks use residential Dean Street? Officials say policy change best solution, admit belated notice

Until this spring, residents on Dean Street between Sixth and Vanderbilt avenues had avoided the potentially frustrating experience of having construction trucks pass regularly on their street; after all, it's not a truck route and had not been used as such during Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park demolition and construction.

However, in two cases, one of them ongoing, that policy has changed and residents at a meeting last night expressed dismay about the temporary change in policy, the failure to alert them, and the delayed--and not fully convincing to them--explanation.

Trucks for B2 modular tower

Residents reporting on Atlantic Yards Watch in May noticed that trucks delivering modules to the B2 site at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street were continuing on Dean as a truck route, rather than turning on Sixth Avenue.

The response from Empire State Development:
As 6th Avenue has been blocked by double parking and other obstructions, there are limited egress options for the wide load trucks leaving the B2 site. Drivers of wide load trucks have been advised to leave via Dean until the problem on 6th Avenue has been corrected. The developer is working with NYCDOT and NYPD to determine the most optimum truck route until 6th can remain clear. I hope this information has been helpful. If you have additional questions please don't hesitate to contact me. 
One new truck route, from B3 truck protocols
I'm told that B2 trucks are still using Dean Street.

Trucks for B3 conventional tower

When construction activities for the B3 tower at the corner of Dean and Sixth began in the last week of June, trucks started using Dean Street.

In response to an incident report filed 7/31/15, ESD sent a response 8/20/15:
On August 20, the following response was received from ESD: Dear Resident, As of July 27, 2015 Dean Street is an authorized truck route. The B3 truck protocols can be viewed by visiting . Sincerely, ESD Atlantic Yards Team
Below is a video filmed 7/31/15 of a truck turning out of B3 onto Dean Street:

Public questions

Last night, at the periodic Community Update meeting, Dean Street resident Peter Krashes asked the Department of Transportation's Keith Bray about the change.

Official truck routes: red = through truck routes, clue = local
Bray noted that an official action to change the mapping of truck routes would require a public hearing, but this was not an official truck route change.

Rather, he said, "those are trucks that are leaving a site, finding the best way to getting to a site... and that's fine."

Krashes pointed out that the exit route seemingly violates city standards, in which trucks are supposed to take the shortest distance to a truck route, which in this case would necessitate a turn on Sixth Avenue directly to Atlantic or Flatbush avenues.

The DOT, Bray said, looked at the situation, and agreed with Forest City Ratner and Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, that this was the best solution, because a turn on Sixth wouldn't work.

"As far as public notice, we possibly could've done that, I concede that," Bray said. "But it's not a mapping change."

"The premise is based on notion of minimizing impacts on community," Krashes said, citing various environmental reviews. "You defined one specific contractor allowed to use Dean Street between Sixth and Vanderbilt. So when we see a truck, how do we know it's coming from the designated place versus another place?"

"I have to go out there and look myself," Bray responded, suggesting that the discussion continue outside the meeting. "I think from DOTs perspective... the answer I've given already is the answer."

"But that wasn't an answer to my last question," Krashes said.

(In fact, I'm told, trucks from other parts of the site are using Dean Street. "It's just open season," a resident told me.)

"The concern here is that there's been a history of trying to avoid Dean Street," added Regina Cahill, a Flatbush Avenue resident and president of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District. "In this situation, the notice to the public came after they were going down Dean Street. There was a certain lack of sensitivity to the situation... So what do we do in the case when there's a historic understanding that we would try to avoid this? Shouldn't there be a courtesy call?"

Bray agreed but added that DOT examined the opportunity for trucks exiting the site to use Sixth Avenue, but that the turn doesn't work for them.

Krashes suggested it required more of a turn to go down Dean than up Sixth, and suggested Bray walk the site. Bray agreed.

Timing of disclosure

Later in the meeting, Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton said she was reprising a message sent to a concerned constituent. "For safety and for congestion [reasons], they made a decision that a three-point turn is not the safest, most secure route," she said. "I want you to know it was analyzed, at length."

Krashes noted that the project Memorandum of Environmental Commitments requires truck protocols to be posted.

ESD's Nicole Jordan noted that these new protocols were approved on July 27, and she posted them on "Monday, the 2nd of August." (Actually, Monday was August 3.)

"Then the protocol was posted substantially after the trucks were going down Dean Street," Krashes said, referring to the one-week delay.

Asked by Cahill if the trucks could turn south on Sixth Avenue and to Flatbush, Cotton responded, "Every route was studied... This would create a difficult turn for B3 trailers" and would raise "safety and potential vehicle damage concerns."

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