Friday, December 11, 2015

At Community Update meeting, concerns about transparency, valet parking, scope of monitoring, and more


Several other issues, beyond the 664 Pacific tower (and school), sexual harassment complaints, and concern over new owners for the arena operating company, came up at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting Wednesday.

They included transparency, valet parking, and scope of monitoring

Transparency

One ongoing concern is a record of the meeting. "Are you going to take minutes?" resident activist Peter Krashes asked Nicole Jordan of Empire State Development, the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project.

"I always take notes," Jordan replied, adding that she provides updates to the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the volunteer body set up to advise the ESD board on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

DropCar?
That board, Krashes pointed out, meets every three to four months, but "if somebody raises an issue today" a monitor could be on site tomorrow. Such notes could be distributed to the public, the ESD's environmental monitor, and the board.

Will her notes be made the public?

No, said ESD Senior VP Marion Phillips III. Some "go to our monitor, some to our team... As it relates to follow-up, things will either be done, or you will bring them back to our attention... You all email on a regular basis." He added that it's a community meeting, not a public hearing.

"Once we throw something at you," Krashes added, after AY CDC Executive Director Tobi Jaiyesimi made a brief introduction, "we have no ability to track it."

He also warned that "if you load up these meetings with presentations, there isn't an ability to exchange" about other issues. He recommended that a presentation on a new building get an extra event.

Indeed, as I wrote, community concerns plus discussion of the 664 Pacific tower took up the entire meeting, so there was no discussion, as scheduled, of progress/issues regarding any other work sites in the project.

Valet parking

DropCar official plans
Several people complained about the difficulty in parking on blocks around the project, and some connected that to the new DropCar valet service, offered in partnership with the Barclays Center.

"I'll have to get more information" about DropCar, said Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton.

Asked if the Department of Transportation had approved DropCar apparently using an area that the DOT had  approved for construction, the DOT's Keith Bray said he was unaware of the operation, and would look into it.

One resident said that there may be valet parking already in the neighborhood, saying "they sit on the hydrant." (That also may simply be limo drivers waiting.)

The area outside the VIP entrance on Atlantic Avenue may also simply be used as a VIP parking area, one resident suggested.

Later in the meeting, Cotton followed up. She said the process was simple: a driver pulls up, a valet takes the keys, and parks it in the mall parking lot. Later, the car owner returns to pick up keys outside Starbucks and returns to the mall.

Not everyone bought that, since DropCar also advertises it can valet park on the street.

"So you sold our parking spaces," one resident said. (Public parking spaces, of course, do not belong to anybody, but in situations near sports facilities, like Wrigley Field, there's an argument for residential permit parking.)

"For those who are new," Cotton said, "there was an impact disclosed [in the environmental review] that there would be parking impacts."

"Now it's inviting the parking in," one resident said. "We should start a business, parking in front of my house."

"Park in front of her house," another said, pointing to Cotton.

Residential parking?

Several people complained about parking. Bray said that's common around Brooklyn, and said that regulations can be tweaked, but residential permit parking is a decision by the state.

As some neighborhood veterans of the discussion pointed out, Republican state Sen. Marty Golden has vowed opposition to such permits. (And Forest City Ratner has chosen not to use its political capital.)

Flatbush and Dean impacts

What, asked resident Wayne Bailey, will happen, when 215 Flatbush, a construction project (unrelated) to Atlantic Yards at Dean Street across from the B2 modular tower begins. "How are they going to manage that/"

He recommended flaggers, traffic cones, and more to protect residents. "When can we see a plan?"

"That will be addressed later," Bray responded.

The Atlantic/Sixth crossing

One resident, who like several said it was her first meeting, asked if there would be efforts to change procedures, including the light sequence, at the intersection of Atlantic and Sixth avenues. "The traffic is so aggressive, boldly aggressive, I felt like my life has been threatened... it even happens right in front of crossing guard."

"This has been brought up," Bray said. "We have some ideas about what we maybe are going to do... it is problematic." (The DOT already re-striped the crosswalk after the lack thereof caused problems.)

Dirt on the windows

One resident on the north side of Atlantic Avenue asked about construction that "creates dirt on our windows."

"I'm going to give you a bureaucratic answer," said Cotton, adding that cleaning windows is not required in any project agreements. She said he could appeal to the state to get new commitments.

Krashes acknowledged that it's not required, but said the complaint raised questions about dust monitoring at the site. "You need to have enough air monitors to make sure that where there's construction the air's clean."

Cotton said they were required to mitigate dust by watering things down.

Regina Cahill of the North Flatbush Improvement District said, however, that she and Bailey had witnessed "pretty egregious" lack of watering down during a recent demolition on Dean Street.

How many monitors?

Cahill noted that there are seven construction sites and suggested it had reached a "tipping point, we're in a tsunami of construction. I think we need more personnel to monitor the site."

"My team is more than one person," said Cotton, though it's unclear how many are at the site.

Regarding both consultants for the state, the environmental monitor HDR and the owner's rep STV, said Phillips, "both are increasing their staff size" by 50%.

He said HDR "probably has four to five people," depending on the time of day, while "STV is up to about three. We have our own staff up to two." It wasn't clear, however, what that represents in FTE (full-time equivalent) personnel, and Phillips said he'd clarify when I sent a question.

Does monitoring work?

The effectiveness was in question, however, as Bailey pointed out he'd posted a photo of a demolition worker without a helmet.

"That work was stopped," Phillips said.

"It wasn't," Bailey said, and Cahill backed him up.

Krashes asked what HDR or the ESD's Greg Lynch could do if they witnessed violations like a truck in a bus stop or workers trespassing on residential stoops.

Lynch, said Jordan, takes photographs from the site exterior and contacts her, and she contacts the appropriate person. Lynch cannot go behind the construction fence, unlike HDR, which also documents things for ESD. She noted that trucks or drivers not following protocols have been banned.

If there's a violation of law, couldn't Lynch also call a city agency.

"If there's a violation of law, he will go to the 78th Precinct," said Jordan, citing one example of an illegally parked car. (Clearly, this doesn't happen during event nights.)

Scope of monitoring

"This begs the question," Bailey followed up. "You're doing now Saturday, Sunday, after-hours work. Where's the monitors then... I've never seen a monitor there after hours."

"I'll definitely look into it," Jordan said. (Shouldn't they know?)

Asked by a Bergen Street resident how far monitoring extended, Jordan said it was limited to the footprint of the construction site, from Atlantic Avenue to Dean Street.

The resident said cranes for the project had been parked on her block, between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenue, for two days.

"I'll look into it," Jordan said.

Internet/water cut-off

Krashes said as many as 100 people on Dean Street had lost cable/phone/Internet service since the weekend, since a cable was cut inside the 535 Carlton site.

"We've been working with them," said Forest City's Roberta Fearon. "We granted them access, Verizon was there this morning."

"This is the point," Krashes said. "This is something that happened over the weekend, Verizon couldn't get in." He noted that the developer is supposed to have a community liaison on site, during work hours, but apparently does not.

The Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments states (p. 28), "FCRC shall maintain an on-site construction coordinator to function as a liaison between FCRC and the community with respect to construction-related issues (the “CLO”)."

The bi-weekly Construction Update identifies a location that's not exactly onsite:
How to Reach Pacific Park Brooklyn Community Liaison Office (CLO) The Community Liaison Office is located at Atlantic Center Mall, 625 Atlantic Avenue on the 3rd floor. Visitors seeking the office should enter through the mall entrance located at the corner of Atlantic 5 Avenue and So. Portland Avenue. The CLO’s hours are M-F from 9am – 4pm and can be reached by phone at 866-923-5315 and by email at communityliaison@pacificparkbrooklyn.com
"I got the email Saturday night and responded within two hours," Cotton said. "We've been handling the issue."

Krashes also referenced an emergency water cutoff the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which lasted from 8:30 am to 4 pm. "There was no notice that the water was turned back on," he said, which confused people returning home to find a notice that the water was off and wondering what measures to take.

Cotton said DEP put notices on every door. "There was a lot of notice [from DEP]," Cotton maintained. "It was handled by the government agency that shut the water off." That didn't resolve things, but she moved on to talk about 664 Pacific.

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