Monday, March 21, 2016

Out of sync: while state's environmental consultant provides reports after six months, residents seek response to daily impacts

This is among multiple articles covering issues raised at the March 15 Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) meeting.

How mitigate the impacts from construction at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site? There was a huge divide evident at the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting 3/15/16 between the formal exercise of oversight and real-time effectiveness, which leads to unresolved, dismaying reports like the one below.


As noted, the most recent Construction Alert does not indicate any after-hours work, though there is a catchall excuse, which says the "scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions."

If so, there should be some way for residents to be informed in real time. Instead, as meeting attendees learned, it takes six months for reports from the state's consultant to be delivered to the AY CDC board, which lowers the chance the board can offer effective advice and oversight to Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project.

Six months for quarterly reports

Marion Phillips III, an ESD executive and also president of the AY CDC, explained (see 4:23 of video below) that there were delays in delivering the three most recent 2015 quarterly reports by the state's environmental monitor, HDR, which were received by the board six months after the period overseen--in other words, they just got the Third Quarter 2015 reports.

Board member Jaime Stein, a Pratt Institute academic who's been the most persistent questioner on the AY CDC board, asked HDR's Jeff Martirano to explain the process.

While HDR tries to begin its review of the developers' (and contractors') compliance with mitigation requirements a month the quarter ends, Martirano said, it takes one to two months after the quarter to get the developer's report, which HDR must review, and then analyze. Then comes a cycle of consultation with ESD. But Phillips said they'd try to work faster.



Community complaints unanswered

Two residents, persistent monitors of construction and operational impacts (who post reports I often use), offered forceful comments at the end of the meeting, during the public comment period. The board members were understandably weary, since the meeting had started 30 minutes late, and dragged on because of two presentations from project architects, which drew no questions.

At this point, Buffalo-based ESD CEO Howard Zemsky, who chaired his first AY CDC meeting and (not surprisingly) seemed less aware of the project than his Brooklyn-based predecessor, Kenneth Adams, had left the session.

At 1:25 of the video, Phillips announced the comment period, aiming to move the meeting along. At 1:27, Newswalk resident Wayne Bailey expressed exasperation: "I just cannot believe that we're still talking about collecting data, when we have over eight years worth of data... What is the enforcement mechanism?"

He cited repeated violations, such as trucking companies that don't' use flaggers or park on the sidewalks. "I see the monitors out there, but where's the enforcement mechanism?... When they were demoing [the] B15 [site], there was massive amounts of dust, everyone was pluming, I videotaped it" But no one told them to stop.

Bailey added that, though community members had walked the site with representatives of the state and the city Department of Transportation, "we’ve never gotten one report back" on how to lower the impacts of traffic. "It’s never ending for us.. now they're working after hours on Saturdays and Sundays."

At 1:29 of the video, Dean Street resident Peter Krashes noted that the state's log of incident reports did not include all police reports, and omitted the various incident reports now being posted on Instagram, such as under the #bciza [Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance] hashtag.

"It's time for the executives who work with ESD to enable the community to assist with the job that you guys do," Krashes said, offering help that may not be that welcome. "What's the protocol when something goes wrong," he asked. :If you're transparent in explaining what you're doing, we can help you improve the situation."

The bottom line

That didn't really get answered, though ESD executive Joe Chan, who chaired the meeting after Zemsky left, noted that it was important to discuss certain issues with the New York City Police Department and the city Department of Transportation, and NYPD wasn't there. (DOT's Leroy Branch was there, but ESD and AY CDC officials made no attempt to query him.)

While it's true that some issues are outside ESD's scope, most of what Bailey and Krashes brought up regarded the oversight by the ESD's own monitors. And, as the Instagram posts below show, the complaints continue.




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