Tuesday, June 28, 2016

At meeting, Con Edison reps pledge to do better, but trucks still block sidewalks, forcing pedestrians into traffic

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in various towers, delays in the building with the planned school, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, questions about security improvements, an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. This is the final article.

It looked like an improvement in transparency and it was, but progress was limited.

At the meeting, Greenland Forest City Partners spokeswoman Ashley Cotton noted that she had gotten "an increased amount of complaints" regarding problems around Sixth Avenue, in many cases because of work by the utility Con Edison.

Since then, Cotton noted, the developers, when informed, have announced street closures caused by Con Ed. And representatives for the first time appeared at a public meeting.

They included Spencer Chow, Manager of Major Energy Services for Brooklyn and Queens, and a guy named Matt, the site project manager. (I couldn't get his last name because neither were named on the agenda, and Con Ed spokespeople did not respond to three email queries and one phone call regarding questions associated with the meeting.)

Matt explained that the work on the southeast block of the site, aimed to support not merely the two buildings under construction (B11, B14) but also the two unbuilt towers, should be complete by September. Chow noted that "the biggest part of the construction is in the beginning... when we have to dig up the ground... it's unfortunate, but it's a necessary evil."

Community pushback

"Can we do a better job in notifying the community? We probably can," Chow said, but often the work is a one-day thing. "As far as trucks that come and go, that's just the nature of our business."

He got some pushback from the audience. "Is there a reason why Con Ed trucks park on sidewalk?" asked resident Wayne Bailey, who frequently photographs neighborhood incursions on the site, adding that the lack of flaggers or barriers endangers the community.

Chow said he couldn't speak for contractors. Matt said that was subcontracted. Bailey said he'd send pictures. Matt said, "I'll reach out to the various departments and let them know."

Resident Peter Krashes asked the Department of Transportation representative present, Leroy Branch, to show the permits for the Con Ed work, so residents could figure out whether conditions were being met.

After Matt said that Con Ed adheres to permits, Krahses noted that information in the notices has been wrong sometimes, failing to indicate that a street closures goes an additional block.

Asked with whom Con Ed coordinates, Matt said, "I coordinate with the customer. At this point, I coordinate with my internal forces... once they give me a schedule, I’ll let my public affairs people know, and they’ll let Forest City know."

Chow noted that the only time a permit is needed is when they close down the street. Otherwise, "we're a self-regulated, self-certified utility.. and we have permission to work on the street."

Improvement coming?

Asked who people can contact, Toni Yuille Williams, Con Ed's Director of Public Affairs, expressed apologies, saying "we’re going to do the best job we can to minimize the public nuisance." She said residents could reach out to her and colleague Johari Jenkins.

Bailey called a photo on his phone showing a Con Ed truck blocking a pedestrian passage, forcing a family to walk in the street, given that the opposite sidewalk was unavailable.

"We're all inconvenienced," said Williams, not quite getting it.

"This is not inconvenient, it's somebody in danger," Bailey said, adding that it happens regularly.

"We need to speak to our crews about that," Williams agreed.

"Sometimes we do have structures that have to be on the sidewalk," Chow said.

"We understand, but then there’s got to be some safety device, or barricade,” countered resident Regina Cahill.

"You’re absolutely correct, I think we need to bring this back back," said Williams. Chow agreed, "We've got to do a better job."

Resident Steve Ettlinger reprised a comment he'd made earlier about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park: "it’s atypical due its location and size... so a new approach is needed."

The problem recurs

Despite Con Ed's pledge, as Bailey's Instagram post below shows, Con Ed soon blocked the sidewalk again.

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