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A subdued, brief Quality of Life meeting: concerns about buses, satellite trucks; limited project updates

Maybe it's the slowdown in construction, with buildings finishing up but none starting. Or the absence of the three most active civic commenters, as well as other near neighbors. Or a decline in reported disturbing project-related incidents.

At the arena last night, a merchandise bus on the plaza
But last night's Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting was the most subdued in memory, lasting just 30 minutes rather than the two hours that are allotted, and with few questions about project operations and impacts, and very little for the project developers and arena operators to present.

When asked, for example, about any pending ownership changes--the Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) joint venture has put up three building sites for sale--Forest City executive Ashley Cotton said she had no information to share.

Interestingly enough, there were a few more reps of public officials present than typical, unlike at some more heated meetings.

A wall of school buses

The one moment that came close to recalling some previous meetings came when resident Steve Ettlinger, commenting on a recent circus performance at the arena, reported, "I found myself confronted with a yellow wall of school buses, as well as private buses, for several blocks. I seem to remember someone a few years ago saying it wasn’t going to happen… it was as if they were double-parked."

At the arena last night, a merchandise bus on the plaza
Sarah Berlenbach, the new Director of External Affairs for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE), who had just been introduced, acknowledged that the circus was 15 minutes behind schedule, which disturbed the plan to have bus arrivals staggered the bus arrivals. "There ended up being an onslaught of buses. For that, we deeply apologize."

Thing is, the arena's tight fit, backing into a residential neighborhood, leaves little margin for error. And until and unless arena operators have to pay penalties for such incursions, they will train their spokespeople to "deeply apologize" and earn their keep.

Berlenbach, a Long Island native who most recently worked in the Office of the Vice President, said she was especially excited to work on the reopening of the Nassau Coliseum. (The Mikhail Prokhorov-owned BSE will operate the Coliseum, too.)

Will satellite trucks leave Flatbush?

Satellite truck on Flatbush for ACC tourney
Regina Cahill, a Flatbush Avenue resident and president of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, referenced the TV satellite trucks that now gather in the lay-by lane outside the arena, "which then congests Flatbush Avenues even more."

She asked if there was a plan to move the trucks, perhaps into space associated with the under-construction 38 Sixth, aka B3. Previously, such trucks were in the temporary parking lot east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets, which has since been raised in preparation for construction of 664 Pacific, AKA B15--which has been stalled by a lawsuit.

Scott Solish of Greenland USA said there was no such long-term plan regarding B3. Roland Guevara, BSE's VP for Community Relations, said he'd look into it.

Satellite truck on Flatbush for ACC tourney
Last October, Terence Kelly, then the arena's Community Affairs rep, was asked at a community meeting where the satellite trucks would go.

Given that the parking lot east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets is gone, where does the Barclays Center send satellite TV trucks?

While arena operators work on a long-term solution, Kelly said, "for now we're using Flatbush Avenue." He added that most vehicles go inside, given that there's broadcast capacity inside the building.

As shown in the photos from last night's event--the first, and likely the least impactful of the five-day Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tourney--there clearly was a need for trucks outside. The trucks I saw came from North Carolina.

What happened to the app?

Parking on the Dean Street sidewalk, and "pad" outside arena
Ettlinger also asked about the long-gestating and long-stalled plan by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, to log quality of life complaints.

"It’s kind of an ongoing conversation that we’ve been having," responded Tobi Jaiyesimi, who started as executive director of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise ESD, and now also serves as its Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project manager.

Public sidewalk used for parking last night
"In the early stages, we talked about creating mobile software," Jaiyesimi said. "We kind of bit off more than we can chew as a state agency. Right now there are ongoing changes to the ESD web site that's going to make it more mobile friendly. And so we're still still thinking through it. I'm not going to make the same mistake that we made earlier which was to get very excited and over-promise."

For now, she said, they track posts--now quite infrequent, actually--on Atlantic Yards Watch and appreciate reports and 311 complaint number sent to atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov. However, one reason for the app was that Atlantic Yards Watch is not mobile friendly.

And, as I've commented, it would not be difficult for state staffers to track Twitter or Instagram posts, however imperfectly. Other government entities elsewhere do so.

New staffer, AY CDC update

VIP parking on Atlantic Avenue side of arena
ESD executive Marion Philips III introduced Jeremy Cooney, a new member of the Community Relations team, who recently moved from Rochester, where he served as Chief of Staff to the mayor. "He’s a political person, he understands the community," Phillips said, noting that Cooney's predecessor, Nicole Jordan, "has moved on to bigger and better things." (That went unspecified.)

Cooney invited members of the public to reach out and said he aimed to facilitate an open discussion.

Jaiyesimi announced that the next AY CDC meeting would be Tuesday, March 21, at 3 pm, at Long Island University. A formal community notice should emerge today.

Project updates: 461 Dean

461 Dean, fence pulled back
Cotton said "We don’t have a lot of news either," but provided several brief updates.

At 461 Dean, the modular tower, she said, "I’m sure you’re all thrilled to see us move out of the street," referencing the now-gone construction fence. "The public can now walk directly from the building and turn the corner."

"Lots and lots of people live in this building, it’s fully operating, all good news there," Cotton said.

461 Dean, leasing office in retail spot
When asked the percentage of apartments at 461 Dean that had been leased, however, Cotton said, "I don’t know."

Surely her company--which owns 461 Dean outright, as it's the only tower outside the GFCP joint venture--has statistics. As of 2/20/17, a little more than two weeks ago, parent Forest City Realty Trust reported 69 apartments leased, about 19% of the 363-unit building.

Project updates: other towers

The lobby at 461 Dean
Cotton noted that the lottery for the 303 below-market, "affordable" units at 38 Sixth closes March 14, and said, "Please please spread the word." It's the third of three lotteries, with no building with affordable units after that yet launched.

(The issue is less getting 80,000-plus people to apply, as of now, as getting enough low-income units where the need is greatest.)

Cotton also said the sidewalk bridge has been removed at 550 Vanderbilt the condo building, and that, while a sidewalk shed continues at the affordable 535 Carlton, it's been pulled back from Dean Street.

A photo showed the segment of Dean Street east of 535 Carlton still impeded, and Cotton was asked about that.

"There’s still work going on in the open space," she said.

No statistics on move-ins

How many people have moved in overall, Cotton was asked, and how long should it take?

She noted that some buildings have full Temporary Certificates of Occupancy, and others don't, and that a bureaucratic process to approve affordable applicants is time-consuming.

The Flatbush Avenue side of 461 Dean
There's "a steady pace of signing leases," at the affordable buildings, she said, which means they should fill in "a couple of months," while the market-based rentals at 461 Dean is "based on how leasing’s going."

Former footprint tenants

I asked about the plan, announced years ago, to promise once displaced project residents a space in the new buildings, at their former rent. An 11/29/12 Daily News article reported that 17 tenants had taken that offer.

Cotton said she had no information, and invited a follow-up.

Homeless families?

461 Dean, from Fort Greene
I asked about  the de Blasio administration's reported plan to ensure that city-funded affordable units also house the homeless.

"They have contacted us to add that to our buildings, and it's being sorted out," Cotton responded. "Absolutely, we're happy to work with them."

Are they moving in?

"Are homeless families moving in. I have no idea," she responded. "People are moving in. We are complying with the de Blasio administration's request."

More from Barclays

Guevara reminded attendees that Barclays Center Cares aims to include community events on its calendar. He said a community meeting, tentatively scheduled for March 27, would be rescheduled for April.

He also said they started a program called Brooklyn Nets Basketball Academy, offering clinics throughout the tri-state area. "If you want one, please let us know."

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