Skip to main content

Fighting rat problem around AY site, Forest City agrees to provide garbage cans to residents; experts leave impression problem is more the fault of community than construction, but "it's always interconnected"

Bending from its previous posture that it would not take steps to abate the "rat tsunami" beyond the Atlantic Yards construction site, developer Forest City Ratner today announced it would provide vouchers to residents in the neighborhood to ensure they have sturdy garbage cans to contain waste.

The initiative would be part of a multi-faceted program that officials agree is needed to address rats, a program welcomed by City Council Member Letitia James and other community members.

FCR's MaryAnne Gilmartin, speaking at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting at Borough Hall, said it could take a week to provide details on the scope of the program, but said it would not extend to commercial businesses.

Forest City's Bob Sanna added that 16 new trash receptacles would be placed in the construction site, for food waste only, not construction debris, something unique in his experience. Four workers have been added to empty the cans and address food-related waste, including a "perimeter sweep immediately outside the gate."

Clearly the public (and press) attention, the involvement of multiple agencies, and a focus by Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for the Empire State Development Corporation, has produced progress--even as a court decision yesterday suggested that Hankin's agency had done the developer's bidding.

More the fault of AY, or the neighborhood?

Unresolved was the cause of the rat problems. City officials who'd recently done a walk-through of the construction site and surrounding blocks suggested that the latter had far more uncovered garbage that would attract rats--essentially leaving the impression it was more the fault of the community than of Forest City Ratner.

During the meeting, James honed in on the issue: "As a result of construction and demolition, have their nests been sufficiently disturbed they left the location?"

"It's a very good question," responded Bob Corrigan, an internationally renowned rodentologist who works for the city. He said there was no clear answer, but the results had to be examined on a case by case basis. Construction work is known to disperse rats, but doesn't necessarily do so. "Is it possible? Yes."

Looking at the neighborhood

Corrigan took a walk-through earlier this week and provided several observations. "You have to look at rats as a community wide issue," he said, suggesting that the causes are always interconnected, including commercial food trash, residential food trash, litter on construction sites, and associated with sidewalks.

"Litter baskets are absolutely critical," he said. (Is it possible to empty them more often, a Sanitation Department rep was asked. That could encourage dumping of residential waste, he said.)

As for the construction site, Corrigan said, "we could not find any hot spots. Two out of three [segments] had very high rates of sanitation pickup."

"Nowhere on the construction site did we find they were serving as rat reservoirs," he said. That's important, he added, because sometimes that does happen.

No one disputed Corrigan's report of his visit, but Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association later suggested that, based on his observations (and photos taken last month), that Forest City Ratner had only recently stepped up its efforts to clean the site.

Rick Simeone of the Department of Health, who attended a meeting on Dean Street last month to hear rat complaints, agreed "we have some hot spots" in the neighborhood. "Is it at the levels told to me at that meeting? I don't think so."

"The area has changed," he said, and now has a lot of commercial establishments,

"What Bobby [Corrigan] and I noticed was a tremendous amount of trash throughout the neighborhood," citing trash in front of private homes, wastebaskets with no tops and "a few active catchbasins that we will address and we will bait."

Krashes later suggested that Prospect Heights was no worse than many neighborhoods in the city, and reiterated that residents have seen a proliferation only after the project.

A comprehensive solution

Forest City Ratner consultant Ed Sheehan, director of quality assurance for Colony Pest Management, said the solution involves Integrated Pest Management, involving efforts to keep food from rats--securing garbage, not putting out food for cats--and securing bait stations.

"It's a puzzle, and this will unravel the puzzle," he said, "but we need cooperation from all parties: the neighborhood, Atlantic Yards, and city agencies." For example, he identified the closed Bergen Tile building at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue--across from the construction site--as a source of problems.

"Using Colony," Gilmartin said, "Forest City is committed to working through a plan not only specific for site but also for offsite areas identified by the team."

Gilmartin noted that Colony recommended metal cans, but agreed "this is a balancing act," as sturdy rubber cans could be nearly as effective and cause less noise when moved during early morning hours.

The offer of garbage cans, she said, is "an overture and a gesture that recognizes that it's going to require work by many."

"I thank you for the vouchers," James said to Gilmartin. "To what extent are baiting stations available to the community?"

"We do not have a voucher program for baiting," Gilmartin replied crisply.

More "asks"

Engine Company 219 on Dean Street, James said, has experienced an infestation of large rats. She said the captain there has requested a dumpster. She asked a representation from the Department of Sanitation for a dumpster.

"We don't have dumpsters to hand out," she was told.

She asked some Fire Department representatives from the central office if a dumpster could be provided.

They said they didn't know.

James said she would have provided a dumpster out of her own budget had she been asked in time.

"I'm asking Forest City Ratner to consider purchase of a dumpster," James continued.

Gilmartin neither nodded nor smiled.

Problems persist

Several problems persist. One, unmentioned at today's session but cited at the meeting last month, is rats attracted to garbage left by workers getting meals at restaurants near Bergen Street and Flatbush Avenue near Sixth Avenue, a block or so south of the project site at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue.

At the meeting, both James and Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, urged officials not to ignore the rat problem beyond Prospect Heights, in Fort Greene.

James said she'd seen a "very disgusting video" filmed in Atlantic Terminal public housing, which showed rodents in hallways and in the parking lot. "They were large, and it was scary."

Summing up

Overall, participants agreed significant progress had been made. "I've never heard such a comprehensive waste management onsite program described," said Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6.

"I wanted to commend Forest City Ratner and the agencies and certainly ESD for pulling this together, and want to echo the importance of educating the community," Hammerman said.

As for neglectful owners of abandoned properties, he said, "I think the agencies should come out, full guns blaring, if they choose not to be cooperative."


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…