Skip to main content

At AY CDC, a push for more transparency; are Community Updates "developer meetings"?

Not much new was on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the gubernatorially-controlled board set up to monitor and advise on the project.

But near the end of the meeting, some tension emerged, following the community relations report from Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency which oversees/shepherds the project now known as Pacific Park Brooklyn, and the project update from developer Greenland Forest City Partners, and an intriguing statement about plans for the Site 5 tower.

A few AY CDC directors and members of the public pushed back on a pattern of management in which project-related meetings have been poorly promoted and project impacts deserve a more complete response.

They got a pledge for a measure of more transparency, as if restoring basic standards.

But the limits to the state response emerged when AY CDC President Marion Phillips III, an ESD executive, made the surprising--and confounding--statement that the periodic Community Update meetings were "a developer meeting."

Actually, as I describe below, they have morphed from meetings sponsored by ESD and other governmental entities.

Community Updates and incident logs

Community Relations Manager Nicole Jordan provided an update on two Community Update meetings held in September and October, in which attendees where informed of plans for new construction, open, space, demolitions, changes to truck protocols, and more.

"A total of about 30 stakeholders attended both meetings," she said, including community residents, representatives of organizations, the 78th Precinct, and more. What she didn't say was that the confirmation for the latest meeting, last week, came with only one day's notice, and only three civilians showed up.

From her report, at least, it appears that the project is well-monitored. She noted that, as of Oct. 15, ESD had logged 117 community incidents, with just one logged with an open status, and three logged with a pending status.

Asked by acting Chairman Joe Chan to elaborate, Jordan said the open issue regards a pending request for noise mitigation--new rear windows--which the developer is working on, and the pending issues regard trash and snow removal on Long Island Rail Road property.

Director Tamara McCaw questioned whether an issue should be described as resolved if its recurring.

Phillips agreed that there should be a way to keep a running tally of recurring issues.

Director Jaime Stein, whose candidacy was pushed by neighbors closest to the project, observed that Jordan's log was very different from the report produced by ESD's environmental monitor, HDR, which she was examining.

Stein suggested an opportunity to go through the reports " and piece together some intervention points.. a lot has to do with having city agencies present," such as the New York Police Department and the Department of Transportation.

Phillips observed that NYPD and DOT are are responsive and attend Community Update meetings, but it would be difficult to get them to attend the meetings of the AY CDC, which is a state entity.

Chan suggested it was a good idea, and asked Stein, as a mayoral appointee to the CDC, to help.

A change to truck protocols

Asked by Stein about changes to to truck protocol, Jordan responded that "the protocol gives the truck drivers the ability to go down to the DOT-approved truck routing as quick as possible."

Prospect Heights residents earlier this year were alarmed that trucks serving the B3 site at the southeast corner of the arena block were not turning on Sixth Avenue to go to Atlantic or Flatbush avenues--as other trucks serving the arena block had proceeded--but instead got permission to go down residential Dean Street to Vanderbilt Avenue.

"The truck goes straight down Dean Street—that’s the quickest way for them to go to the DOT-approved truck route," Jordan said. That change, she said, was proposed to DOT, which gave the OK.

Unmentioned was that that change frustrated (or infuriated, as per the comment below) residents, as discussed at a Community Update meeting in September.

Krashes at the time pointed out that the exit route seemingly violates city standards, in which trucks are supposed to take the shortest distance to a truck route, which in this case would necessitate a turn on Sixth directly to Atlantic or Flatbush.

The Department of Transportation's Keith Bray said the agency looked at the situation, and agreed with Greenland Forest City and ESD that this was the best solution, because a turn on Sixth wouldn't work.

"As far as public notice, we possibly could've done that, I concede that," Bray said. "But it's not a mapping change."

"The premise is based on notion of minimizing impacts on community," Krashes said, citing various environmental reviews. "You defined one specific contractor allowed to use Dean Street between Sixth and Vanderbilt. So when we see a truck, how do we know it's coming from the designated place versus another place?"

"I have to go out there and look myself," Bray allowed.

Notice to residents

During the opportunity Tuesday for public comment, Krashes pointed out that "the publicity for the [project-related] meetings doesn't make sense," saying that ten days' notice should be typical.

Beyond that, he said, there's no way to truly log residents's concerns. "For a long time, we haven't had minutes, haven't had recordings allowed."

Actually, audio is allowed, not video or photos. In 2011, after I shot video of the predecessor Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings, I was told by a spokesman for then-Borough President Marty Markowitz that ESD's Arana Hankin had said "that since these meetings are non-deliberative, they are not subject to open public meetings law. [see coverage] Therefore, while we’ve allowed the public to attend and view the meetings, we have prohibited the use of film and photography in order to prevent disruptions."

That seems like a way to avoid the record.

Krashes suggested that, despite the claim of closed incidents, problems remain, such as an announcement of measures residents could reduce construction notice, which was delivered after construction started. "Where did that bog down? And what was the penalty for that failure?"

Getting more from HDR

Stein asked if a representative of HDR could attend the next AY CDC meeting to answer questions. Chan and Phillips agreed.

"I have questions about this report," Stein said, pointing to a document she had been given. It covered the months January through March of this year, was apparently written in August, and was received in October. She added that she had asked AY CDC Executive Director Tobi Jaiyesimi "that appendices be posted on the [project] web site."

Stein noted an observation that ESD had requested the developer to evaluate possible improvements to staging protocols, and said she wanted to learn more.

Better notice

Later, Stein and directors Barika Williams and Bertha Lewis reiterated the importance of sufficient notice and public input, and Phillips invited them to attend such Community Update meetings.

Chan suggested, "Why can't we commit to a bare minimum in terms of public notice," suggesting "at least 14, 21, 28 days notice."

Phillips said they could.

"I think it's fair to say to the public, 'we won't notice a Quality of Life [aka Community Update] meeting, or a community meeting, in less than X days,'" Chan followed up.

(I'd add that notice is just the first step. An agenda and board materials should be released before the meeting, not after, which would be in keeping with the parent ESD board's own practices.)

Chan said they should consider another format so more detailed items can be reported. Phillips responded that, two meetings earlier, Jordan provided a much more detailed report.

Better documentation

"Why can't we just get a transcript, or the minutes of what occurred?" Lewis asked. "Is someone recording this like we have this recorder [transcriptionist and video feed] here? Wouldn't it better if we could actually get what is said?"

"We don’t transcript that meeting, we don’t record that meeting," Phillips responded. "One, it's not really a state meeting, it's a developer meeting, the state is partnering--"

Lewis interjected, as if suggesting Greenland Forest City would cooperate: "The developer wouldn't have any—"

Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton, from the audience, intervened: "--I’m not going to volunteer to do that."

"That would solve a lot of problems with this basic issue," Lewis continued. "Then you'd actually have documentation."

(I should credit Lewis, who as a partner on the Community Benefits Agreement has often cooperated with the developer and drawn my criticism, for pushing transparency. The other CBA partner on the AY CDC board, Sharon Daughtry, attended the first AY CDC meeting in February, but has missed the last four meetings.)

"It's definitely a reasonable request to have some sort of summary about comments and what was requested," Chan said, suggesting that producing minutes is a lengthy process.

"It's a developer meeting"

Is it really a developer meeting, as Phillips suggested? Well, the notices and the schedule come from ESD.

Beyond that, the history is murky. The Community Update meeting, formerly the Quality of Life Committee, grew out of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which emerged after a 9/29/10 meeting on the arena plaza.

ESD's Hankin said the agency and Forest City would work with local elected officials and Community Boards to set up community meetings to ensure that the community stays informed and is being heard. Later, when asked about a previous pledge for intergovernmental working group meetings, suggested they would be combined.

The Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, more of a working group, first met at Brooklyn Borough Hall in November 2010. The hosts were the Brooklyn Borough President's Office and Council Member Letitia James, but it was really the Forest City Ratner show. It met during business hours.

The successor Quality of Life Committee, which was to meet bi-monthly in the evening, aimed to allow for more input from those most impacted by arena operations and responded to a request by Community Boards 2 and 6 in the liquor license process.

The committee was sponsored by ESD, the Borough President’s office, and the offices of Council Members James and Steve Levin. Such meetings involved agenda items from many, including the public.

This past spring, reflecting a more top-down structure, the name of the meeting was changed to Community Update. As I wrote, last week the new structure came in for criticism.

“It went from a community exchange to you talking at us,” commented resident May Taliaferrow. “That’s disappointing.”

“As the project moves forward, there’s a lot more to share,” Phillips responded, completely unruffled. “Back then, it made more sense” to have that exchange.

Yet that doesn't necessarily make it a "developer meeting."

Another suggestion

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council said that, as Atlantic Avenue roadbed between Flatbush Avenue and points east will have to be rebuilt, there's an opportunity to make it safer and more pedestrian-friendly.

Oct. 20, 2015 Atlantic Yards CDC President Report

Comments

  1. Wayne BAILEY7:56 AM

    The residents I talked to were not only frustrated but INFURIATED it's allowed The shortest alternative route to a truck route is right turn onto 6th Ave then right turn on Bergen St then right turn on Flatbush!

    (Unmentioned was that that change frustrated residents, as discussed at a Community Update meeting in September.)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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 Matzav.com 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…

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 …

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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …