Skip to main content

Diminished in transmission: how Atlantic Yards concerns (harassment, lack of meeting notice) were downplayed to oversight body

I'll have multiple articles covering issues raised at the March 15 Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting.

Can the members of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to monitor the project, truly trust the staff of Empire State Development, which is the parent organization, to brief them adequately about issues related to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?

Two examples suggested how issues get downplayed when transmitted to the board.

A single construction worker as harasser?

"In December 2015, Forest City and NYPD were notified of a resident that was sexually harassed by a construction worker," reported ESD Community Relations Director Nicole Jordan at the meeting. "Greenland Forest City and ESD took immediate action by meeting with the resident. Greenland Forest City worked with NYPD as well to address the incident."

In response, at the February 2015 Community Update meeting, she reported, Greenland Forest City presented to the community a plan, still in the works, to readily identify project related construction workers with color-coded ID badges.
Click to enlarge

But saying that a resident was "sexually harassed by a construction worker" was drastically selling the issue short. As I reported from the December Community Update meeting, the Dean Street resident in a letter (right) characterized it "like being in a shark tank just to walk down your own street," given the daily gauntlet she runs.

And then she was victimized by sexual misconduct, if not sexual assault, when three drunk men leaving a Barclays Center boxing match accosted her, hugging her and proceeding "to dry hump" her.

None of that came out last night; if it had, perhaps there would have been even more urgency regarding progress on this issue, and more outrage from the board.

Instead, the board heard from Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton. "Bottom line, I am frustrated as everybody is with construction workers in the wrong place or behaving badly," she said. "So I would like to know when they are are my construction  workers, or not. Number two, it adds a level of scrutiny to somebody, if they’re wearing a badge or label. so maybe they'll think twice if they're doing the wrong behavior."

That would help, but it doesn't address fan behavior, which is a concern not just regarding boxing events but other rowdier events, including hockey, wrestling, and (I suspect) mixed martial arts, which seems on its way to legalization in New York State.

The stealth renewal of a contract

AY CDC President Marion Phillips III, who's also an ESD staffer, briskly described how the parent ESD board last month renewed the contract of STV, which serves as the agency's owner's representative on the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site, for two years. 

It wasn't brought to the AY CDC board--which last met in October, actually--because "it's really an administrative function," Phillips said, noting that "they are one of the leaders in the industry."

Later, however, board member Jaime Stein suggested that the brief mention of the STV contract in the meeting notes from last month's Community Update meeting omitted some crucial context, which she learned by attending that meeting.

"The outline format" of the notes presented to board members "makes it difficult for someone not at the meeting to fully understand the points that are being raised," said Stein, who teaches at Pratt. "This was raised by a community member who was concerned that the [ESD board] agenda was released too late for the community to be able to make arrangements to attend... That community member also asked why this board was not informed."

As I reported last month, resident Peter Krashes said that, because the meeting agenda was posted after the 5 pm cutoff the day before to RSVP for the meeting, "I had no idea until after the fact that I could have gone and spoken to the board. You took an opportunity for me to come and speak to the board away."

While I considered the contract issue routine, Krashes pointed out, not unreasonably, that the AY CDC is charged with evaluating the effectiveness of monitoring and this would have been the first time the new body could address the issue. "I think you should nullify it, and give me the opportunity to address it with the AY CDC board and the ESD board," he said.

Getting real minutes?

Stein then requested "actual meeting minutes" from the Community Update meetings to help understand the context, "because the hope is then we can follow up on the concerns that were being raised."

She didn't get an answer, but the ESD does not seem ready to get minutes. The issue came up at the previous AY CDC meeting, last October.

"Why can't we just get a transcript, or the minutes of what occurred?" asked board member Bertha Lewis (who was not at yesterday's meeting). "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—"

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."

"It's definitely a reasonable request to have some sort of summary about comments and what was requested," said ESD EVP, Real Estate Development & Public/Private Partnership Joe Chan at the time, suggesting that producing minutes is a lengthy process.

It isn't simple, by any means. But the summaries presented yesterday had some obvious flaws, though only to those following the project closely enough to know.


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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…