Skip to main content

Daily News on "living nightmare" for project neighbors; sex harass victim speaks out

In December, I wrote about how a Prospect Heights woman reported regular sexual harassment from construction workers in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, and an even worse episode--a "dry hump"--from drunks leaving a Barclays Center boxing event.

Those concerns were conveyed secondhand by the friends of the woman, and I kept her name confidential at their request.

Now resident Elicia Howard, frustrated after little progress from overseers of the project and the Barclays Center, goes public in a Daily News article headlined A Living Nightmare: Neighbors say life next to Atlantic Yards is like living in 'shark tank'

That "shark tank" quote comes from Howard's original letter. In the article, other neighbors relate regular problems with construction--perhaps not so much "shark tank" as "loud grinder."

Howard has apparently been willing to go public because she feels there's been too little progress since that meeting.

Ashley Cotton, a spokeswoman for the project (being developed by Greenland Forest City Partners) and the arena, says a new “Islanders Code of Conduct” video plays at hockey games--a response to reports that hockey fans are far rowdier than most other arena attendees, especially basketball fans--has begun. (I can't find any record that they've announced this video publicly or shared it.)

But Cotton acknowledges it has taken time to launch a plan to have a color-coded ID program for construction workers. “We are moving through the process and steps needed to get the system in place, including identifying and procuring equipment, getting the unions and the contractors on board, etc.” she told Daily News sports reporter Michael O'Keeffe. (He's occasionally written skeptically about the project.)

At a meeting in February, Cotton said the program was in process, and that it would launch soon, but she didn't have a date. Yes, large projects have bureaucratic hurdles, but it has taken more than four months, so it's understandable how this could be interpreted as a lack of urgency.

Harassment training, racial tension

The Daily News does not report on Cotton's response to the request from Howard and her allies for general sexual harassment training for construction workers, but Cotton has not mentioned such training at public meetings.

I'd note another issue raised in Howard's initial letter, which is also mentioned in today's article. When she tried to speak to a site supervisor after being harassed by construction workers, she wrote, "he didn't even want to shake my hand when I introduced myself. I feel this was because I am a black female, and that to me was the ultimate disrespect."

The article does note that "Hockey fans especially seem dismissive of the black and Latino residents who live near the arena." I haven't seen enough to evaluate that, but, given the configuration of the project and the potential for tensions--such as an anecdote regarding hockey fans cursing out church members--even a very small number of insensitive fans can make an impact.

This flips the way the racial dynamic regarding this project has often been framed, with "privileged gentrifiers" (mainly white) criticizing a project portrayed (by developer Forest City Ratner's allies, many recipients of the developer's largesse) as a boon to Brooklynites of color.

The article notes that "[c]rime is up in the area around the Barclays Center since construction began in 2010," but I'd say that's not directly relevant, given the size of the 78th Precinct and the lack of reports of serious crimes related to the arena.

The article notes that the numbers "don’t suggest a causal link between the project and crime." What those numbers may suggest, I'd contend, is that the 78th Precinct has enough on its plate to not focus intently on some of the regular, low-level problems facing arena neighbors, like illegal parking and idling.

From the article: "bull in a china shop"

The article states:
“You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had construction workers tell me ‘Go f--- yourself’ or threaten to kick my ass,” says neighborhood activist Wayne Bailey, who sits on Community Board 8 and is the president of the New York Police Department’s 78th Precinct Community Council.
Some residents say Ashley Cotton, the partnership’s executive in charge of public, government and media relations, makes a real effort to find solutions to their complaints.
...Other residents, including Howard, believe Cotton and her staff are more intent on glossing over the problems the Atlantic Yards project has brought to their neighborhood. But everybody agrees answers are hard to find for a project that will transform a chunk of low-rise Brooklyn into an area that resembles Midtown Manhattan. The Atlantic Yards has unleashed a Pandora’s box of daily hassles on the neighborhood that the developer simply can’t manage, residents say.
“It is the proverbial bull in the china shop,” says Park Slope resident Steve Ettlinger. “Even when they do everything right, they are still going to break the china.”
Indeed, the tight fit of the project, encroaching into a residential neighborhood, leaves little margin for error. For example, Bailey regularly posts photos and videos on Instagram documenting seeming violations of law or construction commitments, to little avail.

What's next?

Answers are "hard to find," because they'd require a lot more enforcement. For now, the developer, state, and city have been willing to let a relatively small number of residents--those living in the blocks near the project--bear the brunt.

Local elected officials have been mostly quiet about this. Perhaps Howard's decision to go public will be a wake-up call.

And perhaps some of these issues will be discussed at tomorrow's Community Update meeting.

Comments

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 …