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State environmental monitor: developer mainly in compliance, but new tactics coming, including signage for trucks

Beyond the security issues raised at the 5/17/16 meeting (video) of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Commission, several issues regarding the state’s oversight of project community impacts were raised.

Notably, it was disclosed that, despite a generally good record of compliance with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) aimed to avoid neighborhood impacts, a state monitor has recommended new tactics to limit idling trucks and other neighborhood impacts.

Still, the developer does not seem to be at risk for penalties from Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.

In context

Jennifer Bienemann of environmental monitor HDR said her firm serves as “independent mitigation monitors on five other projects” in the city, and “the program for Atlantic Yards is by far the most robust, thorough, and expansive in scope.” (Here's her presentation, also at bottom.)

For example, they visit other projects once a week, but this one four times a week. Other projects generate a monthly site report, while this requires weekly reports.

(Of course, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is likely larger, and more likely to encroach on a residential neighborhood. Note the various problems documented under the #BCIZA tag--Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance--on Instagram. Also note that the recent revised MEC was developed after HDR, though finding the developer was generally in compliance, agreed more could be done.)

Bienemann described how HDR observes of various mitigation measures, including dust suppression, emission requirements, wheel washing, truck routing, truck queueing, “path noise controls,” and use of noise compliant materials.

“As a result of a request from HDR and ESD for the OEM [company’s On-Site Environmental Monitor] to expand the scope of the performance metrics and contextualize incidents of noncompliance, the metrics were revised in the spring 2015,” she said. “The data shows a range of approx 90 to 100 percent compliance.”

That sounds good, but it’s a tight fit, of course.

Dealing with challenges

“Even though the metrics show a very high level of compliance across the site, this is a construction project,” she said. “And with over 50 trucks coming to and from the site each, a very active construction site site, there are bounds to be incidents of noncompliance, and issues and challenges that present themselves as construction continues to ramp up.”

Issues include noncompliance with truck routes, idling, queueing requirements, and noncompliant concrete trucks being sent to the site, as well as “situations which could have been avoided if advance notice was given to OEM team to ensure proper protocols and mitigation measures were put in place.”

To improve compliance, she said, “the developer has committed to having the contractors provide written notification that protocols provided to individual subcontractors, vendors and trucking companies,” as well as plans to install signage along the Pacific Street queue area and perimeter fencing, which will warn of potential banning if protocols are not followed.

That sounds like an improvement, but does arrive somewhat late. There was no mention of sanctions against the developer.

Bienemann cited “a minor increase” involving ten noncompliant concrete trucks coming to the site since January 1, out of hundreds of such trucks. “The developer is requiring that the contractor turn away any potentially noncompliant concrete trucks unless there are extenuating circumstances that are conveyed to the OEM or developer ahead of time.”

A number of situations could have been avoided with advance notice to the OEM, she said,
including the use of noisier equipment, noise-dampening materials not being added, and “limitations in truck turning movements and oversize trailers which required revisions to the truck route.”

She also said construction managers are now required to convey the MEC requirements to workers not required to attend quarterly training.

The recommendations, she said, “were developed as a result of areas where we were seeing repeated incidents of noncompliance and where we thought there was something that could be done about it.”

Following up

AY CDC board member Jaime Stein cited repeated evidence on Instagram and from community members that noncompliance with truck protocols seems "to be a major quality of life issue.” She asked if the new signage was in place.

Bienemann said no: the recommendations were agreed to in April, and some are being implemented now. “We have a meeting next week to talk with the developer and OEM about more of the specifics, about exact language for signage, having OEM upload written confirmation from contractors.”

Stein, looking at HDR’s most recent quarterly report (from 2015), noted that most incidents were resolved quickly, but asked why 17% took up to one month and 3% took longer to resolve.

Bienemann suggested there might be “potentially structural problems,” such as fugitive dusting for which a maintenance plan then needs to be developed.

She noted that “the MEC does not cover mitigating dust from paved area” but HDR, working with the OEM and the developer, agreed it required a maintenance plan, which was developed just last week.

Atlantic Yards CDC HDR Presentation 05 17 2016 by AYReport

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