At meeting, Con Edison reps pledge to do better, but trucks still block sidewalks, forcing pedestrians into traffic
It looked like an improvement in transparency and it was, but progress was limited.
At the meeting, Greenland Forest City Partners spokeswoman Ashley Cotton noted that she had gotten "an increased amount of complaints" regarding problems around Sixth Avenue, in many cases because of work by the utility Con Edison.
They included Spencer Chow, Manager of Major Energy Services for Brooklyn and Queens, and a guy named Matt, the site project manager. (I couldn't get his last name because neither were named on the agenda, and Con Ed spokespeople did not respond to three email queries and one phone call regarding questions associated with the meeting.)
Matt explained that the work on the southeast block of the site, aimed to support not merely the two buildings under construction (B11, B14) but also the two unbuilt towers, should be complete by September. Chow noted that "the biggest part of the construction is in the beginning... when we have to dig up the ground... it's unfortunate, but it's a necessary evil."
"Can we do a better job in notifying the community? We probably can," Chow said, but often the work is a one-day thing. "As far as trucks that come and go, that's just the nature of our business."
He got some pushback from the audience. "Is there a reason why Con Ed trucks park on sidewalk?" asked resident Wayne Bailey, who frequently photographs neighborhood incursions on the site, adding that the lack of flaggers or barriers endangers the community.
Chow said he couldn't speak for contractors. Matt said that was subcontracted. Bailey said he'd send pictures. Matt said, "I'll reach out to the various departments and let them know."
Resident Peter Krashes asked the Department of Transportation representative present, Leroy Branch, to show the permits for the Con Ed work, so residents could figure out whether conditions were being met.
After Matt said that Con Ed adheres to permits, Krahses noted that information in the notices has been wrong sometimes, failing to indicate that a street closures goes an additional block.
Asked with whom Con Ed coordinates, Matt said, "I coordinate with the customer. At this point, I coordinate with my internal forces... once they give me a schedule, I’ll let my public affairs people know, and they’ll let Forest City know."
Chow noted that the only time a permit is needed is when they close down the street. Otherwise, "we're a self-regulated, self-certified utility.. and we have permission to work on the street."
Asked who people can contact, Toni Yuille Williams, Con Ed's Director of Public Affairs, expressed apologies, saying "we’re going to do the best job we can to minimize the public nuisance." She said residents could reach out to her and colleague Johari Jenkins.
Bailey called a photo on his phone showing a Con Ed truck blocking a pedestrian passage, forcing a family to walk in the street, given that the opposite sidewalk was unavailable.
"We're all inconvenienced," said Williams, not quite getting it.
"This is not inconvenient, it's somebody in danger," Bailey said, adding that it happens regularly.
"We need to speak to our crews about that," Williams agreed.
"Sometimes we do have structures that have to be on the sidewalk," Chow said.
"We understand, but then there’s got to be some safety device, or barricade,” countered resident Regina Cahill.
"You’re absolutely correct, I think we need to bring this back back," said Williams. Chow agreed, "We've got to do a better job."
Resident Steve Ettlinger reprised a comment he'd made earlier about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park: "it’s atypical due its location and size... so a new approach is needed."
The problem recurs
Despite Con Ed's pledge, as Bailey's Instagram post below shows, Con Ed soon blocked the sidewalk again.
@conedison said at public meeting they would fix this, all morning & I just passed at 2pm @ Pacific & 6th Ave block entire sidewalk and the north sidewalk of Pacific is closed so again where can pedestrians walk except in traffic #pacificparkbk #bciza @empirestatedev #empirestatedevelopmentcorp #cb8 #550vanderbilt #550vanderbiltavenue #nypd78thpct #safestreets @hdr_inc