Skip to main content

AY CDC signs off on extending environmental monitor's contract. Neighbors (and a board member) say monitor's just not effective.

The meeting Wednesday March 29 of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) was relatively brief and mostly uneventful, but one sequence of exchanges encapsulated the ongoing tensions over the project—and the limits to the board's effectiveness as an advisor to Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project.

The AY CDC board was asked to endorse the staff recommendation to extend for one year the ten-year contract of the consultant HDR, which serves as the environmental monitor for ESD. The contract value is $500,000, and the cost is reimbursed by the project developer.

As stated in the board materials (bottom), ESD had assumed it would conduct a new RFP for a potential replacement before HDR’s contract expired, the uncertain nature of the project’s phasing—notably, a stall in construction and brewing plans for a huge shift in bulk—argues for a short-term extension rather than a new solicitation and possibly a new monitor.

Board member Jaime Stein, who directs the Sustainable Environmental Systems program at the Pratt Institute and is consistently the board member most willing to push back on the parent agency, suggested that the board needed more time to review the scope of HDR’s work, and offer an opportunity for public comment. (Here's the webcast.)

“I've been in this role for almost two years,” Stein said, which means that after a year extension, “I probably will not be here... this is why I took the role. to have a meaningful impact” on monitoring quality of life issues. (She was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. I wonder if the developer would lobby him to appoint a more passive successor.)

The project, once assumed to last ten years, could last 30 years, Stein said, and impacts have shifted. “I think we need to use this as an opportunity to pause.”

Marion Phillips III, the AY CDC President and a ESD Senior VP, Community Relations, responded that to not continue the contract would be “borderline irresponsible,” because it could leave the project unmonitored.

“I'm questioning as to why this was not brought to us a year ago,” Stein responded, noting that she was asking only for a pause to examine the contract.

Is current monitoring enough?

HDR's scope of work
Phillips said the authority’s goal was to start the next process within six months. “If we change the scope of this contract, we'd need to re-issue the RFP, which means this contract could expire,” leaving the project unmonitored.

“It's just to continue what's been happening on the monitoring side,” chimed in Howard Zemsky, the Buffalo businessman who chairs the ESD board and also the AY CDC board. “My own observation is that this project is more heavily monitored than any other I've seen, by about a factor of five.”

“I think the monitoring that we have in place,” responded Stein, “although it is very well resourced… fails to meet the recurring persistent Quality of Life issues.”

Phillips said that they would reevaluate the monitoring in the next contract.

“I'm frustrated we didn't do this six months ago,” Stein said.

Board member Daniel Kummer acknowledged that Stein’s comments “have some merit,” but said, after hearing Phillips’s comments, he opposed the motion. “It’s really a very brief extension.”

Community concern

That was not exactly the posture of the few community members present at the daytime meeting.

“I’m very concerned about this,” said Dean Street resident Peter Krashes, who lives across from the site. For the first time, he learned HDR’s scope of work, “which is very narrow.” He said that scope didn’t cover air quality impacts last fall, such as a paint-like substance drifting in, or dust caused by trucks.

North Park Slope resident Steve Ettlinger noted that community members “bear a unique burden,” and suggested it was time to use public resources more efficiently.

Elisabeth Martin, who lives on across from the project on Carlton Avenue, echoed Krashes’s points. “The issues that we face are very scarcely reported by your staff,” she said. “Despite the fact that I gave you pictures of the dust, nothing was done, because the developer continued to send those trucks.” She also said that she and neighbors experienced cracks inside their buildings, without knowing what do so.

Stein’s motion for a pause got one more vote, from new board member Cy Richardson, an urban planner appointed by Borough President Eric Adams. But four gubernatorially-appointed board members, along with Zemsky, voted no. (Three other board members appointed by local elected officials didn’t attend.)

Board member Liz Harris joined Kummer in saying that the community comments should be taken into consideration.

Updates from ESD

Phillips finally acknowledged that a once-promised app—or digital solution—to report and monitor project impacts is dead. “I just have to fall on my sword... We just came out with a great idea... it is something that could not be integrated, and I apologize.”

He said ESD had considered social media monitoring companies like Keyhole and Digmind, and concluded they wouldn’t be effective. He said that direct communication with staff, as well as monitoring Atlantic Yards Watch—which is barely used lately—is effective enough.

New community relations staffer Jeremy Cooney said there were only eight incidents listed on the complaint log since last November, such as debris on the construction site or obstructed walkways.

Updates from the developer

Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, representing Greenland Forest City Partners, provided a swift update on the project.

The 461 Dean and 535 Carlton towers have TCOs (temporary certificates of occupancy) for all floors, except for the “hoist units,” where the elevator on the outside the building used to be. The sidewalk bridge outside 461 Dean may be removed in a month. Both buildings have residents.

The 17-story condo building 550 Vanderbilt has a TCO for the first eight floors. A fence on the Dean Street site should be mostly gone, she said, except for the part that protects the open space construction.

The lottery for 38 Sixth, which like 535 Carlton is 100% affordable (though oriented to middle-income households), has closed, paving the way for tenant selection.

Cotton also showed a picture of construction at the Vanderbilt Yard, including tunnels known as the West Portal and East Portal, as well as foundations for future construction.

She offered no new schedule for any buildings or the overall project.

Regarding plans for Site 5 and the developer’s desire to get ESD to change the General Project Plan, the project’s governing document,”unfortunately, given litigation, those plans are still on hold.” But those are very big plans, to shift perhaps 760,000 square feet of approved bulk from Building 1--now occupied by the arena plaza--to Site 5, creating a giant two-tower project.

The Site 5 project could be three times the bulk of--and 50% taller than--the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building
Stein asked ESD to describe the process behind the expected Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), and asked if there were a budget to bring on technical experts for community workshop

“Does the board have ability to hire its own?” Phillips asked rhetorically. “That's the point of the EIS... it would be rather redundant to have two parallel EISs going on.”

Maybe, maybe not. If the AY CDC were seen—or saw itself—as representing the public, it could engage experts to critique the expected, well-massaged SEIS from ubiquitous consultant AKRF. After all, during the 2006 environmental review, that’s what the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods did.

A final question

In the final comment period, Martin asked who’d pay to repair the damages by vibration.

Zemsky said he couldn’t answer, not knowing the source or the cause. “I’m not a lawyer.”

“You are not responsible, no; you are responsible to give an answer,” Martin responded.

“Jeremy will be in touch,” Phillips chimed in.

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…

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 January 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 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't be so cheap.

As …

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).

As…

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…