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Developer: remaining green wall on Dean Street finally going down. Plans unclear for site next to 550 Vanderbilt.

Looking east on Dean Street toward Vanderbilt Avenue
Finally, the remaining portion of the huge, street-encroaching green fence on Dean Street is going down, as developer Greenland Forest City Partners acknowledged last night that it has no immediate plans for the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park parcel it is protecting.

The 16-foot wall/fence, twice as high as typical, was ordered by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing and shepherding the project, to protect neighbors from noise and dust during construction.

Portions of the wall, which once extended between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenue, have lingered for some three years, vexing neighbors especially as the rationale for its presence has diminished. Letters from the Dean Street Block Association and questions raised at the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) were long met with claims from ESD that the fence was needed.

Looking west on Dean Street toward Carlton Avenue
Speaking at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting last night (also see coverage of project's murky timetable), Ashley Cotton of Forest City New York, representing the joint venture, said, "I was going to go buy cookies or cupcakes, because we’re here to tell you that the fence is going away."

She got a few claps from the small audience at the meeting, held at 55 Hanson Place. She noted that part of the fence has been 8 feet for a while, at the B13 site (next to 535 Carlton), which had not been announced as a development site. That fence was pulled back, in part because of the need for U.S. Postal Service trucks from across Dean Street to turn around.

There's an opening the fence so those using the site--construction trailers housing staff including those who formerly worked in offices at the Atlantic Center mall--to get in and out.

The murky future of the B12 site

Rendering for 615 Dean Street, via KPF
"In the interim, we’ve been having long, long conversations… about what’s going on at B12," Cotton said, regarding the site adjacent to the 550 Vanderbilt condo (aka B11). In September 2015, the joint venture announced plans for 615 Dean, a condo at that site.

However, the developer did not move forward, apparently wary of a glut in market-rate units as well as the shifting policies on the 421-a tax break. Though Greenland Forest City put footings in to be able to say construction began, thus positioning themselves to take advantage of the tax break as of 2015, they apparently concluded they would be unable to take advantage of the Atlantic Yards "carve-out."

That 2007 legislative language allowed condo buildings in this project without affordable units to get the tax break--unlike other condos in the area--but only if the overall project maintained a minimum level of affordability. But that provision was not part of the renewed language.

Greenland Forest City did, however, pursue a particularly creative path to get a tax break for 550 Vanderbilt by linking it to 535 Carlton as part of a two-building affordable "project" under the law as of 2015. That provides for huge discounts on taxes.

Cotton said the developer let the building permit expire for the B12 site. "We were reassessing what was going to happen to buildings currently under construction, future buildings, what the reality would be when 421-a came out on the other side. Then, what it becomes law, you go back and negotiate with the city to interpret this law."

"We are not making that building with the footing, with the 421-a permit that we had sort of been holding onto, so the fence will come back," she said. An 8-foot fence should be pushed back behind the sidewalk by the end of the year, with parking and the bike lane restored. The sidewalk and street will be repaired. The bumpy terrain will be leveled, and the holes created covered up.

Open space coming?

"I can’t tell you when B12 will move forward again," Cotton said. Note that this site was most likely the one for new construction, and the head of Greenland USA had in June said that one or two towers would likely launch this year.

"We are aware there’s a requirement for temporary open space if things are not working," Cotton said. (Resident Gib Veconi and board member Linda Reardon brought that issue up at the October meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation.)

"We will use the cold months… when we wouldn’t be planting," Cotton said, "to figure out if we come to a temporary open space plan or if we get working on that building."

While neighbors have asked for temporary open space to beautify the site, Greenland Forest City may also have a justification: it would make the space next to 550 Vanderbilt more attractive, and thus help condo sales.

In an aside regarding potential street trees on Atlantic Avenue, Cotton observed, "Trees help us, they help you guys, they’re certainly an enhancement, in selling condos." (No trees are coming there until infrastructure work is completed and assessed.)

Other project updates

At the "100% affordable" 38 Sixth Avenue, Cotton said, "people are living there." No statistics were offered, but the building has 303 units, half of them aimed at middle-income households, which have been hard to find takers for in the lottery, thus leaving nearly 100 units open at the similar 535 Carlton.

Thus Cotton reminded the audience that they are in "open marketing," recruiting potential tenants who fit the income categories, who do not have to go through the lottery. In the 535 Carlton parking garage, 24 spots will be assigned to the New York Police Department.

Open space at 535 Carlton
The fence around 38 Sixth Avenue should be gone by the end of the month, while concrete barriers will be maintained until streetwork is done.

Open space at 535 Carlton opened 10/6/17, she noted, while open space behind 550 Vanderbilt will be open by the end of the year. While the open space looks completed, she said, "it's the [construction] work being done above that makes it unsafe."

About Atlantic Avenue

Cotton said that jersey barriers and fencing have been removed on Atlantic Avenue outside the Barclays Center, with the majority of paving on Atlantic Avenue complete. Median restoration continues, and while it was once projected to be completed in November, it now will be aimed for late December or early January.

Indeed, Atlantic Avenue looks nicely paved. Which is why, a shown in the photo taken last night after the meeting, it seemed odd that it remains a private parking lot.


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