Tobi Jaiyesimi, executive directcor of the AY CDC (and Empire State Development’s Project Manager), summarized some recent issues regarding the project, including the removal of the “green wall” construction fence on Block 1129 (the project’s southeast block) and the pending restructuring of the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture, in which Greenland USA will own all but 5% of the project (instead of 70%) going forward.
Jaiyesimi noted that a meeting last week spearheaded by the Mayor’s office should help ensure inter-agency cooperation regarding construction issues as the project moves forward. The meeting, coming out of a request for a Neighborhood Support Team, should lead to the presence of city agencies at future project-releated meetings, when necessary.
Agencies like the Department of Transportation and the New York City Police Department have attended some but hardly all meetings, while others, like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority—a state agency—and the Department of Buildings have barely been a presence.
It’s good to set up this new group, said AY CDC President (and ESD executive) Marion Phillips III, to prepare for a time with vertical construction. Currently, the only work going on regards the Long Island Rail Road.
(Afterward, resident Peter Krashes told me that the Neighborhood Support Team also is aimed to address ongoing issues, including rodents, noise, illegal parking, and site maintenance.)
Project update: future buildings, and railroad progress
Ashley Cotton, a former Forest City executive now representing the project while working for the new firm L&L MAG, said that planning is under way for the B4 tower, at the northeast corner of the arena block, “and we’ll have more to discuss in the second quarter.”
She didn’t say anything about the giant project planned for Site 5, though Phillips indicated it was looming on the state’s radar screen.
(While Jaiyesimi did mention pending restructuring of Greenland Forest City Partners, with Greenland USA taking over all but 5% of the project going forward, there was no mention of internal changes at Forest City Realty Trust.)
On the weekend of March 17-18, Cotton said, there was a “major milestone in the railyard,” the completion of the double slip switch, which allows trains to move between tracks. This will allow trains to enter Atlantic Terminal directly through the new West Portal, which is being completed and should be finished in April.
“The switch work took nearly 100 LIRR employees working 55 straight hours in coordination with the joint venture,” Cotton said. That’s why buses were idling in the B12 site on the north side of Dean Street; it was not mentioned in project updates, because, Cotton indicated, “the LIRR is not subject to the environmental rules we are subject to.” However, she said, “we want to coordinate with them and ask them to be better neighbors.”
Once the West Portal work is complete, then there’s work at the East Portal, at Vanderbilt and Atlantic Avenues. That will reduce eastbound traffic on Atlantic to two lanes near that intersection.
Building updates: open space and garage
Cotton also said that the fractional open space outside 550 Vanderbilt, at Dean Street, is now open, and accessible to the public.
The garage at 535 Carlton is now open, but the operator has had some challenges. This past Sunday, during an afternoon game between the Brooklyn Nets and the popular Cleveland Cavaliers, the “super overflow huge crowd” met an understaffed garage, Cotton said, which meant those seeking parking were “all the way down Dean Street” and the 78th Precinct had to jump in to get traffic moving.
The garage at 38 Sixth, she said, is not yet open.
Barclays Center: calendar and oculus
Sarah Berlenbach, Director of External Affairs at Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, told the group that the Barclays Center, “unlike last year,” will provide information on a monthly community calendar about nonticketed events like graduation and, if it’s not a small private event, an estimate of the number of attendees. (Note that this is a restoration, of sorts, of a previous policy that was later dropped.)
Berlenbach also related continued problems with the malfunctioning oculus, which is supposed to go dark between midnight and 6 am. The arena had assigned a member of the security team to check and ensure the oculus was off, and also set up a 24/7 hotline for neighbors to call.
However, she said, there was an incident the night before that was not staved off. She blamed a system malfunction, as well as inadequate notice to arena staff. “We are ordering a brand new computer system to handle this,” she said, noting that there were problems during the arena’s first year but then they ended, which suggests the system is outdated. They also will redouble staff training.
A community comment on the housing timetable
Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, who helped negotiate the agreement that set up the AY CDC, was the only citizen to comment. He thanked the directors and staff for their service.
(The only criticism came, as I noted, from a representative of Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who suggested the belated scheduling would cause a "chilling effect" on community input.)
Given the obligation to finish the affordable housing by 2025, Veconi said he hoped that the public and board would hear more from the developers about how that goal would be met.
I suspect, while it’s possible to meet the 2025 affordable housing deadline by concentrating units in upcoming buildings, it’s very unlikely the full project will be done by then, as a former project executive has acknowledged.
Temporary open space coming?
Veconi said he wanted the board to be aware of a 5/12/18 deadline by which the developer must advise ESD regarding lots on which they won’t be building, thus making them available for temporary open space. Those would presumably be B12 and B13 on the southeast block, and B15 east of the arena block.
The Memorandum of Environmental Commitments states:
In the event FCRC does not expect to commence construction of a particular portion of the Project site or to use such portion of the Project site for interim parking facilities or construction-related activities, including staging, in each case for a period of time to be set forth in the Project Documentation, then such portion of the project site shall be used as publicly accessible temporary open space, subject to safety and security requirements. FCRC shall improve and develop areas to be used as publicly accessible interim open space in accordance with a design and program subject to the approval of ESD (which is not to be unreasonably withheld), and such open space on the Arena Block shall include amenities such as kiosks, seating areas and landscaping. FCRC shall thereafter operate and maintain such interim public open space in good and clean condition until the property is needed for construction of the Project.The project Development Agreement states, that, upon the anniversary of the Project Effective Date (which was 5/12/10), an open site that's not going to be used for construction work or support of construction, should be converted to temporary open space usable by the general public.