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At meeting, minor progress reported; stonewall on railyard timetable; no approvals needed for Greenland-Forest City deal; rat abatement promised

Last night's bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting was brief (about 30 minutes) and without any significant project updates.

Here are some takeaways. First, project progress:

  • There are no updates on plans for the B4 site (at northeast corner of arena block), for retail at 535 Carlton, or plans for Site 5
  • The parking garage at 535 Carlton should open soon
  • The open space at 550 Vanderbilt, aimed to open in February, may open in the next two weeks
  • There's no timetable to demolish the "bump" buildings below Atlantic Avenue that encroach into the railyard
  • A big crane at the railyard two nights ago was there to install an emergency generator for the LIRR
A traffic concern:
  • Despite concerns about congestion on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues, the city Department of Transportation maintains that it will be kept two-way, according to Tobi Jaiyesimi of Empire State Development, which oversees/shepherds the project
Physical work:
  • Plans for reconstructing the sidewalk on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, scheduled for today, may be postponed for weather (though as I write this the weather's OK)
  • There are improvements planned--but not yet scheduled- for the cracked sidewalks outside the Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue (the cause was the crane used to install the arena's green roof)
  • At some point, paving at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue will require overnight closure of  that Dean Street stretch
The oversight body:
  • The next Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting may be held March 13, but until there's a quorum, it won't be officially announced. If it's confirmed, that will happen no later than Thursday
Approvals needed for Greenland deal?

I noted that, in a conference call last month with investment analysts, a Forest City Realty Trust executive, CFO Bob O'Brien, said local approvals would be needed for the transfer of all but 5% of Forest City's 30% Pacific Park share to its joint venture partner Greenland USA. (His verbatim quote: "it's not finalized, there's some approvals and estoppels needed from local entities, the local government entities, MTA, state, and city, I assume.")

Jaiyesimi said no approval is needed: "Greenland has been a co-developer of the project since 2014, so we don’t need to have any additional approvals.”

That's curious. Could "approvals and estoppels" have simply meant paperwork?

The railyard deadline

Click to enlarge. Time line as of October 2015
I mentioned my coverage of the extended deadline for the new Vanderbilt Yard, to store and service Long Island Rail Road trains, and asked the current timetable for railyard completion, as well as the yard's West Portal and East Portal, previously subject to estimated deadlines.

“We talked about this a number of times at different meetings," Jaiyesimi responded. "Given the complexity of the nature of the work that’s happening at the yard, there are so many pieces within it, that it won’t be completed until everything is completed. As long as you’re still building a platform and building buildings over that platform, you’re still doing work in the railyard.”

Remember, the project could take another ten years.

"It won’t be completed until final building is done?" I asked incredulously. "Or the final platform?"

"You need to finish the platform before you can build the buildings," Jaiyesimi responded.

"The reason I ask is the developer said end of 2018," I said. (That was in the conference call.)

"The permanent yard?" Jaiyesimi shrugged. "Okay... The way we see the Vanderbilt Yard now, work will be happening at the railyards until the final building is completed.”

(OK, but that's a general description of "work" rather than a deadline for the ability to service LIRR trains.)

What's the schedule date for the platform, a community member asked?

"There is no date," said Ashley Cotton of L&L MAG, representing Forest City New York and the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners. (She's a former Forest City executive.)

I asked Cotton about the timetable. She said various work has progressed at the West Portal, which provides a more direct route from the railyard to the Atlantic Terminal: "The new West Portal lead track connection to the yard will be completed by end of this month… The work is nearly done."

I noted the Forest City disclosure that, at some point in 2015, the company claimed a force majeure delay based on site conditions meant the railyard work would take 16 months longer. "You never announced that here, did you?"

"I don’t know if there was an announcement," Cotton said, "but there was all the proper notification to government agencies."

I noted that, in 2015, we were given a timetable that said 2017: "I don’t remember seeing an updated timetable."

"I don’t remember seeing one either," Cotton said.

That was their responsibility, but, at that point, with no better-positioned person or public official to drill down, the discussion died.

A tricky intersection

Resident Pauline Blake noted that traffic conditions at Sixth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue are still hazardous for pedestrians, who, walking north, enter the roadway not knowing if southbound traffic will turn left.

"I know there have been a number of improvements over the last few months," Jaiyesemi said, citing a pedestrian island in the middle, "but I can check into it."

Photo: March 27
Rats redux

Cotton noted that the developers had installed a new fence at the B15 site (which I wrote about last week, without full information), and that rat abatement was continuing. "Our rat abatement, trash pickup I feel good about," she said.

Not so quick, one resident said, pointing to a photo that depicted garbage at the site. "It’s kind of like a smorgasbord for rats."

"Can I just cut you off," interjected Scott Solish, Greenland USA's project manager. "We’re hiring someone to deal with it."

Barclays Center issues

Sarah Berlenbach. Director of External Affairs, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, said the Barclays Center operators "have a good plan in place" to manage the ACC tournament, as all buses are supposed to be staged at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, "and should not be changing any traffic or your way of life."

She said that there still have been problems with digital images flashing from the arena oculus in the middle of the night when it's supposed to be turned off. She said there's a new procedure for security to check, and there's a published phone number for people to call.

Berlenbach said that the monthly arena calendar incorporates private events, without identifying the event, but "if ever there is going to be enough foot traffic or vehicular traffic, we will notify you of the size of the event."

She was asked about vendors who "swarm the neighborhood" and set up to sell during family-friendly shows, even sleeping in their vans.

"So the arena does not want this," Berlenbach said, since they have their own vendors.

Steve Ettlinger asked about parking on Atlantic Avenue outside the arena where it says No Standing (as I've written). He noted that there seemed to be private placards encouraging parking. "It kind of makes my head spin." He asked Berlenbach the policy regarding parking.

"I will confer with NYPD," she said. "I will look into it."

(I walked by the arena after the meeting and only saw five vehicles in the lay-by lane, including on transport van and one ambulance. Two private cars, though, had the placard noted above. One didn't.)

He also noted that, walking to the meeting, he offered tickets to the evening's event "by about a dozen people" on the plaza. He asked the arena policy.

That too, Berlenbach said she'd look into.

By the way, it is legal to sell tickets at face value or below without a license, but they can't sell within 1,500 feet of the box office of a large venue. Here's the state regulation, with emphased added:
Does an individual selling tickets outside an event have to have a license to resell tickets?
Individuals who purchase tickets solely for their own use or use of their invitees, employees and agents or individuals who purchase tickets on behalf of others and resells such tickets to invitees, employees and agents or others at or less than the established price are exempt from the licensure requirement. However, even those individuals who are exempt from licensure are prohibited from reselling tickets within a defined buffer zone of 1,500 feet from the physical structure or ticket office of a venue having a permanent seating capacity in excess of 5,000 persons and within 500 feet of the physical structure or ticket office of a venue having a permanent seating capacity of 5,000 or fewer persons.


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