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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

As neighborhood changes, unintended consequences: dogs on playground, cigarette butts in street; also, Times Plaza timetable fuzzy, arena's oculus improves

Beyond the general concerns about the project timetable and construction impacts described in yesterday's article, residents at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting on 5/8/18 brought up two examples of unintended consequences related to the project and its new residents: dogs and smokers.

An impromptu dog run

The Dean Playground, outside the project on the south side of Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues, at night "has become a dog run," one resident said. "We are overrun by dogs."

She noted that, when she alerts people that dogs aren't allowed, some politely acknowledge that they didn't know, while most "tell me to shove off."

The playground's Astroturf, she noted, "is not dirt" and does "absorb what their dogs leave," which means those playing on the turf "are covered in dog excrement." She recommended new signage from the Parks Department, given that the current sign hardly emphasizes that pets aren't allowed.

She also encouraged the developers to put up signs inside the new buildings; "We know most of the dog owners are coming from these buildings." (The four towers--550 Vanderbilt/B11, 535 Carlton/B14, 461 Dean/B2, and 38 Sixth/B3--have 1,242 apartments, but not all are occupied.)

The future dog run is near a building over the railyard. The arrows point to the playground from extant project buildings.
Ashley Cotton, representing the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners (and a resident of the project), didn't immediately agree to the notion that most dog owners come from the buildings (or commit to new indoor signage).

"We live there, we see them coming in and out," was the response.

"Can we get the Parks Department to put up better signage?" Cotton asked, and a member of the mayor's Community Assistance Unit (CAU) indicated he'd ask the department. Tobi Jaiyesimi of Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project, also said they could make an effort.

Rules at Dean Playground
"It’s the only spot dog owners can take their dogs that’s not a sidewalk," said Dean Street resident Peter Krashes. "There has been a big increase since the [new] residents moved in.

Actually, dogs are permitted in the fractional open space behind 535 Carlton (B14) and 550 Vanderbilt (B11), though they must be on a leash.

But it's mostly paved, and not yet connected to the more significant zone of open space that will be created once the project is built out and Pacific Street is demapped between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.

The project is destined to have a dog run, but that is at the B7 site, a tower to be built over the railyard, which was once projected to open in 2021 but is likely several more years off.

"The open space is delivered per parcel," said Jaiyesimi, and Pacific Street "would be the final piece."

A no-smoking rule pushes people outside

Carlton Avenue resident Elisabeth Martin said her neighbors were disturbed by the impacts of smoking from residents across the street at 535 Carlton.

That building is officially smoke-free, though one potential tenant reported on a message board, "When I went to look at the model units it was very obvious that tenants were smoking in this "smoke free" building (the broker who gave me the tour acknowledged the smell even before I brought it up)." Smoking is also banned in the building's backyard open space.

So that means residents and staff exit to the front, and some throw their butts in the street. Wind blows them across the street, so "our sidewalk is totally covered in cigarette butts," she said.

I took a look afterward and, if the number of butts on the west side of Carlton wasn't enormous, they were easy to find. Presumably this could be ameliorated by providing (some? more?) outdoor ashtrays, though Martin didn't get any response from the representatives of the state and the developer.

Also, she said that a stream of vehicles visiting the building or seeking arena-related parking has led to "constant" double-parking on the narrow street, and cars parked in front of a hydrant.

She also said people gathering outside the building had been so loud one midnight that "nobody could sleep"; she suggested they use the building's open space (which, actually, closes at 10:30 pm in spring/summer) and interior spaces. Again, no response.

Presumably, if/when a bar/cafe opens in the building's retail space--Mekelburg's has been exploring a lease, but nothing's signed--that poses other potential challenges.

More Dean Street issues

Anu Heda of the Dean Street Block Association said there was both missing and incorrect signage related to the return of parking on Dean between Vanderbilt and Carlton

"Tell me what it is and I’ll get it fixed," Cotton said. She noted that the MTA plans to restore the B65 bus stop.

"Is there some process to reactivate street sweeping?" Heda asked. Cotton noted that the "CAU is here" to pass on that concern.

Others mentioned that the lack of street sweeping, along with other garbage in the neighborhood, have caused rat problems.

"We add additional bait station on a regular basis," Cotton said, and an exterminator is there once a week. "Cleaning of the B15 site is still a top priority."

Oculus improves

A view of the oculus from Pacific Street
A month after a first-ever meeting between residents and arena operators regarding an errant oculus, which by blinking digital images when it was supposed to be off disturbed residents' sleep, the situation seems to have stabilized.

"I want to thank [Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment's] Sarah [Berlenbach] for organizing meeting at the right level to get the oculus situation under control," said May Taliaferrow, a resident of Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues. "Complaints have really dropped off."

Berlenbach explained that the oculus has become part of security rounds, with redundancy regarding observation as well as staff qualified to address any problem. "We are getting some new technology, an expedited order next month," she said, "but it is still going to be checked manually."

Escalator problems?

I mentioned that one resident had reported that the escalator from the arena plaza to the subway was periodically non-functional.

"I have not heard any complaints," said Berlenbach.

Plans to upgrade Times Plaza open space
Problems years ago, said Jaiyesimi, had been resolved. (Most recently, I was subsequently told by the resident, the escalators have been working.)

Graduation impacts

Berlenbach said, "back by popular demand, graduations are now on the community notice" sent to residents. If any are added, she said, notices will be sent.

Are participants briefed on managing buses, she was asked. Yes, the parking manager lays out the options; buses are staged during the event at a lot in Red Hook.

Times Plaza work?

What's happened to plans to upgrade the open space at Times Plaza, the triangle just below Flatbush Avenue at Fourth and Atlantic?

The design has been approved by the Public Design Commission, said Jaiyesemi, but there's no timetable for the work.

Last October, I reported that the promised improvement of open space at Times Plaza, which is a required mitigation under the 2014 Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, wouldn't occur until the second quarter of 2018, at best. That now seems doubtful.

Looking west along Atlantic Avenue from Sixth Avenue
That said, as Taliaferrow noted, the medians on Atlantic Avenue have been upgraded. That allows arena visitors and others crossing the wide boulevard a place to stop if facing hazards.

Barclays Center security

Has the reported shooting in the bowels of the Barclays Center changed any security plans?

Berlenbach said that she couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation. When I pressed and asked if the security posture was changing, she said, "The security posture is staying the same and that is as far as I can go."

Maybe, maybe not. This may be beyond her responsibility, but I suspect the arena might be a wee bit more careful.

Another garage coming; cops will park in the first one

Cotton noted that the garage at 535 Carlton (B14) is open, and the smaller garage at 38 Sixth (B3) will open in probably a month.

Looking south from Atlantic Avenue & S. Portland
When the garage at 38 Sixth opens, will the 78th Precinct get 24 spots, as once promised, she was asked.

"No, they got spots at 535 Carlton," Cotton said, noting that there are only 40 spots at 38 Sixth, and it has an elevator.

(The 2014 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement had estimated a "parking garage with 50 to 100 spaces beneath Building 3 on the Arena Block." At a May 2015 presentation, the building was said to have 60 parking spaces. See slide 11 of this architect's presentation for the elevators.)

Neighborhood Support Team

Announced plans for a Neighborhood Support Team, a mayoral initiative to coordinate city services, are moving forward--in part. A first meeting included representatives of city Environmental Protection, Transportation, and Sanitation departments, as well as from elected officials and the Dean Street Block Association.

Given that the bi-monthly Quality of Life meeting is already established to hear neighborhood concerns, "we don’t want to recreate the wheel," a city rep said. "We’re here to help make sure things get taken care of."