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

As traffic concerns mount, especially near construction sites at Sixth Avenue, a study is promised... in 2022

This is the sixth of ten articles on the 5/7/19 Quality of Life meeting. The first concerned the project schedule. The second concerned The Brodsky Organization's share of the B4 tower. The third concerned noisy weekend construction. The fourth concerned opacity in the Barclays Center calendars. The fifth concerned illegal parking during arena events. The seventh concerned oversight. The eighth concerned the Community Liaison Office. The ninth concerned the developer's update. The tenth concerned the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation.
A number of people at the meeting expressed concern about traffic, not just from arena events and arena activity, but also related to construction, especially since the traffic lanes on Sixth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue have been constricted because of construction at the B15 and B4 sites. (Here's a project schematic.)

Consider the video I shot below, looking south on Sixth Avenue toward Pacific Street and then Dean Street. Sixth Avenue has been constricted to essentially two lanes, as construction at B15, aka 664 Pacific Street, has pushed barriers out from the sidewalk.

When southbound vehicles pause or stop in the right lane, so as to drop off people for the B3 tower, aka 38 Sixth, or the associated health center, other southbound vehicles must veer into the northbound lane. When there are larger vehicles, such as delivery trucks, backhoes, or fire trucks--there's a fire station just around the corner on Dean Street--that adds complication and risk.

Tobi Jaiyesimi, Atlantic Yards project director for Empire State Development, which oversees and shepherds the project, said that the project's Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, or MEC, requires the developer to carry out a second traffic study. (The first was after the Barclays Center opened.)

"I don't have, at the top of my head, what that marker is," she said, whether it's a quota of units or square footage.

"It's units," added Scott Solish of Greenland USA, the main player in Greenland Forest City Partners.

Study required, not until 2022

The document states that the study is required after "the issuance of certificates of occupancy for 1,500 Project dwelling units." As of now, 1242 units are complete, so that means another building must be finished. Both the B4 tower, 18 Sixth Avenue, and B15, 664 Pacific, are due in the first half of 2022. At one point, Jaiyesimi said the study may come in 18 months, but that seems very unlikely.

The study will be subject to a scope approved by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to "refine the signal timing and other traffic mitigation measures" previously prescribed, to "provide further information as to the implementation date" regarding required mitigation measures (presumably not yet enacted), and "identify potential additional measures to address unmitigated significant adverse impacts" identified in previous studies.

Resident Tom Boast, a transportation finance consultant, said it would be helpful to share the scope of the study with community members.

"I think the scope is spelled out in the MEC already," Solish said.

"Your input is something we'll take into consideration," Jaiyesimi said.

Another study is required "following substantial completion of Project construction," which could take until 2035.

Meanwhile, problems

Many of the issues are temporary, though hardly fleeting, as they relate to years of construction impacts, which presumably will be attenuated, or altered, by the time the study is conducted. For example, residents cited the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Bergen and Dean streets, and St. Marks Avenue, as dangerous and prone to gridlock.

They also cited the narrowing of Sixth Avenue. See photo at right of pedestrian walking north on the west side of the street.

The DOT, said Solish, made the decision.

No representative of the DOT was present, though reps have attended some previous Quality of Life meetings.

Several residents pointed to potential complications near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, where a school is being built as part of B15.

 Not only is the Barclays Center across Sixth, to the west, but a fire station is just across Dean Street, and a police station is a block away down Sixth.

The fire station complication

"At some point, you're going to have people dropping up kids in morning, picking up in afternoon," said resident Robert Puca. "I could see an emergency... Is there any place in New York City with a fire house directly across the street?"

"In my neighborhood, there’s a police station directly across the street," said Solish.

Greenpoint school & NYPD
(Actually, the police station in Greenpoint is catercorner to a school.)

"A fire station is a little different from a police station," Puca said.

"There are places in city where a fire station, hospital or other emergency facility is across from a school," said Jaiyesimi. "Yes, there will be coordination that will be done among appropriate entities. It’s really not the first time it’s being done."

Well, sure, there will have to be coordination. But when it's a tight fit, the margin for error is quite low, as we've learned, when the Barclays Center loading dock hasn't always worked seamlessly, causing truck traffic to back up along Dean Street.

Puca came back to the competing interests: "it’s going to be mayhem—it already is, it’s going to be double."

"We hear you, and we're aware of the constraints of the site and the coordination necessary," Jaiyesimi said.

She confirmed that the entrance for the residential building will be on Pacific Street, with the school entrance on Sixth Avenue. Dean Street will house service and loading functions.

"It's not a loading dock, it’s a service entrance," Solish said.

"Of course it’s a loading dock," one resident said.

Others said it could interfere with the fire department, especially garbage pickup.

"Garbage pickup already happens along Dean Street," Jaiyesimi said. "Yes, there will be additional garbage pickup. I hear you, there will be coordination that's necessary. This is a unique site, we recognize that. This is New York City. We will be sure to coordinate as necessary to minimize the impacts on the community. I’m not going to say there won’t be impacts."

Recall that former project overseer Arana Hankin, liberated to candor in an academic fellowship, told colleagues that managing Atlantic Yards was “a balancing act, making sure the project can progress, and also responding to community needs. And these interests typically were not complementary.”

The issue of responsiveness

Resident Peter Krashes, long active in the North Prospect Heights Association (formerly Dean Street Block Association), noted that community members have long asked for city agencies to send reps to such meetings.

He turned toward the back of the room, where staffers for several elected officials sat behind him.

Jaiyesimi objected, saying it was an Empire State Development meeting. "Place the question with me
and I will follow up."

Krashes cited a previous concern about incorrect signage in front of curb cuts on Dean Street, a problem which required city-level resolution. Regarding the school, he said, "there is sometimes decision making that doesn't take into account community knowledge."

It was local elected officials, he said, "who do have the power to bring city agencies into a public meeting."

Jaiyesimi said she agreed city agencies should attend. Krashes interrupted and said that "bringing it to you ends up entering in a dialogue that's un-transparent."

"I recognize that whatever my followup response is won't be satisfactory," Jaiyesimi responded.

Getting toward progress

From the back of the room, Anthony Drummond, a policy staffer for Borough President Eric Adams, spoke up. He noted that the BP's office has tried to coordinate getting some agencies present.

"Would it be feasible," he asked, to get an agency like DOT to a future meeting?

"Sure," said Jaiyesimi.

"I can work with you," said Drummond.

What about parking

Puca said that, after a school is built, parking is typically constricted. Already in Prospect Heights firefighters and police are parking on the sidewalk, and construction workers park where they can.

Jaiyesimi said city school officials, with DOT, will make the decision, which will be shared with the public when the building gets closer to completion.

It would be helpful, he said, if the School Construction Authority were present, "so it's not us lambasting you guys."

The police parking issue

Jaiyesimi said the developer has, as required, delivered 24 parking spaces to be used by the 78th precinct. The spaces are located in the garage at 535 Carlton, one long block east, and slightly north.

Those spaces have been spurned by the police, depending on whom you listen to, because of the location or because there's concern about accepting such spaces. Jaiyesimi said she'd spoken to a Community Affairs rep for the precinct. "They are in process of meeting with garage management," she said. "We are continuing to urge utilization of those spaces."