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

Flashback: Forest City executive swore the temporary railyard was complete, but LIRR confirmed later completion

The two mantras I stressed to understand Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park were "It's a never-say-never project" and "The devil's in the details."

Yesterday I wrote about another important one: "It's a very tight fit."

Today let's consider the other two: "The culture of cheating" and "Power defines reality."

Those serve as a reminder that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has never been honestly and fairly presented. The lack of information we have today--what exactly is the project schedule?--confirms that.

A historical question

But let's look back at the answer to a seemingly bureaucratic question that I've been trying to pin down: when was the temporary railyard finished?

Remember, the functions of the Vanderbilt Yard, used to store and service Long Island Rail Road trains, were moved temporarily to another section of the railyard to enable the construction of the Barclays Center, which overlaps part of the railyard's former western end.

A modernized, permanent railyard--though, tellingly, smaller than originally promised--was to be constructed. It's almost done, though it's taken far longer than once estimated.

But what about the interim temporary railyard?

A 2010 affidavit

According to a sworn affidavit dated 4/6/10 and excerpted at right, then Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin described progress on the project.

"Construction of the replacement rail yard--an essential component of the construction sequencing for the Project--commenced in February 2007," she stated. "The temporary replacement yard was completed on November 23, 2009, at which time the completed yard was turned over to the LIRR, and this new yard is now fully operational and in use by the LIRR."

(Emphases added)

I didn't write about that schedule, but there was no evidence to doubt that information, as no alternative explanation had emerged.

(There were clear reasons to doubt the credibility of another Gilmartin statement in the affidavit, as I'll describe below.)

What completion meant

Well, now we know a little more about that temporary railyard, thanks to a letter from the Long Island Rail Road that I discovered within a Freedom of Information Law document dump.

As noted in the letter (below right) on LIRR letterhead, dated 3/25/10--shortly before Gilmartin's affidavit--executives from both the LIRR and Forest City signed a statement that the LIRR "acknowledges the Temporary VD [Vanderbilt] Yard to be completed and acceptable as of March 31, 2010. The LIRR accepts FCR's commitment to complete those additional elements deemed to be monitor, which FCR has indicated will be complete by April 1, 2010."

So what might this mean?

Forest City may have delivered a temporary railyard it considered complete by November 23, 2009, but the LIRR apparently did not confirm as acceptable, thus requiring upgrades and fixes by March 31, 2010.

(Confoundingly, the letter is dated March 25, but says the railyard was completed as of March 31, five days later.)

So Gilmartin, in her affidavit, could swear, not inaccurately but without full candor, that the railyard was completed as of 11/23/09, at least by their definition.

Similarly, it was not inaccurate, as of 4/6/10,  for her to say "this new rail yard is now fully operational."

But that statement did not, in full candor, explain that it had become "fully operational" less than a week earlier, as the LIRR letter indicates.

Power defines reality, in the culture of cheating. Until and unless, perhaps, there are documents.

Credibility questions

Some might recall that Gilmartin's affidavit also stated that "The prompt demolition of the buildings that remain on Block 1129"--the southeast block of the project, later to house a surface parking lot before vertical construction--"also is critical to construction of the arena."

After all, as a legal motion filed by attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, aiming to help property owner Henry Weinstein resist an eviction order, noted that full demolition seemed unlikely:
Although Ms. Gilmartin swears that Mr. Weinstein's six story building will be immediately demolished for parking should a writ of assistance ever [be] issued, that statement is difficult to reconcile with the participation of Ratner representatives when the Court inspected Mr. Weinstein's properties. On information and belief, Ratner's representatives inspected the building to assess how much work, if any, would be required to utilize the building for Project offices for the duration of arena construction.
752 Pacific Street getting demolished, finally
Indeed, that building, 752 Pacific Street, was used as an office and not demolished until November 2014.

Another credibility question

This raises a question about the credibility of anything Gilmartin said at the time, notably an effort to position project opponent Daniel Goldstein as selfish and greedy (and to distract from the significant, ongoing government help that the developer got, including $131 million in public funds to pay people for property purchases).

Members of "the Ratner camp" claimed that, after Goldstein lost his apartment to eminent domain and was pressured to a faster exit (to enable the sale of the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov, among other things), he asked for $5 million, only to compromise at $3 million.

Gilmartin never said $5 million, but appeared adjacent to anonymous sources claiming that figure. Goldstein, and his attorney, denied it, by name.

If it's a "he-said, they-said" dispute, well, anonymous sources are less credible than named ones. Second, Gilmartin's track record should be factored in.