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

As work progresses at site, lingering questions about noisy Saturday construction, fate of giant Site 5 project (and parking)

The is the eighth/last of multiple articles about the 7/16/19 Quality of Life meeting, which focused on proposed modifications to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), none of which were said to trigger further official review. The first article concerned plans for a 100,000 square-foot below-grade fitness facility. The second concerned a cut in parking. The third concerned a cut in bike parking. The fourth concerned modifications to the B5 tower design. The fifth concerned a cut in the North-South walkway width. The sixth concerned planned ventilation structures. The seventh concerned a swap in square footage and a change in the design guidelines.

Not everything at the meeting concerned the proposed modifications.

Scott Solish of Greenland USA, showing photos from the presentation below, reported progress on several infrastructure issues: the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue is fully restored, demolition is complete on Block 1120 (the "bump" buildings on Atlantic between Sixth and Carlton avenues), and "all the [seven] train tracks in the storage yard are fully operational."

Is the permanent railyard finished, I asked?

"It’s substantially complete," Solish said, noting that the Long Island Rail Road was using the new tracks and power system, but there was still ongoing punch list work.

"Have they officially accepted it" as finished? I asked.

Not yet, Solish replied. (The reason I asked was that there's a difference, as shown with the temporary railyard, between completed and accepted  by the LIRR.)

When would both sidewalks outside Sixth Avenue construction sites--the west side at B4, the east side at B15--be restored, he was asked?

"When the B4 project is finished, that won't be for years," Solish said. (Once B4 is finished, at 18 Sixth Avenue at the northeast corner of the arena block, that could free up space for additional bike parking.)

a question about Saturday work

When would foundation work finish at the B15 site (664 Pacific Street, across Sixth Avenue from the arena block)?

"Probably fourth quarter of this year," Solish responded.

Noisy, disruptive, Saturday digging there and at B4 (18 Sixth Avenue, at the northeast corner of the arena block) is expected to continue through the end of the year.

Why do they need to work on Saturdays, I asked.

"It’s just in order to try to get the project built," said Solish, who added that they tried "to do it with consideration of the neighborhood."

The noise, though, is extremely loud, heard blocks away, as I reported. Below is a video from the B15 site.

At B15, said resident Robert Puca, "pile driving starts at 7, it’s very loud." He noted that the state ordered 16-foot fences one long block away at Dean Street and Carlton Avenue to block noise, "when it wasn't needed"--even after worked stopped.

"Now you have ten times more noise, and pile driving vibration, and fences are regular height," he said. "What's the rationale for keeping fences low over there, but you had fences 12 feet [16, actually] there down the block?"

"The spaces are just different," Solish said, noting that 16-foot fences stick out into the street and require 6 feet of bracing behind them. So taller fences on Dean Street near B15 would interfere with the fire department vehicles, which need a certain turning radius, and "would basically leave you with one lane on Sixth Avenue, going north and south."

That, of course, begs the question: why not build a less noisy project, or invest in even better sound protection than the promised double-paned or storm windows and air conditioners ( as noted in the construction updates).

Further impacts

"So what's going to happen when there's a school there," Puca said, with a "loading dock on Dean Street" near Sixth.

"It's a service entrance, not a loading dock," Solish responded, sparking a debate about the volume of deliveries and impact on traffic, given the fire trucks and parents picking up their kids.

"The design team and developers have spoken with" the Fire Department, said Solish, and the School Construction Authority (SCA)--in charge of the school in the base/basement of B15--"is comfortable with it."

"Can we get SCA to these meetings?" Puca asked.

Tobi Jaiyesimi, Atlantic Yards Project Manager for Empire State Development, which oversees/shepherds the project, said she'd try.

"It’s a tight fit in a very residential neighborhood," Puca noted.

Police parking

Another resident asked about the proliferation of personal vehicles driven by police officers that take up parking, and the sidewalk, on Pacific Street.

"I've followed up with NYPD to make the request that they utilize the 24 spaces provided" in the garage at 535 Carlton, Jaiyesimi said. That is one long block away, so less convenient, and it has been stated secondhand that NYPD questions whether it's permissible to use those spaces.

What about Site 5?

Though most of the meeting concerned project changes, some more momentous than others, the big one is still pending: a looming proposal, pending since 2016, to transfer much of the bulk from the unbuilt B1 tower at the site of the arena plaza (aka "Miss Brooklyn") across to Site 5, currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard.

(Where the rest of the bulk would go is unclear, but I've long suspected it would be transferred to other project buildings, since no real estate developer wants to give up buildable square footage.)

While in 2006 a 250-foot building, with nearly 440,000 square feet, was approved, plans discussed in 2016 would create a two-tower complex, with the taller tower 785 feet and the bulk 1,142,052 square feet.

In 2006, the Department of City Planning successfully recommended reductions in the height and bulk of the Site 5 tower, from 350 feet to 250 feet, noting how it transitioned to lower-rise Fourth Avenue to the south and the retail stores west on Atlantic Avenue.

Today, the context has changed, at least to the north, where the two-tower 80 Flatbush plan has been approved, with the taller tower 840 feet, and a 942-foot tower proposed for a site called 625 Fulton. As I've written, the latter proposed rezoning, if successful, will help the developers of Site 5 argue for a larger project.

Site 5, said Jaiyesimi, remains tied up in litigation--P.C. Richard has won an initial round in court--but the proposed modifications would "trigger a full public process, which would require a Supplemental EIS," or environmental impact statement.

(That process, of course, is what some attendees thought should be triggered by other changes announced at the meeting, such as 100,000 additional square feet for a fitness center and fieldhouse.)

Parking at Site 5

It was also announced at the meeting that, of the 1,000 parking spaces at the project, 240 would be at Site 5, at the intersection of Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues, and Pacific Street.

The parking would be inside the structure, but couldn't be below-ground, since Site 5 is literally over the Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr subway station, notably the station segment labeled Pacific Street.

The odd thing about that is that the project parking calculation is driven by the number of market-rate apartments--a formula of .16 spaces per unit--but 1) this would be as close to transit as any building (while the towers in the eastern part of the project are farther away) and 2) it's possible that the Site 5 complex might be mostly commercial, rather than residential space.

Noting the above-ground parking, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon said after the meeting, "If they’re then going to put x stories of residential, that will make that building even taller. It would be godawful tall."

Site 5 was originally proposed for 400 feet, but was reduced to 250 after a recommendation by the New York City Planning Commission. As noted, it could go to nearly 800 feet, or taller.

Simon said she thought all the changes proposed at last week's meeting, now fast-tracked to go to the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation for an advisory recommendation and then to the ESD board, should be packaged with the proposed changes at Site 5, which are clearly significant enough to require public hearings and public comment.

About the affordable housing timetable

Along with two colleagues, Simon sent a 5/3/19 letter to ESD head Howard Zemsky asking about the timetable for the project's affordable housing, due by May 2025.

Have they gotten a response?

No, she said.