Skip to main content

Featured Post

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

Is Pacific Park really on “fast track”? First phase of new platform, document reveals, should take three years. That squeezes affordable housing timetable.

B4, which is under construction, is at far left.
B5/B6/B7 require platform construction.
Brooklyn’s Pacific Park moves to fast track, wrote the New York Post's Steve Cuozzo on September 30, citing just one sign of progress: the announcement by developer Greenland Forest City Partners that next year it would start construction of the first of two needed segments of the platform.

That platform should cover two blocks over the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yard, used to store and service Long Island Rail Road trains near Atlantic Terminal. Three towers would rise over each segment.

But the Post, which published a rendering showing the first three towers (plus an adjacent one flanking the arena), didn’t say how long the platform would take. Meanwhile, Greenland Forest City representatives have deflected questions when asked at public meetings about the project’s timetable.

Three-year timetable

Perhaps that’s because the developer expects the first platform segment, on Block 1120, to take three years, with completion targeted for December 2022. It would span Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, and between Sixth and Carlton avenues.
From RFQ for Construction Management Services
See the screenshot above, from a non-public document, a Request for Qualifications for Construction Management Services, dated May 31, 2019.

Pressure to deliver affordable housing
Photo from 7/16/19 Quality of Life meeting presentation
shows most of Block 1120 in foreground,
and all of Block 1121 in the background

That's surely dismaying to those who've raised doubts about the project's timetable.

If tower construction doesn't start until 2023, that gives Greenland Forest City a very tight--though not insurmountable--timetable to meet a May 31, 2025 deadline to deliver the project’s 2,250 units of affordable housing, a deadline they’ve pledged to meet.

After that, each missing unit will generate a $2,000/month fine.

As I've estimated, perhaps 916 affordable units would be needed after two towers start next year on terra firma, two parcels on the project's southeast block. That would require construction of at least two towers, with perhaps one as "100% affordable," on Block 1120, the western block of the railyard.

The developer did not respond to my query about the platform timing or whether, for example, a tower could start before the platform's fully complete. (A previous document I've seen suggested that the western block platform would be built in two stages, for B5 and then for B6/B7, though that's not mentioned in the new document.)

Maybe we'll learn more at tomorrow's bi-monthly neighborhood meeting. Below, a schematic from the RFQ.

Second phase

As to the second phase of the platform, Greenland Forest City anticipates commencing construction on the eastern block of the railyard, Block 1121, around the end of completion of the first platform segment, according to the document.

However, it did not estimate a timetable for that second segment. Presumably it would take longer than three years, since it involves more complicated work and, likely, the temporary closing of certain railroad tracks.

For example, as shown in the screenshot above, the eastern block requires more structural girders to support the platform. That's partly because, as the photo of the railyard above indicates, the western block contains a significant amount of terra firma, just below Atlantic Avenue, which once supported buildings and is known as the "bump."

A "fast track"--until 2035?

Only when that eastern platform segment is completed, supporting the last three towers, can the lion’s share of the project’s open space—the source of the Pacific Park name—finally be completed.

That open space will not only link to the open space supplied by four towers to the south, it requires the conversion of demapped Pacific Street into open space. See image below right.

Open space at eastern end depends on demapped street
And for that, the “fast track” might last until 2035, as the developer’s own disclosures (to condo buyers) have indicated.

Affordable housing in question

The timetable for the initial platform segment could prove challenging.

“Nobody believes that the affordable apartments promised at Atlantic Yards will be ready by the May 2025 deadline, yet the developers refuse to explain how they will meet their commitments,” Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee and a leader in the BrooklynSpeaks coalition that has called for project changes, said in August. (At that point, there was no discussion  about the platform's timetable.)

The project, announced in 2003, approved in 2006, and re-approved in 2009, is making progress, belatedly, at least on sites that don’t require a platform. Two towers are under construction, following a pause after four towers (and the Barclays Center arena) were completed. Two more should launch early next year.

Beyond that, however, more than 900 affordable rentals will be needed, making construction over the railyard crucial. The first three towers should be 39, 20, and 43 stories.

The joint venture is controlled by Greenland USA, an arm of the Shanghai-based Greenland Group, which has mostly bought out original developer Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York (which is now controlled by Brookfield).

While development rights have been leased to The Brodsky Organization and TF Cornerstone for towers now under construction or slated to launch, a Greenland USA rep told the Post it would build the first three towers over the railyard itself.

Adding complication, the current Affordable New York program applies only to towers that start by June 15, 2022, That adds uncertainty regarding the financing of affordable units.

How meet the deadline? 

It might be possible for Greenland Forest City to start construction (and gain tax benefits) before the platform is completed.

Or the developer might speed up construction once the platform is finished, completing two towers in less than two-and-a-half years.

Either way, rather than building towers with 25% or 30% affordability, as per Affordable New York, to meet the unit count GFCP may have to build one tower over the railyard as “100% affordable”—a past formulation that has met the letter if not the spirit of the project’s housing plan, with a majority of apartments for middle-income households.

Greenland’s selective disclosure to the Post was timed shortly before a public forum on the future of Pacific Park was held by BrooklynSpeaks, which had pushed for the 2025 affordable housing deadline and has recently criticized, for example, New York State’s willingness to allow TF Cornerstone 96,000 square feet in below-ground space for a fitness center and fieldhouse.

That deadline was set in 2014 just before Greenland entered the project. The year 2025 is ten years sooner than the project’s overall deadline, 2035, but it comes well later than the ten-year buildout professed when the project, then Atlantic Yards, went through initial approvals.

Could it go faster?

Click to enlarge
It's perhaps possible that construction could go faster than three years. Consider that the Preliminary Schedule, in screenshot at right, indicates a Construction Duration of 725 days, which is actually two years, rather than three. (Unless that's a typo.)

It also sets out benchmark for various project elements, several of which overlap significantly:
  • Site Preparation and Mobilization: 30 days
  • Stage One: Yard Level Foundation and Structural Column Erection: 360 days
  • Stage Two: Platform Structural Framing and Pre-Cast Erection: 200 days 
  • Stage Three A: Platform Topping Slabs and Waterproofing: 260 days 
  • Install Pre-Fabricated MEP Plant and Equipment: 20 days (MEP=Mechanical, electrical and plumbing)
  • Stage Three B: Install Yard MEP and LIRR Buildings Structures: 300 days 
However, the chart doesn't quite make sense. The 725-day Construction Duration is projected to start late Q4 2019 and end in late Q3 2022, which is well over 1000 days. So maybe another typo?

Stage one is said to take 360 days, but the bar chart starts at the beginning of 2020 and ends in the middle of the second quarter of 2021, which is well more than a year. Stage Three A is said to be 260 days, but starts middle of the second quarter 2021 and ends about a year later. In other words, the Preliminary Schedule isn't so reliable.

A major undertaking

Building the platform will be no small feat, coming after Greenland Forest City has completed an upgrade of the railyard. As part of that work, the developer installed certain foundations aimed to ease construction of the deck.

Just how far along is unclear. "What we call the early work is substantially complete,” Greenland USA’s Scott Solish said at a public meeting in May, without elaborating. Still, the Request for Qualifications states:
Construction of the Permanent Yard also included pre-placement of certain foundations for the Pacific Park Platform and buildings above. Additional foundation construction will be required for the west Platform.
Indeed, significantly more work, including structural columns, will serve as a necessary precursor for the platform.

The entire project should cost over $200 million, according to a Greenland executive’s post I saw on LinkedIn, though it has since been excised.