Skip to main content

Featured Post

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

In memo, Greenland USA told state officials it expects to start first phase of platform (key to new towers) over railyard this year. Still, that's no guarantee.

Construction of the long-awaited platform over the first block of the Vanderbilt Yard, necessary for the construction of three towers, "will commence" in the second half of the year, according to a memo (bottom, excerpted below right) dated May 6 from the main project developer, Greenland USA, to state officials.

While that statement--in a required six-month look-ahead submitted to Empire State Development--is far more specific than recent public comments, it isn't necessarily a guarantee.

Nearly three months after the memo was sent, the author of the memo, Greenland's Scott Solish, was noncommital when asked about the platform.

“We are in discussions with a contractor and LIRR,” Solish said at a 7/28/20 meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, not offering any prediction on timing.

After all, the project has a history of deadlines getting stretched, and other forecasts in such six-month look-ahead documents have been overoptimistic. For example, the December 2019 document estimated that excavation and foundation work for the B12 and B13 towers "is expected to start in the first quarter of 2020."

But it hasn't started yet. Similarly, the bi-weekly Construction Updates can be overoptimistic, with the past four such updates estimating that such B12/B13 work could start.

Why the platform's crucial

The platform will help support three towers, known as B5, B6, and B7, between Sixth and Carlton avenues and Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street. The developer has previously estimated construction time at three years, though it's likely that some tower construction can occur during that time.

It's likely necessary for two towers to be finished by May 2025 for the project to meet the requirement of 2,250 units of affordable housing.

What's expected

According to the May document, the platform construction work will include such seeming initial activity as fence installation, ramp access, and trailer office set up, plus more significant work such as foundation/excavation and parameter retaining wall extension.

The equipment will include excavators, back-hoes, front end loaders, and dump trucks, with an average 50-100 workers. No company or contractor was announced; it's possible no contract has been finalized.

Changes on the ground

The B6 and B7 sites--the terra firma jutting south of Atlantic Avenue between Sixth and Carlton avenues--will be used by the Long Island Rail Road and contractors for equipment and construction staging during this period.

Another disclosure: the number of workers at each of the B4 and B15 sites--flanking the Barclays Center and across the street--is expected to increase from 50 to 200 during the second half of the year.

Required document

Developer Greenland Forest City Partners is required to deliver six-month look-aheads to Empire State Development. I recently received the two most recent documents, dated 12/9/19 and 5/6/20, in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

The documents are supposed to outline the expected scope of construction work as well as compliance with the terms of the Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC), which mandates such things as noise controls and hazardous materials safety plans.

Most of what was in the document was unsurprising, given the periodic updates at the bi-monthly Quality of Life meetings, as well as the far less frequent Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meetings.

First half of the year

One new insight regarded the expected number of workers on site. During the first half of the year, work on the permanent rail yard, as well as pre-construction work there for the foundation, was said to "involve approximately 20-30 craft workers."

At the B12 and B13 sites on the project's southeast block, "Excavation and foundation work is expected to start in the first quarter of 2020," the December 2019 document stated. That was too optimistic, given that the work still hasn't started. The workforce at the B12/ B13 site was expected to average 25-50.

At both the B15 site just east of Sixth Avenue and the B4 site at the northeast flank of the arena, the about 50 workers were expected at each.

At 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt, fitout work was expected at retail spaces, with retail fit out work possible at 38 Sixth.

Storm water and sewage minimization plans 

The document offered more specifics regarding the tanks for storm water and sewage, notably a huge amount of capacity at the B12/B13 sites for the three sites--B8, B9, B10--planned north of Pacific Street, over the second phase of the platform.

They include tanks associated with specific buildings:
  • The B2 Tower plans include holding tanks with the required capacity of approximately 10,700 gallons.
  • The B11 Tower plans include holding tanks with a capacity of approximately 34,026 gallons.
  • The B14 Tower plans include holding tanks with a capacity of approximately 37,899 gallons.
  • The B15 Tower plans include holding tanks with a capacity of approximately 15,823 gallons.
The B12 and B13 sites have much greater capacity:
  • Approximately 32,077 gallons for B12
  • Approximately 20,968 gallons for B13
  • Approximately 34,860 gallons for the Plaza, the open space centered around Pacific Street
  • Approximately 109,000 gallons for the future sites north of Pacific Street
The Barclays Center system includes a storm water detention tank with a total available capacity of 58,087 cubic feet, which--unexplained--translates to 434,521 gallons. The existing tank is designed to collect the runoff from the Barclays arena property, the completed B3 tower, and the under-construction B4 tower.

Those three buildings only require 22,339 cubic feet of capacity, which--unexplained--translates to 167,107 gallons.

So that means that less than 40% of capacity is being used. Presumably a good chunk of unusued capacity would have gone to the B1 tower, with more than 1 million square feet. (The B1 tower is not expected to be built, given plans, not yet moving forward, to shift the square footage across Flatbush Avenue to Site 5.)

Perhaps also they wanted to leave some slack in the system.

The on-site environmental monitor

The document details On Site Environmental Monitor (OEM) staffing:
During the Work Period, OEM responsibilities and staffing will continue to be managed by Remedial Engineering (“Remedial”). The number of actual onsite staff will vary depending on how much work is occurring onsite. It is anticipated that there will be sufficient monitoring engineer onsite during the new construction activities in 2020 to cover the Yard, B4, B12, B13 and B15. According to onsite engineer, there’s currently one ME working with over time to cover the sites mentioned above. 
The main duties of the onsite monitoring engineers include: daily walkthrough around the site making sure contractors are compliant with the MEC; document site observations by completing OEM-based checklists for each project site; performing community air monitoring for any project that has the potential to generate dust; perform equipment inspections to confirm compliance with the MEC; perform weekly SWPPP [storm water pollution protection program] inspections; ensure contractor compliance with project-specific rodent control requirements; and document, track and address incidences of non-compliance. The OEM holds bi-weekly calls with the construction team and ESD/HDR during which MEC compliance is discussed.
Second half of the year: more workers at B4 and B14

At the B12 and B13 sites on the project's southeast block, the May 2020 document stated, "Excavation and foundation work are expected to start in the second quarter of 2020." Actually, it looks like the third quarter would be more precise.

Again, the workforce was expected to average 25-50.

At the B15 and B4 sites, the labor force was expected to ramp up as required from 50 to 200 at each location, as noted up top.