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Public comments "will be addressed" at AY CDC meeting? No, that's not how things work, even if comments point to how ESD could improve transparency.

This is the fourth of four articles on the 12/10/20 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), which was announced with less than three days' notice. The first article concerned plans for the platform and affordable housing. The second article concerned disruptive signage from the Barclays Center. The third article concerned downplaying the impacts of after-hours work.

At the beginning of the meeting, AY CDC presiding officer Steven M. Cohen, the recently installed Chairman of the parent Empire State Development (ESD), make a small but telling misstatement.

"I will also note for the record that the public was given an opportunity to comment on today's agenda by submitting their written comments by 4:30 pm yesterday," he said (webcast). "I'd like to state for the record that there were comments received from the public, and will be addressed during the public comment portion of today's agenda."

Actually, it has not been the practice of the AY CDC to address public comments, though of course any individual directors could, by their own initiative, follow up.

"Again, I also I'm just going to point out my own regret that this is the method by which we're operating," Cohen said. "We are living through obviously curious and unfortunate times when it comes to being able to conduct public business. Then we are doing the best we can do and in this instance it means comments are written."

It's highly doubtful that this was "the best we can do." After all, the meeting was announced with less than three days' notice, and with even less time for public comment. 

Moreover, previous in-person meetings allowed the public to comment at the end, in real time, regarding the previous discussion. In this case, the public had to comment on issues that the AY CDC was supposed to address, not to supplement the real-time discussion.

The public comments, on webcast

Public comment 1: my admonition to ESD

Tobi Jaiyesimi, executive director of AY CDC (and ESD's Atlantic Yards project director), read the three public comments in a neutral tone.

"A comment from Norman Oder that there are two sites that have after-hours variances that exceeded the construction hours was announced in the two week look ahead. He notes that the Construction Updates are prepared by Greenland Forest City Partners and circulated by ESD on ESD letterhead. He notes that they're paid staff and consultants who could vet the updates for accuracy. He also notes that there are extended hours that include the workday starting at 5 am and lasting until 10 pm, which is different than what is disclosed. He also notes that construction hours are burdensome to neighbors who work from home and whose kids go to school from home. Additionally Mr. Oder notes that the Long Island Rail Road work after hours and early morning work is disruptive to neighbors."

Yes, that reflected my comment, which consisted of paragraphs from this post. Except there was no reaction, from staff or board, to the obvious point that the Construction Updates mislead the public. 

So, for the purpose of this article, I've made a gif of such images, which show, first, the announced after-hours variances for the B4 (18 Sixth Ave.) tower, including work 6 am to 9 pm weekdays, and 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. After that there are variances for starting work at 5 am on weekdays, working until 10 pm on weekdays, and work on Sundays.

As stated in another Atlantic Yards context, it's Orwellian, almost.

Public comment 2: the arena's disruptive signage

Jaiyesimi then read, "The next comment was from Andy Brodie, with concerns about the lighting from the arena... that they are bright, super bright, and is it possible to tone them down, or have the hours reduced. Many have children who have to be in bed early and there should be consideration of that."

There was no discussion, or observation, that she had, in a previous portion of the meeting, indicated that the arena had, in fact, agreed to tone it down. Or that there was, in fact, new signage that the arena had not disclosed.

Public comment 3: disruptive construction

"The final comment is from Katheryn Keller," Jaiyesimi stated. "She notes that she's been collecting data from neighbors, specifically with regards to the construction happening at the project and also at the Long Island Rail Road. Many are woken up at night; there was a specific example where there was jackhammering happening at night. She has to take measures to be sure to be able to get to sleep, such as earplugs, ambient noise. She also sent to us the spreadsheet with a number of concerns that were also submitted for the Quality of Life meeting. There were a total of 17 entries. She requested that the Quality of Life meeting be more transparent and allow for more issues to be discussed in detail. And that she will continue to collect information from her neighbors, who are highly disturbed daily by the amount of development that's happening in the area overall. Those are all of the public comments that were received and noted for the record."

There was no reaction, or discussion, but, as I've written separately, those concerns were downplayed both at the Quality of Life meeting and earlier at the AY CDC meeeting.