Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the latest Construction Alert: signs that excavation has been delayed (flooding?), bus stop on Flatbush removed for utility work (updated, with clarification)

Yesterday, one day late, Empire State Development (aka Empire State Development Corporation) issued the two-week Construction Alert (bottom) dated 8/29/11 prepared by developer Forest City Ratner. I've highlighted below changes compared to the alert issued two weeks earlier, dated 8/15/11.

The changes seem relatively small, though, interestingly enough, one paragraph in the 8/15/11 alert was missing:
Excavation for storm/sanitation/water services near the intersections of Dean & Flatbush as well as 6th & Pacific will continue during this reporting period and the next. These excavations (trenches) will be in excess of 25 feet below street level and will require tie-in to existing piping within both Dean Street and/or 6th Avenue. Permits are being submitted to borough agencies to allow the tie-ins and a maintenance and protection of traffic (MPT)/pedestrians plans(s) is being prepared; installation will not occur until permits have been granted. A second and/or third shift is being considered to execute this work. Permits for a second or third shift to perform this work will be submitted prior to beginning the work.
(Emphasis added)

I asked ESD yesterday if that excavation was completed, or delayed, perhaps because of the rain associated with Hurricane Irene.

Update 3:20 pm: Despite language in the previous alert indicating that excavation would continue this period, ESD tells me that this work was in fact indicated in the latest alert below, not under the category Excavation but under the rubric Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing:

The piping for the storm/sanitary/and water services to the arena at 6th & Pacific as well as Dean & Flatbush is expected to continue through this and the next reporting period. The tie-ins for this piping will require work in the street, which has not yet commenced. A second and/or third shift is being considered to execute this work.

I'm not sure this is exactly the same work as indicated two weeks ago, given the absence of any reference to excavation. ESD spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell adds, "The excavation has not been completed,  it will continue during this reporting period."

Below I've bolded text from the new alert that differs from the previous one.

Waterproofing & Fireproofing
Waterproofing and backfilling along the outside of the arena Atlantic Avenue foundation wall is complete. Backfill on the 6th Avenue elevation from 6th Avenue and Atlantic will continue during this reporting period. Backfill outside the Arena footprint on the Flatbush Avenue elevation will continue through this reporting period.

The piping for the storm/sanitary/and water services to the arena at 6th & Pacific as well as Dean & Flatbush is expected to continue during this and the next reporting period. The tie-ins for this piping will require work in the street, which has not yet commenced. A second and/or third shift is being considered to execute this work.

Track Outages (General Orders)
IRT and BMT Tunnel inspections have taken place and repair work will be implemented during scheduled NYCT track outages during evenings and weekends. An IRT evening GO, which will be performed under flagging, is scheduled for September 6, 7, and 8th in the evenings to perform steel repair work at the northern vents. The next BMT GO’s will take place during the weekends of September 24th, October 15th and November 26th. Minor repair and cleanup work will occur on selective evenings under scheduled NYCT flagging protection.

Carlton Ave Bridge
New MPT has been put in place for the south abutment soil excavation from Pacific Street, and excavation has begun. This work will continue during this reporting period, and will be followed by forming and pouring the foundation for the South Abutment.

Posillico/Tully will install a test pile and perform a load test for the north abutment during this reporting period. Once this test pile is installed and passes the load test, Posillico/Tully will start the installation of the mini-piles required to be installed to support the new north abutment.
EJ Electric will be on site to relocate the existing 2” feeder for the site lighting located in the south yard area. This work is being done to free up the area adjacent to the East portal for excavation work.

Replacement of Adjacent Water Mains and Utility Work

Stage one began in early August. The first work will include the installation of a distribution water main along the sidewalk of Flatbush, north of Atlantic. The work will be done at night (10 pm to 6 am) and will require partial closure of the sidewalk and the curb lane of traffic during the work hours. The work will take two to three months in this location and then will move on southward and cross Flatbush. The bus stop at the west side of Flatbush, north of Pacific, will be removed by NYC DOT, per the approval of NYCTA. Work this period will include the excavation of trenches for the water main. Trenches will be plated over every morning and sidewalks and travel lanes will be re-opened. The water main installation may begin at the end of the upcoming two week period or immediately after.

Over the next several weeks the Contractor will be installing three taps into the waters and sewer mains on Flatbush Avenue and Dean Streets. Work will take approximately 1 to 1½ weeks each. Work will take place either behind MPT or at night (10 pm to 6 am) depending on the location of the main. The excavation work at Dean Street requires the temporary removal of approximately 40’ to 60’ of the 16 foot fence on Dean Street. A temporary 8’ tall barrier consisting of plywood on Jersey barrier will be installed to replace the 16’ fence and to serve as the construction fence during the work. The contractor will move the barrier out of the way when trenching occurs in the immediate area and will plate over and replace the barrier on a daily basis.
(The latter change on Dean Street was announced in a n 8/22/11 Supplemental Alert. Note that it's unclear whether the bus stop will be restored, but if the work is finished within three months, why not.)

Block 1129 Construction Staging
Occupancy/Use of the lay down area due south of the 752 Pacific Street office will continue during this period. Excavation materials from the Dean Street ramp are being temporarily stored in this lot and are expected to remain for the duration of this reporting period. The only remaining material within the area is concrete debris, to be disposed of during this reporting period.

Demolition of 603 Dean has been completed and debris is being sorted for recycling; the demolition fence that took up part of the Dean Street site has been pulled back. Work has been completed at 754 Pacific, a one-story addition on the east side of 752 Pacific. The remainder of this structure will be removed with the lower floors of 768 Pacific. 768 Pacific is under hand demolition. Mechanical demolition will commence once the top levels and front section have been removed to an extent that will permit machines to remove the remainder. The extent of the hand and mechanical demolition has been approved by the DOB and BEST.
Traffic Mitigation Site Work
The northbound lanes of 4th Avenue were closed at Atlantic Avenue on July 31, 2011 with temporary MPT (see details below). During the next two-week period curb extensions, lights, signals, signs and pavement striping will be installed to achieve the closure of the northbound traffic on 4th Avenue, north of Atlantic Avenue. This phase of the work is expected to take approximately 4 to 6 weeks. The MPT will be modified several times during the course of the work to maintain safe pedestrian passage across the intersection. The details of the MPT have been reviewed by the DOT. The work was put on hold for two weeks while the engineer and DEP developed a modification to the water valve and hydrant. That design has been approved and work will resume during this reporting period.

At the Pacific and Flatbush curb extension, concrete paving was installed as far as possible outside the sidewalk bridge in front of 604 Pacific Street. The final sidewalk paving under the sidewalk bridge cannot be completed until the private owner makes repairs to his building and remove the protection. This phase of work is expected to be completed by the end of August.

At the Pacific Street & 4th Avenue intersection, test pits revealed numerous private utility interferences including Con Ed and NYCTA cable. The engineer recommended a modification to the curb profile. DEP has approved the modification. It is currently being reviewed by DOT; work will resume once DOT approval is received.

Fourth Avenue Lane Closures
Project traffic consultants and the NYCDOT have been closely monitoring traffic flows and making improvements to signal timings when necessary.

Transit Work

Work related to of the BMT structure and below grade concrete, steel and MEP work may be conducted on Saturdays, September 3rd and September 10th, during this reporting period. This will be in conjunction with the IRT Flagging GO scheduled for September 6, 7, 8 and 9th steel repair work at the northern vents. All such work will take place within the site and subway tunnel.

Atlantic Yards Construction Alert 8-29-2011

Coming after the arena opens, a follow-up study about traffic conditions

The Empire State Development Corporation has posted (also embedded below) 68 questions and responses from the 6/14/11 public meeting on traffic issues.

I've already highlighted some of the questions and responses, including the capacity of sidewalks on Dean Street, plans for the surface parking lot, and the impact of traffic on the Dean Street Playground.

Post-Arena Opening Traffic Study

The question:
3. When will the scope for a follow-up study be established? Will local Stakeholders (electeds, Community Boards and Community Members) have input into the scope? If there are additional changes that will affect traffic or pedestrian flow, what is the timeline for them and what processes will be used to consult the public?
The response:
As required by the FEIS, after the Arena opens, a traffic study will be done to provide information about traffic conditions in the area. The purpose of the study will be to optimize the implementation of the mitigation identified in the FEIS and to identify any further or different opportunities to improve traffic conditions. The study will evaluate the effectiveness of the Arena’s Transportation Demand Management Plan, an FEIS-required traffic mitigation measure that seeks to divert automotive traffic away from the Arena by encouraging the use of mass transit and parking at remote locations. The study will also consider the actual data about conditions after the Arena opening (the FEIS was able to consider only projected traffic conditions) to identify opportunities to improve traffic conditions and to optimize the implementation of any FEIS mitigation measures not implemented prior to the Arena opening. For example, in light of data about actual (rather than projected) traffic conditions after the Arena opens, it may be possible to improve upon signal timing recommendations made in the FEIS, as is common in other NYC projects that have a long lead time between the preparation of the FEIS and the construction of certain project elements. The study will also evaluate pedestrian issues in affected areas. This will be a public process, led by ESD and NYCDOT, and the public and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to review and comment on the scope of the study and its results and recommendations. At this time, FCRC is implementing most of the FEIS traffic mitigation for Phase I of the Project, while postponing implementation of certain traffic measures (such as the widening of 6th Avenue between Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue and the construction of additional lay-by lanes on 6th Avenue on the Arena block) at the direction of NYCDOT until after the Arena opens and data can be gathered as to how best to implement or improve upon the FEIS-required traffic measures. ESD has not approved changes to the FEIS traffic measures at this time.
Signal timing could change--but would ESD and NYCDOT, for example, decide that arena-bound pedestrians shouldn't be walking down narrow Dean Street between Carlton and Sixth avenues?

Timing issues

And when will this happen? Unclear, but surely after the first basketball season ends in spring 2013.

On 6/14/11, Empire State Development planner Rachel Shatz said at a public meeting, "The development of a scope for the monitoring plan for monitoring how effective these traffic changes are once the arena's open… is a tomorrow project for us at this moment. The most important thing right now is to have enough time is to have these roadway changes in place by the time the arena opens so the mitigation we envision can truly be tested, and hopefully work."

"We will be working with DOT [Department of Transportation] to develop that scope of work," she added, "and that will be shared with the community."

070811 Response to Questions re Traffic from June 14 Public Meeting

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MTA agrees to remove coffin-like bollards outside Atlantic Terminal, says replacements less intrusive (maybe also to accommodate larger crowds?)

In Bollard backtrack! MTA reverses course on Atlantic Terminal security sarcophagi, the Brooklyn Paper has a scoop:
The MTA has agreed to tear out the massive granite barricades ringing the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal, finally admitting that the concrete coffins at the borough’s largest transit hub were excessive and ugly.

Starting in February, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will rip out the 14 stone sarcophagi and replace them with a series of short metal bollards at the entrance to the $106-million Atlantic Terminal, which opened to immediate criticism in January, 2010.

MTA spokesman Sal Arena acknowledged that the stunning reversal was a response to outcry over the massive security perimeter.

“The new, smaller bollards are less intrusive and more acceptable to the community,” Arena said.
Another reason?

I suspect there's another reason for the bollard switch: by eliminating wide bollards that slow people down but don't add significant safety regarding vehicle intrusion, travelers will be able to get into and out from the station much faster.

And that would be necessary to accommodate those visiting the nearby arena scheduled to open in about a year.

(Photo composite via NLG)

Note that smaller metal bollards are also planned for the perimeter of the Atlantic Yards arena site.

Will judge's decision requiring Supplemental EIS be appealed? Unclear, but we should know by mid-September

So, what happened with that significant, if belated, Atlantic Yards judicial ruling in July?

Remember, the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development) was ordered to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Phase II of the Atlantic Yards project and was criticized for "arbitrary and capricious" reliance on the assumed--but not credible--ten-year buildout.

Well, the state can comply, or it can appeal. And it hasn't decided.

Note that, given the low judicial bar, requiring government agencies to have merely a "rational" basis for their decisions, it's very unusual for judges to lodge such criticism--one of the reason, I'd argue, for the significance of state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman's ruling.

State posture

Last week, I asked Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for the ESD, about the status of the case.

"We're still discussing our options internally," Hankin said, during a longer interview. "We feel strongly that we complied with all the SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] laws and all applicable laws. We understand that there may be a need for us to reevaluate some things, or possibly take another look... But we haven't made any final decisions yet. We have until September 16 to appeal. So we're still talking internally, with everyone, including the second floor [governor's office] about how we're going to respond."

Note that, before September 16, ESD President and CEO Kenneth Adams may be speaking in Brooklyn, as some public officials have indicated. If so, we might learn of the policy posture by then.

Forest City Ratner's role, and a bet

Note that developer Forest City Ratner was a co-defendant in the case, brought by two coalitions of community groups, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the latter on behalf of BrooklynSpeaks.

Also note that Forest City Ratner pays the fees of the ESDC's outside counsel in this case.

The state agency takes the lead, but, if I had to bet, I'd bet that Forest City Ratner is pushing for an appeal. Cost is merely one factor, and Forest City was once willing to pay a high-priced lawyer to try to avoid a relatively small fine for improper demolition.

So the developer (and the state) might want to see a critical ruling overturned.

On the other hand, there are surely multiple considerations afoot, and the production of a Supplemental EIS might be a simpler solution.

From ESD: increased vehicles/pedestrians on Dean Street not "anticipated" to provoke adverse effect on safety

Empire State Development (aka Empire State Development Corporation) has posted (also embedded below) 68 questions and responses from the 6/14/11 public meeting on traffic issues. I've already highlighted some of the questions and responses, including the capacity of sidewalks on Dean Street and plans for the surface parking lot.

No problems from traffic/pedestrian increase?

This one jumped out:
10. Since the introduction of Astroturf to Dean Playground, activity at the playground has significantly increased. Will the increase in traffic and pedestrians make the playground less safe? Will parents still be able to watch their kids play from the sidewalk during league games on the weekends?
No adverse effect on safety in or around the playground is anticipated.
None? Is that why there will be extra cops and security guards around the perimeter of the arena and, presumably, adjacent streets?

As another response explains, there will be about 3000 additional pedestrians traveling between the accessory lot and the arena. It's unclear what fraction will use Dean Street, but it's a main route.

The word "anticipate," as I've documented, has a lot of flex to it.

Safety issue right now

After all, as documented by Atlantic Yards Watch, construction workers periodically rest in the playground, which violates the rule requiring that adults visit the playground only in the company of children.

070811 Response to Questions re Traffic from June 14 Public Meeting

Monday, August 29, 2011

Video shows that, after criticism was raised publicly, trucks as of August 26 stopped using residential street as shortcut

I can't say the video below documents riveting action, but it does seem to confirm that those working at the railyard site finally paid attention to criticism aired on Atlantic Yards Watch and this blog: trucks previously seen using Clermont Avenue, a residential street, in violation of city law and site rules, as of Friday, August 26, were no longer doing so.

Storm mostly spares New York City; had winds been worse, unsecured potential projectiles at Atlantic Yards site could have posed dangers; updated with photo of flooding

As the New York Times headline put it, Storm Damage Largely Spares New York, which includes the Atlantic Yards site.

NetsDaily reported:
Barry Baum, senior vice-president for communications at The Barclays Center reports the arena "had no structural damage or damage to equipment. There's water, but it is being pumped out. Everything held up very well." Critics had questioned whether equipment had been secured.
That's a rather pat dismissal (though par for the NetsDaily course). After all, the fact of no damage does not mean that equipment was secured.

As noted yesterday, there were signs of inadequate preparation--materials and equipment left uncovered at the site, despite instructions from the Department of Buildings.

Here's a photo, taken at 8:20 am today by Prospect Heights resident Raul Rothblatt, of flooding at the railyard site east of Sixth Avenue.

Additional photos

And, according to the file below contributed by another community member, there were several instances of unsecured potential projectiles, including loose lumber. Also note overturned toilets and some collected trash that likely exacerbates the rat problem.

Note that the file is hardly comprehensive; the before-and-after photos focus on the railyard and the site perimeter, not the interior of the arena site, where there were more materials and equipment.

Atlantic Yards Arena Hurricane Before/After

KPMG beyond Atlantic Yards: a pattern of dubious accounting practices

I was looking up some background on the accounting/consulting firm KPMG, notorious for its dubious (and secondhand) work predicting the Brooklyn housing market on behalf of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Was this part of any pattern? Well, the web site Cheating Culture, founded by David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, has posted KPMG: A History of Abetting Fraud:
While KPMG has avoided the fate of fellow auditing giant Arthur Anderson, it has primarily done so through quick settlements that prevent its numerous cases of fraud from ever reaching court. Though most of the focus of the financial crisis of 2008 has been placed upon the nation's big financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Citibank, more evidence is arising over the role of auditing firms throughout the subprime loan disaster. KPMG was the first "big-four" firm to be hit with a lawsuit, accused in 2009 of "grossly negligent audits" of home loan provider New Century Financial Corp.
Other cases involve:
  • a 2005 KPMG settlement "for $22.5 million with SEC for allowing Xerox to manipulate its accounting practices," followed by a 2008 payment to Xerox investors
  • a $24 million SEC settlement "over its alleged role in various misstatements and omissions regarding the lending policies of Countrywide Financial" and
  • $456 million in penalties paid by eight KPMG executives "to the U.S. Department of Justice for creating illegal tax shelters" to help clients "avoid paying over $2.5 billion in taxes."
A "business/strategic decision" to ignore the rules

As I noted 6/19/11, Mark W. Everson, in a New York Times op-ed that today, Lawyers and Accountants Once Put Integrity First, wrote:
Three or four decades ago, investors and regulators could rely on these professionals to provide a check on corporate risk-taking. But over time, attorneys and auditors came to see their practices not as independent firms that strengthen the integrity of capitalism, but as businesses measured chiefly by the earnings of their partners.

...Lawyers and accountants who were once the proud pillars of our financial system have become the happy architects of its circumvention. Nowhere is this more the case than in the world of tax law. Companies (and wealthy individuals) pay handsomely for tax professionals not just to find the lines, but to push them ever outward. During my tenure at the Internal Revenue Service, the low point came when we discovered that a senior tax partner at KPMG (one of the Big Four, which by virtue of their prominence set standards for the others) had advocated — in writing — to leaders of the company’s tax practice that KPMG make a “business/strategic decision” to ignore a particular set of I.R.S. disclosure rules.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

As storm approached, were materials and equipment at Atlantic Yards site secured? Photos suggest vulnerability

As Hurricane Irene approached yesterday, how well was the Atlantic Yards site secured?

At least one passer-by found evidence, as noted in the photos below, that the site was left vulnerable--with materials and equipment exposed to the elements. (Surely there was some measure of organization in anticipation of the storm.)

We should learn today and in coming days whether that meant any significant impacts, and whether Forest City Ratner and its contractors took any further measures. Note that the Department of Buildings threatened to issue violations unless those in charge of construction sites took measures including:
  • Tie down and secure material and loose debris at construction sites.
  • Cover electrical equipment from exposure to the weather.

The arena site photo

Brooklyite Eric Kuo tweeted at about 8:30 pm last night: "Atlantic yards construction site with equipment not tied down. #brooklyn"

The photo, shot at about 5:45 pm, shows the arena site. There appear to be two pieces of motorized equipment left uncovered, as well as materials--wood and metal--not tied down.

The plaza site photo

Kuoalso tweeted:  "Atlantic yards construction site, abandoned but nothing is tied down.

The photo shows the site destined for a plaza, with materials not tied down. I suspect Forest City Ratner would say the site was "left secured" rather than "abandoned," but we'll see what the DOB thinks.

What winds can do

Are wood and metal heavy enough to stay put in heavy winds? Not necessarily. This web site points out:
  • 60-mph winds can lift the roof off a carport.
  • 70-mph winds can turn a mobile home on its side if the mobile home is not anchored to the ground.
  • 80-mph winds can lift the roof off a house.
The National Weather Service, according to the Times, has predicted wind speeds of 55 to 75 mph today,  with gusts of up to 80 mph.

Arena architect: "revenue-generating amenities" key; new rendering shows Coke; arena once to be Sportsplex

On a web page made available earlier this week (but now unavailable), the main arena architects, Ellerbe Becket, an AECOM company, noted that "revenue-generating amenities" are key to the Barclays Center:
Ellerbe Becket, an AECOM company, was selected, in association with SHoP Architects, to design the Barclays Center – the new home of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Nets. When complete in 2012, this promises to be the most exciting venue in the NBA. Sited in the heart of Brooklyn, the design features a unique weathered steel facade, and a main entrance covered by an impressive canopy with an oculus that contains a dynamic marquee. The glazed main concourse is at street level, making the arena more pedestrian-friendly and creating a strong visual connection with the neighborhood.

The Barclays Center will feature one of the most intimate seating configurations ever designed into a modern multi-purpose arena, with unparalleled sightlines and first-class amenities. An abundance of premium seating will accommodate virtually any spectator need. Seven clubs and restaurants provide further revenue-generating amenities that today’s patrons both appreciate and have increasingly come to expect.
Enter Coke signage

Equally importantly, updated renderings show how partner branding provides revenues. First, a rendering released around 7/20/11 and "subject to change":

The latest shows new sponsor Coke (which replaced Jones Soda):

What about that Sportsplex?

As I wrote 8/23/11, in the 8/4/03 Brooklyn Paper [PDF], an article headlined "Nets could take Sportsplex D’town" quoted a very certain Borough President Marty Markowitz:
For two decades Brooklyn politicos have been dreaming of an amateur athletics arena — a “sportsplex” — for the borough. That dream was shelved when the city instead moved ahead with Keyspan Park in Coney Island.
...Markowitz is doubly excited because he anticipates that the facility could be used as a scholastic and amateur sportsplex when the professional team is not playing.
“It would be a multi-use arena and thus a sportsplex would definitely be included in it,” Markowitz told The Brooklyn Papers.
...But asked whether a sportsplex would be part of the Ratner-Nets arena plan he said, “Without a question. It would incorporate, in my opinion, now once again I’m not the one, I’m not gonna own it, but I have no doubt that it would also double as a sportsplex for high school sports — no question about it. It has to be, and it would be, a borough facility, a borough resource, of course.”
Well, some high school tournaments might be played at the arena, but the ink is going elsewhere. The arena would be less a "borough facility" than a "facility in the borough."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yes, during a discussion of Brooklyn, its literary history and neighborhood change, an inevitable question about the Atlantic Yards arena

It was a discussion about Brooklyn writing and Brooklyn history and gentrification and Fort Greene, with Literary Brooklyn author Evan Hughes and The Plot Against Hip-Hop (and more) author Nelson George, held last night at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene.

George, who grew up in Brownsville (as recounted in his memoir City Kid) and went to school in East Flatbush, recalled how the neighborhoods he knew changed, not only with a white ethnic exodus--the white folks he knew were mainly Jewish and Italian--but class and ethnic differences among fellow blacks, notably the influx of people from the Caribbean.

His best line captured neighborhood change via street food: "One day the knish store was selling beef patties."

Fort Greene's moments

George is completing a film called Brooklyn Boheme, about the late 1980s/90s burst of black creativity--music, film spoken word, writers--in Fort Greene, where he still lives.

Why Fort Greene? Well, George suggested, as with other neighborhoods that beckoned artists, it was a combination of price and accessibility--musicians, for example, could get to gigs in Greenwich Village quite quickly.

And what were the signposts of gentrification? George noted the disappearance of drug dealers who once dominated the pay phones just down Fulton Street and, as he wrote in a 4/5/09 New York Times essay, the appearance of the high-powered real estate brokerage Corcoran. (That was, apparently, in September 2000, according to this article.)

Hughes read from his book some astonishing--to today's ears--descriptions of Fort Greene in the 1950s and 1960s, a place of danger and decay.

The Brooklyn brand

Among all the outer boroughs, George observed, Brooklyn has the most cachet, the evocative earthiness--from the Brooklyn Bridge to World War II movies to hip-hop shout-outs--that provokes reaction wherever in the world he visits.

He cited the enduring iconography of the Brooklyn Dodgers, as evinced by the uniform (with Jackie Robinson's number) worn by Spike Lee's character Mookie in the director's classic Do the Right Thing.

Promoters of the Barclays Center arena are already trying to capitalize on the borough's image, as shown in the advertisement at right, and surely hip-hop megastar Jay-Z, who owns a piece of the Nets, will be part of the hoopla inaugurating the arena next year.

What about the arena?

At the end of the brief Q&A, an audience member asked the two authors what they thought of the Barclays Center.

Hughes said he didn't see it as quite "an open-and-shut case" as fellow panelist George, who's on record as an Atlantic Yards opponent (and joined the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board). Why? Hughes thought, at least at one point, that the "jobs" might be worth it.

"They sold a lot of the borough on job creation," George commented. Indeed, I've pointed out how the numbers are ridiculous.

George again suggested that the traffic, foot and vehicular, in the area around the arena would change the character of the neighborhoods on event nights, making the streets outside the bookstore uncomfortable.

By the way, despite a Wall Street Journal article indicating he was planning to leave Fort Greene in reaction to changes wrought by the arena, George told me afterward that he is, in fact, staying.

If there's no (or belated) enforcement of trucking rules, why not try... civil disobedience?

I didn't get a response yesterday from Empire State Development to my 8/25/11 query about apparent violations of trucking rules at the Atlantic Yards site, as documented by Atlantic Yards Watch.

One out-of-town blog reader had an idea: if trucks continue to travel up residential Clermont Avenue, why don't neighborhood residents join up to block the street? After all, if they get arrested, they can point to selective enforcement of rules and regulations.

Well, there won't be any trucks today, because of hurricane concerns, but we'll see if anybody takes up the idea.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane prep: starting tonight at 9 pm and going 'til 6 am, noisy work on streets around arena site to clean sewers/catch basins

An announcement from developer Forest City Ratner via Empire State Development:
As part of the Atlantic Yards Emergency Preparedness Plan for Hurricane Irene, the utility contractor has secured a Vactor Truck and will be cleaning a number of catch basins in the area of the Atlantic Yards Project. This cleaning will assist in the water flow away from the streets. Below is a list of the 11 catch basins that will they will be working on as may be required:
1. North side of Dean St. at Flatbush Ave:
2. South side of Dean St. at Flatbush Ave
3. West side of 6th Ave at Pacific St.
4. South side of Atlantic Ave west of 6th Ave.
5. South side of Atlantic Ave between 5th Ave and 6th Ave.
6. South west corner of Pacific St. and Carlton Ave intersection
7. South east corner of Pacific St. and Carlton Ave intersection
8. West side of 6th Ave, south of Pacific St.
9. East side of 6th Ave, south of Pacific St.
10. North side of Pacific St., east of 6th Ave.
11. South side of Pacific St., east of 6th Ave

This work will commence Friday, August 26th at approximately 9 P.M. and will be concluded by 6 A.M., Saturday, August 27th Residents in the vicinity of the project should be aware that the machinery used for this work is noisy. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Supplemental Atlantic Yards Construction Alert 8-15-2011 #2

Department of Buildings suspends construction throughout city starting 2 pm Saturday; no AY arena work was planned

There's no after-hours variance for work at the Atlantic Yards arena site this weekend (unlike last weekend), which might make sense, given the impending hurricane and--as noted below--that the city has suspended work starting 2 pm tomorrow.
From the Department of Buildings:
Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today ordered all work at construction sites in New York City suspended as of 2 p.m. Saturday, August 27 to 7 a.m. Monday, August, 29, 2011, due to the severe weather conditions expected from Hurricane Irene. All previously issued construction permits, as well as after-hours variances and temporary place of assembly permits, are suspended during this time period. This excludes work related to safeguarding construction sites or damage repair work related to the storm. The National Weather Service is forecasting the hurricane will reach the City by early Sunday, bringing heavy rains, storm surges in low-lying areas and strong winds. The severe weather is expected to last between 12 and 18 hours. 
Department inspectors are currently performing inspections of construction sites throughout the City to ensure all equipment is secured and will be conducting additional inspections over the weekend to enforce the no-work order. If sites are not safely secured, inspectors will take immediate enforcement action with the issuance of violations and other necessary actions in coordination with other City agencies. 
All builders, contractors and property owners must take steps to secure their construction sites and buildings, which includes cranes, suspended and supported scaffolding, hoists and any other building appurtenances that may come loose under heavy winds and rain. Structures that have been subject to deferred maintenance or in delicate condition could be at greater risk. The Department strongly suggests consulting a professional to advise how to safely secure construction sites and buildings. 
To secure construction sites, builders, contractors and developers should take all precautionary measures including but not limited to the following: 
  • Tie down and secure material and loose debris at construction sites.
  • Cover electrical equipment from exposure to the weather.
  • Store loose tools, oil cans and extra fuses in a tool box.
  • Secure netting, scaffolding and sidewalk sheds.
  • Secure all crane equipment.
  • Secure all exterior hoists.
  • Brace and secure construction fences.
  • Secure all windows.
  • Call 9-1-1 if there is an emergency on a construction site.

From Atlantic Yards Watch: trucks continue to leave railyard site and use residential street

From Atlantic Yards Watch, Not an isolated incident: truck use of residential Clermont Avenue is widespread:
More than a dozen videos, taken over the course of a single week, document repeated illegal use of Clermont Avenue by fully loaded dump trucks leaving the project site from the Carlton Avenue brige exit. As the videos show, trucks exiting the Carlton Avenue bridge site on to Atlantic make the first left on to Clermont, departing from NYC's designated truck route. Clermont Avenue is a residential street of three story townhouses and a public housing complex and is the location of two public playgrounds (one is part of the Atlantic Terminal Housing; the other, the Cuyler Gore playground, is at intersection of Clermont and Lafayette).

The videos were recorded on three days, August 15, 18 and 19 (There is an AY Watch incident report for each day; while each day's report documents multiple violations.) Most of the trucks had ‘LMC Trucking - USDOT: 1501837’ as vehicle identifiers.
Here's one example:

Truck routes

From Atlantic Yards Watch:
The use of a residential street as a truck route violates NYC City law as well as the Barclays Center Delivery Truck Rules and Requirements,  which is part of the project's of Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments,  to be enforced by ESD and Forest City Ratner.
Note that the map below delineates only the Barclays Center site, not the railyard site, but the same truck routes still apply--and Clermont Avenue is clearly not a truck route.

What next?

From Atlantic Yards Watch:
The issue of trucks on residential streets was to be discussed at the July 14 Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, but the meeting ended before the subject was covered. While Forest City Ratner has made some improvements in enforcement of truck requirements, particulary in wheel washing before trucks exit the site, the issue of trucks using residential streets may require coordination with NYPD. NYPD has yet to send a representative to a district service cabinet meeting.

The next meeting of the Service Cabinet will take place on September 15.
It will be at 9:30 pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The public is welcome to observe but may ask questions only by submitting them beforehand, to the three affected Community Boards (2,6,8), the Borough President's office, Empire State Development, or local elected officials (Council Member Letitia James always attends).

Late yesterday, I also submitted a query to Empire State Development, the state agency that oversees the project. The agency has previously taken action to try to curb trucks that were leaving the site with their contents uncovered.

Literary Brooklyn: from Whitman to Lethem, timely new book suggests threads of connection and reflection (& I have a few quibbles)

Author Evan Hughes and Fort Greene writer Nelson George will be speaking tonight at 7:30 pm at  Fort Greene's Greenlight Bookstore, preceded by a literary walking tour at 6:30 pm.

Evan Hughes's absorbing new book, Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life, comes at an apt time: never before has Brooklyn prompted such buzz as the home of writers, thus leading to sweeping, if not necessarily cogent, suggestions of brough-related creativity.

Hughes, a journalist and critic, doesn't go that far, but he does try to tease out circumstance and commonality from Walt Whitman to the present day:
There is no "Brooklyn school" of literature... One experience Brooklyn's writers have shared, however, is living just outside the colossal, churning center of the metropolis.. Some have used all their might to make the scape from impoverished Brooklyn neighborhoods.. Other writers have chosen Brooklyn as an escape from the commercial clamor of Manhattan.
He adds:
Part of Brooklyn's richness as a site of the literary imagination, I think,  lies in the very fact that it is not only a truly distinct place from Manhattan but a less exceptional one, it he strict sense of the word. More human in scale, less visually extravagant, not so wealthy or stylish, more suspicious of what is fashionable or famous, slower to hunger for the new new--Brooklyn is more like America.
That surely was so during the time of "February House," the notorious 1940s Brooklyn Heights lair for the likes of Carson McCullers, who treated Brooklyn, in Hughes's words, as a "treehouse with a Manhattan view."

Today, Brooklyn may still trail or differ from Manhattan in certain ways, but it certainly hungers for the new--and even gets tweaked for that.

And, curiously enough, while Brooklyn houses some very buzzy writers, some pictured on the cover, as Dwight Garner's positive but savvy 8/17/11 New York Times review observed, barely make the narrative, since they don't write about the borough.

Why the book?

In this Q&A, Hughes explains:
The discount from Manhattan is a common first impulse for writers to move to Brooklyn, and it has been for a long time, though the gap in expense has narrowed. But then, so often, a deeper relationship with the place takes hold. And when I get curious about a place, which I quickly did about Brooklyn, I want to know, What are the great novels or poems or memoirs about this place? Who are the key writers? And what portrait of the place have they created over time? 
(Also note NPR coverage  and a Brian Lehrer interview.)

Sweeping portrait

Hughes, in this self-described "hybrid of literary biography, literary analysis, and urban history," suggests literature can "offer an intimate view of a very particular place and time."

So he takes us through the urbanizing world of Walt Whitman; the making-it (or not) fever captured by Daniel Fuchs, Alfred Kazin, and Bernard Malamud; Richard Wright on the great migration; Arthur Miller on post-war capitalism; Norman Mailer's counter-culture impulses; and Pete Hamill's neighborhood evocations.

He offers worthwhile details, noting that today's seemingly genteel streets of Brooklyn Heights, graced by plaques commemorating literary history, were rough and poor, as was the Seventh Avenue of Hamill's boyhood Park Slope.

And he finds threads of connection. Writing about Wright, he suggests:
It is a strain of thinking that runs through Kazin and Malamud and [Thomas] Wolfe] and all the way back to Whitman. For them, a belief that survives all anger is the belief that culture is a life-changing force, that the shared struggle for meaning, accreting over decades and centuries, provides an irreplaceable "spiritual sustenance."
The latter section of the book covers the urban crisis and Brooklyn's buzzy revival, including Hubert Selby's grim dystopia, L.J. Davis's acid portrayal of early gentrification, Jonathan Lethem's more expansive accounts, and Paul Auster's and Nelson George's neighborhood evocations.

What about today's Brooklyn?

As noted in the Times review, authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Jennifer Egan get pictured on the book's cover but hardly a mention in the book; they live in Brooklyn, but like other celebrated Brooklyn residents, including Jonathan Safran Foer and his wife Nicole Krauss, Rick Moody, and Susan Choi, don't write about Brooklyn.

Who does? Hughes does cite historical novels like Emily Barton's Brookland and Elizabeth Gaffney's Metropolis, as well as Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and the work of Edwige Danticat.

As for life in the last 15 years, he mentions Amy Sohn's "light romp" Prospect Park West and Joanna Smith Rakoff's "comedy of manners" A Fortunate Age, as well as Keith Gessen's All the Sad Young Literary Men and Michael Thomas's Man Gone Down.

Today's Brooklyn, Hughes suggests a bit speculatively, has many more "a room of one's own" than Manhattan, as well as providing "today's nexus" for literary interactions, as once did Greenwich Village.

Actually, there's a bit of a scale difference. Brooklyn can't equal Greenwich Village, but maybe Fort Greene and Park Slope could be parallels.

But he's right to point out that independent bookstores, as well as the Brooklyn Book Festival, suggest a flowering today. I'd say it clearly goes with an increasingly educated set of residents.

Just an accident?

While Hughes glancingly mentions Colson Whitehead's 3/2/08 New York Times Book Review essay, I Write in Brooklyn. Get Over It.,  as an example of today's typical hype-busting, he doesn't quite grapple with Whitehead's message:
I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it’s like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it’s like writing in Manhattan, but there aren’t as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee...

But you’d have to be a bit dense to confuse a geographical and economic accident with an aesthetic movement, no matter how sick you are of hearing about how green the grass is over here, no matter how much you long for that nurturing Elysium of your dreams.
What's in, what's not

Yes, the book is a selective reading of a plethora of literature, but I would have appreciated some mention of the lesser-known fictional works that have addressed changing Brooklyn, from Thomas Boyle's under-appreciated noir trilogy to Gabriel Cohen's gentrification novel, Boombox.

Also, beyond Danticat, the book says little about immigrant authors, but surely Lara Vapnyar, who lived in Brooklyn before moving to Staten Island, deserves mention for her 2003 book There are Jews in My House, which has stories set in Brooklyn.

The role of nonfiction

To apply context, Hughes relies on a few nonfiction books, notably Craig Wilder's essential (if not literary) history A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn and Nelson George's thoughtful memoir City Kid. He also cites Barbara Habenstreit's little-known 1974 snapshot of urban deprivation, Fort Greene, U.S.A.

I'd suggest consideration of some ambitious nonfiction works that fill out the portrait of contemporary Brooklyn, such as Samuel G. Freedman's Upon this Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, an intimate portrait of an East New York community; Greg Donaldson's The Ville, about cops and kids in turn-of-the-'90s Brownsville; Douglas Century's Street Kingdom: Five Years Inside the Franklin Avenue Posse, a strip very different from now-gentrifying "ProCro"; and Michael Weinreb's Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Genuises Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team, set at Midwood's experimental, immigrant-rich Edward R. Murrow High School.

Beyond that, I'd add a couple of affecting books about basketball that tell larger Brooklyn stories: Rick Telander's Heaven is a Playground and Darcy Frey's The Last Shot.

Maybe, even, there will be some compelling nonfiction about Brooklyn's biggest controversy, Atlantic Yards.

What next?

Hughes writes:
With such distinctive writers now living in Brooklyn, surely some will train their narrative focus on the streets they see every day. The person in Brooklyn who sits on the stoop or leans out a window with "eyes on the street," as Jacobs described it, has a great deal to see. The special character of a neighborhood, the town-within-a-city ideal, the threats to that ideal, the struggles and strife, the palpable history, the diversity, the space to think and look at the sky, the social crosstalk that can be lively, harmonious, acrimonious, and absurd--all these are the makings of vivid writing, as the literary history of the borough shows.
This book sent me back to Brooklyn Was Mine, the flawed but affecting 2008 collection of neighborhood essays. Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu, who wrote a great gentrification novel set in Washington, DC (and now lives in Paris), contributed a terrific essay set in polyglot, working-class Kensington:
What I had wanted and found in [the conversations he observed], what I admired and adored about Kensington, was the assertion that we can rebuild and remake ourselves and our communities over and over again, in no small part because there have always been corners in Brooklyn to do so on.
Which means the next contributors to the skein that is Literary Brooklyn can and will come from anywhere in the borough.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A tale of two Brooklyn Paper front pages

The first, 8/25/11, leads with a speculative Atlantic Yards story (and ignores the security issue):

And 7/22/11 leads with new renderings, downplaying a significant judicial ruling:

Addendum, as per NLG: OK, score one for the Brooklyn Paper — the only news outlet to cover yesterday's jobs protest at the Barclays Center site.

(I announced it was coming, but was doing an Atlantic Yards-related interview elsewhere.)

FCR's Gilmartin: AY "the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city" (no, and that's not what sold ACORN)

‪Now that people are talking about the possibility of the first Atlantic Yards tower, let's remember that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards point person, MaryAnne Gilmartin, told a real estate industry panel last year that Atlantic Yards "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city."

That's a remarkable statement because 1) it's not true (though it is ambitious) and 2) the Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" was sold to, and supported by, community groups that represent poor and working-class people, not middle-income residents.

Who was the housing for?

That's not to say middle-income New Yorkers don't need housing help. But Atlantic Yards would never have drawn the public support it did had it not been perceived as helping those most struggling.

For example, in an affidavit filed 1/17/08 regarding a state court challenge to the environmental review, Gilmartin stated that the Community Benefits Agreement represented "carefully articulated commitments to the local communities," with "lack of affordable housing" one of the issues "that have plagued communities within Brooklyn."

That sounds a lot like the interests of ACORN, but even back in 2006 there was a disconnect between the rents for affordable housing planned at Atlantic Yards and the expectations of those seeking that housing, as many found it unaffordable.

Gilmartin's remarks

Gilmartin spoke at a panel, Real Estate: A Local Business with Global Concerns‬" held at at New York University’s Schack Institute, 2/23/10.

As shown above, at about 1:35:38, a questioner suggested that housing for the rich and the poor would sort itself out--I'm not so sure of the latter--but asked, "Where do we put the middle class?"

"I'll certainly jump in," Gilmartin responded, "because of Atlantic Yards, and what Atlantic Yards really means in terms of the project. It's way more than an arena. And in fact it is is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city, because of its commitment to produce 2250 units of housing, affordable housing but not just the 20 percent of the 80/20 formula, but actually incomes that range in the 80 to 150 percent of AMI [Area Median Income], which is where the middle class sits."

Counting the units

Actually, Atlantic Yards is by no means "the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city." It would contain 900 low-income units and 1350 middle- and moderate-income units.

By contrast, as the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal's list of State Supervised Middle Income Housing Developments indicates, Co-Op City in the Bronx has more than 15,000 units and Starrett City in Brooklyn has nearly 6000 units.

Neither, however, are close to New York City's center. But the Hunter's Point South development in Queens is supposed to have "[u]p to 5,000 housing units, 60 percent of which will be affordable to middle income families."That means 3000 units.

The city's language may be more tentative than the promises of 2250 units (900 + 1350) at the Atlantic Yards site, but remember, the latter depends on sufficient subsidies.

The middle class

Gilmartin continued, "And certainly people know that in New York City there is a housing crisis for that particular group of people, because if you're a fireman, a teacher, it's very difficult to find housing, particularly close to a city center. And I think that, when you look at a place like Downtown Brooklyn and you think about the creation of 2250 units of housing, and the challenges that we've had to put that together, and it's not just the challenges associated with the litigation, it's public policy, it's the cost of building that housing…"

It's not Downtown Brooklyn, though it would be in nearby Prospect Heights.

The costs

She identified multiple costs: "The fact of the matter is that building high-rise, that is, something over eight stories, that can be delivered efficiently and cost-effectively, with union labor, in a place where you have land costs. Those are the three challenges: land costs, high-rise construction, and union labor. When you put the three of those in the mix and you try to deliver affordable housing, it is quite challenging. And that's why the government policy, and the government incentives, and keeping land costs to a manageable number so that a private developer would actually put that kind of housing online, is essential."

Well, Forest City already got $100 million from the city for land acquisition. It is expected to gain concessions from unions, and perhaps even use much less costly modular construction.

But it's a bit disingenuous for Gilmartin to complain about the cost of high-rise construction. After all, Atlantic Yards was sold to the public, via supporters like ACORN's Bertha Lewis, because of the presumed enormous quantity of housing. And by building a much larger quantity of housing than existing zoning would permit, Forest City could use market-rate units to cross-subsidize the affordable ones.

Meeting the challenges

"And so, I think that you're absolutely right, it is one of the great challenges in a city like New York, to deliver quality middle-income housing for the workforce. We call it workforce housing, too," Gilmartin concluded. "And so I share your frustration. I actually believe that Atlantic Yards is so important because of the fact that it represents a pioneering effort to put that kind of housing online in a quantity that surpasses most anything that's been done in a dense downtown location."

In her last remark, she was more circumspect, and thus more accurate, about the scope of the project.

Whether it gets done as promised is another question. Atlantic Yards was supposed to be done in a decade. But the Development Agreement allows 12 years for Phase 1 and 25 years for the project as a whole, and it need not be built in full.

Track outages in two weekends (September/October) due to "continuing construction work at Atlantic Yards"

Well, the fact of an under-construction arena has Curbed all excited (though not so much any security concerns). Meanwhile, construction does have consequences: subway closures.

The latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert provided this ambiguous information:
Track Outages (General Orders)

IRT and BMT Tunnel inspections have taken place and repair work will be implemented during scheduled NYCT track outages during evenings and weekends. An IRT GO is scheduled for Saturday, August 27th to perform ceramic tile work. The next BMT GO’s will take place in September and October and are currently being scheduled with NYCT. Minor repair and cleanup work will occur on selective evenings under scheduled NYCT flagging protection.
Brooklyn Community Board 14, recipient of a message from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, provides more detail:
Weekends of September 23-25 and October 14-16, 2011:
From Friday beginning at 10:00 PM to Monday ending at 5:00 AM, for these two weekends B & Q service will be suspended between Pacific Street and Prospect Park, due to continuing construction work at Atlantic Yards. Shuttle bus service will be provided at Pacific Street, 7th Avenue, and Prospect Park B & Q stations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Permit for first Atlantic Yards tower filed; signs suggest it won't be modular (so how will they save money?)

Brownstoner yesterday noted that Forest City Ratner had filed an application with the Department of Buildings for the long-delayed first residential tower in the Atlantic Yards project, to be sited at the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

Also see coverage by the Brooklyn Paper, under the somewhat overstated headline Ratner finally moves ahead with residential Yards tower, and a New York Post brief, Ratner eyes arena apts. None have seen fit to cover issues raised by the plan for arena bollards.

Brownstoner's quotation of a random arena construction worker--that it’s still unclear whether or not the tower will be built with pre-fabricated, modular units, as Forest City has been considering--was converted by Curbed into telling "Brownstoner that's still a possibility."

More likely not prefab

While the permit application doesn't say so explicitly, one sign points to conventional construction: the building's primary structural system would be "Steel (Encased in Concrete)," while the tallest modular building extant, a 24-story, $34 million high-rise in Wolverhampton, England, is framed with structural steel.

That structure is considerably shorter than the 33-story, 322-foot, 368-unit tower planned by Forest City. Indeed, what drew headlines was Forest City's apparent interest in building the world's tallest modular residential building--a tactic that might save significant sums but also could pose risks.

The Observer quoted Forest City executive MaryAnne Gilmartin:
“The permits were filed as standard operating procedure as we move forward,” Director of Commercial & Residential Development MaryAnne Gilmartin said in a statement. “We are still designing both prefab and conventional alternatives for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards and are shooting for a year end groundbreaking. We hope to show renderings to the public during the 4th quarter of this year.”
More subsidies?

If Forest City can't save money via modular construction, how do the numbers "pencil out"? After all, in March 2011, talk show host Brian Lehrer asked Rafael Cestero, outgoing Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), about the report that HPD had declined Forest City Ratner's recent request for an additional $10 million in additional subsidies--beyond the $14 million for 150 units--for the first residential building.

"One is, we have a set of programs that we use across the city... that fall within certain subsidy parameters that make sense for taxpayers and make sense for the city," Cestero responded. "We felt that the additional subsidy that Forest City was requesting... didn't meet those parameters and, frankly, that we felt was not a good public investment to go beyond what we have already committed."

"We want to see housing built there. We're all deeply committed to seeing not just the arena built, but to see... the affordable housing built," he added, "but we think the parameters that we've laid out, the program that we've laid out, allows that project to go forward."

So has the developer figured out a solution? Or has the Bloomberg administration moderated its position?

Modular longevity

Yesterday's earthquake might prompt readers to wonder whether modular buildings can survive seismic shock.

They're supposed to. But it is worth noting that, according to coverage of the tallest extant tower, "quality modular buildings have expected life spans of 20 to 50 years." That implies planned obsolescence for any Atlantic Yards towers built modular.

A sober assessment

Here's the tweet from the Observer writer:

Hey, @TMcEnery, meet @Jim_NYUSchack.

Where it is

By the way the official address is 461 Dean Street, formerly the address of the row house at left below. Now that address is a site bordering the under-construction Barclays Center arena.

This morning, another protest by P.P.E.E. targets downtown construction sites and Atlantic Yards arena site

People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E.), vocal supporters (along with REBUILD) of Atlantic Yards through just two years ago, held a much-noted protest 7/27/11 regarding the lack of local construction jobs and local contracting at Atlantic Yards and other sites.

This morning they're holding another protest, starting at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Jay Street at 9 a.m., and ending later outside the Barclays Center site.

PPEE Rally for Job 82411

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DOT extends deadline one month to comment on bollard plan; Rosner argues that security study needed before plan approval

This morning, I reported that Community Boards 2 and 6, which cover the Community Districts where bollards would be placed around the Atlantic Yards arena and plaza, had not seen the bollard plan filed in July, because it had been mistakenly sent to Community Board 8.

Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, had expressed dismay, given that the deadline for comment was August 25, leaving the board's Land Use Committee without an opportunity to examine and perhaps comment on such a plan.

Today Perris reports that the Department of Transportation Office of Franchises, Concessions and Consents sent the petition for revocable consent and related drawings to CBs 2 and 6, with a September 22 deadline for comment.

(Comments should be sent to Emma Berenblit, director, at

New concern about security

In a commentary posted on No Land Grab, Full Security Study Needed Before Approval of Bollard Plan, Alan Rosner, who co-authored a white paper on arena security and terrorism issues in 2005, wrote:
In 2005, Forest City Ratner paid for a private security study. In 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation used that study to assert that closed-circuit television, along with private security guards, would meet all the security needs of the proposed sports arena. That claim, and the claim that the threat of terrorism did not warrant study in the Environmental Impact Statement, was successfully defended in court by Forest City and the ESDC.

If bollards are now suddenly required, it is only because this is a sports arena hard by Brooklyn’s largest transit hub. Yet in today’s environment, vehicle-stopping bollards are useless if a truck bomb gets too close to its target. How close is what matters most, and the design of the Barclays Center violates the city’s and every Federal agency’s standards on “close."

Just two weeks before Newark’s Prudential Arena opened in 2007, that city ordered street closings for every hockey game. Brooklyn’s busiest intersections can’t just be closed when games are played because of some last-minute, legally imposed-but-otherwise-belated security measures. Now is the time for a comprehensive look at the whole issue based on readily available New York City standards.
Rosner, writing before news surfaced of the one-month extension, asked for the DOT to delay approval of the bollard plan. For the full commentary, go here.

Why didn't CB 2 and CB 6 get bollard plan? Forest City produced evasive document, and DOT and CB 8 then erred

News that the city Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering a plan to install bollards and tree beds around the Atlantic Yards arena site--plans that cut the "effective width" of nearby sidewalks, likely causing event-related bottlenecks--came as a surprise to the two Brooklyn Community Boards, CB 2 and CB 6, that might comment on such a plan within their jurisdictions.

That's because of a skein of errors and, I'd contend, obfuscation by developer Forest City Ratner.

The DOT, fed somewhat misleading information by the developer, last month sent plans to Community Board 8, the only one of the three project-affected Community Boards that does not have jurisdiction over the arena block. Nor did CB 8 did forward the plans to its neighbors.

As shown in the map below, the dark blue lines indicate CB boundaries, and the light blue box indicates the approximate location of the arena, west of Sixth Avenue. The arena plaza, also the site of bollards, extends to the triangle just west of the arena within CB 2; though shown on this map, Fifth Avenue has already been demapped.

What next?
Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, said the board's Land Use Committee typically considers such applications and may make a comment.

"I've reached out to my Chair," he said yesterday, indicating that, given that the deadline to comment (as first noted in Atlantic Yards Watch) to the DOT is Thursday, August 25, the board might ask for the deadline to be extended. "It was not our mistake," he said, that they learned about it so late.

What happened?

The bollard plan prepared by Forest City Ratner and presented to the DOT (click on graphic at left to enlarge) did not indicate a Community District, site of a Community Board.

In fact, it stated "N.A." That means "Not Applicable," a designation that seems misleading.

However, the document should have provided sufficient clues for DOT to select the correct Community District.

The site is designated at Block 1118, Lots 1-5. A search on the interactive NYCityMap shows that Block 1118, Lot 1, is located in CB 2, as indicated in the graphic below right.

A search on the official arena address, which as provided is 620 Atlantic Avenue, also shows that the property is located in CB 2.

However, those lots and that address serve as placeholders for a much larger property that covers several lots, and could plausibly have several addresses, as the arena site extends below Pacific Street to Community Board 6,

Revised TV deal for Nets doubles current rate, worth at least $200 million; yet another factor ignored in the cost-benefit analyses

From NetsDaily:
Sports Business Journal reports that the Nets and YES have quietly settled their local TV rights dispute with the Nets receiving a big bump-up --about double what the team received this seaons-- and YES retaining the Nets' rights through 2031-32, a ten year extension of their original deal.

The Nets will receive $20 million a year immediately with increases through the end of the deal. Previously, the Nets were receiving about half that figure, putting them near the bottom of NBA local rights deals. The Nets have had the lowest local TV ratings the last two seasons, but the move to Brooklyn should improve them.
In other words, a new arena, in Brooklyn, is worth a lot--if $20 million a year immediately nearly doubles the current take, that's $200 million over ten years, and likely more, given that increases continue.

What the analysts missed

As with the value of arena naming rights, worth $200 million-plus to Forest City Ratner and the Nets, the value of TV rights was never evaluated by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist in his work for developer Forest City Ratner, which claimed outlandish estimates of new city and state revenue.

Nor, for that matter, did the New York City Independent Budget Office analyze those huge benefits to the developer and team.

Bottom line: gains to the public are speculative (and, to the IBO, losses to the city are likely), while gains to the developer and team are far more certain.