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Showing posts from August, 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…

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 ident…

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…

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,…

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 …

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 i…

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 n…

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 yfrog.com/kl2jyfxj."



The photo, shot at about 5:45 pm, shows the arena site. There appea…

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 ameniti…

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 nei…

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.

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…

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 ORDERS ALL CONSTRUCTION WORK IN NEW YORK CITY SUSPENDED THIS WEEKEND DUE TO IMPACTS OF HURRICANE IRENEBuildings 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 wi…

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 id…

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…

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…

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 &…

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 "S…

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

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 eberenblit@dot.nyc.gov.)

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 secu…

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 tr…

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 …