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Showing posts from March, 2014

Revealed: Atlantic Yards modular construction means 22% drop in costs/wages, 10% cut in jobs, 24% loss in tax revenues

When Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner unveiled plans to build the 16 towers in the Atlantic Yards project via innovative, cost-saving modular construction, CEO Bruce Ratner told the Times in November 2011 that modular would “probably” require the same number of workers.

Spokesman Joe DePlasco told WNYC that a previously announced figure of 17,000 construction jobs announced was still expected.

A year later, in a public presentation in Brooklyn, Forest City executive Melissa Burch surprised some audience members by echoing a PowerPoint presentation that stated “Modular construction will require approximately the same number of man-hours as conventional construction.”


If so, Forest City would be saving not because fewer workers would be hired, but only because cross-trained union workers inside the modular factory, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, would be paid less than workers on site.
New numbers
But those predictions were unreliable and, perhaps, mendacious.

According to…

From Atlantic Yards Watch: in the early morning, construction vehicles make intrusive noise; goal is to reduce noise "to extent feasible"

On Friday, 3/28/14, as the board of Empire State Development took routine steps to advance Atlantic Yards, they heard from several residents about the deleterious impact of project construction on their lives.

One example, not mentioned aloud but posted on the web, appeared on Atlantic Yards Watch early that morning. As noted:
Whether from deliveries, or from construction work itself, the back-up alarm for construction vehicles are getting triggered early in the morning on block 1129 and Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt. The back-up alarm cuts right through good quality double paned windows.
There is no notice in the construction alerts of work occurring outside of normal construction hours in this location. A recent supplemental construction alert gives notice of after hours work at Atlantic and 6th.
A video can be found here shot through a closed window:
The Memorandum of Environmental Commitments [here] states FCRC will comply with the following measures in the const…

At ESD Board meeting, routine approval of Draft Supplemental EIS marred by neighbors’ criticisms, director’s reservations

By the standards of Empire State Development, the gubernatorial-directed, not-so-accountable authority that oversees and shepherds Atlantic Yards, it counted as a moment of glasnost.

The ESD’s board yesterday had sat through some 20 minutes of public comment from Atlantic Yards neighbors who managed, with short notice, to attend a board meeting during business hours, regarding the ESD’s inevitable acceptance of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS).

While four commenters offered sober, if pointed criticisms of the ESD’s performance in monitoring Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, the lack of accountability in the project, the impacts of delays in affordable housing, and the flaws in the just-released DSEIS, the final commenter got emotional.

Taniya Gunasekara broke down in tears, lamenting the project’s impact on her two-year-old child, and stated, “I’ve lived in New York for ten years, I’m no stranger to noise and pollution. But what is going on in o…

Public hearing scheduled Wednesday, April 30, for comment on Atlantic Yards Draft Supplemental EIS

According to a notice issued yesterday by Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing and shepherding Atlantic Yards, a public hearing will be held Wednesday, April 30, at Long Island University, 75 DeKalb Avenue, Room HS107, Brooklyn, New York, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for public comment on the court-ordered environmental review of the project's Phase 2.

As noted yesterday, the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement discloses minor problems as well as minor mitigations, though it sidesteps some issues. The ESD also will consider modifications to the project, shifting some 200,000 square feet of bulk to Phase 2, and considering two levels of reduced on-site parking.

Comments on the DSEIS and the Proposed Amendment are requested, at the hearing and/or in writing. Comments on the DSEIS must be received at ESD on or before Monday, May 12, 2014. Comments on the Proposed Amendment must be received at ESD on or before Friday, May 30, 2014.

Written comments should…

As expected, Draft SEIS says extended buildout no big deal outside immediate blocks; modular impact comparable to any night-time trucks (!); minor mitigations proposed, public hearing coming

So, what's important in the 132 pages about Atlantic Yards released yesterday in the board materials for today's meeting of Empire Statement Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, beyond the planned arena green roof, cageyness about blight, dismissal of multiple developers, and plans for reduced parking that I already mentioned?

Well, first, recognize that the entire point of the court-ordered environmental review is kind of moot. 
Despite  Empire State Development's failure to study the potential impact of a 25-year project buildout when Atlantic Yards was re-approved in 2009, ESD--via ubiquitous consultant AKRF--reliably found few impacts of consequence and, thus, makes relatively few recommendations for mitigations, according to the Executive Summary of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
 Directors are planning to: Accept the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“DSEIS”) as satisfactory Adopt the March 2014…

Flatbush Avenue building that was to house Kemistry is up for sale

The Commercial Observer reports that the Flatbush Avenue building once destined for Kemistry, a lounge/club that planned bottle service and was denied a liquor license, is up for sale, for $8 million:
The residential and retail property, at 260 Flatbush Avenue, also known as 89-91 Prospect Place, is being exclusively marketed by Eastern Consolidated. The buyer can erect a seven-story addition on top of the existing 3,975-square-foot, one-story structure.
The approved plans for the building call for a 20,335-square-foot mixed-use building with 14 residential units accessible via a lobby entrance on Prospect Place, a recreation room for tenants and one retail space with 31 feet of frontage on Flatbush Avenue. The existing structure spans the entire block-through lot and includes a full basement, which houses the building’s primary systems. The seller paid $3.98 million in November 2006. The site is a few blocks from the Barclays Center.

Draft SEIS: no to multiple developers; hint of Greenland delay; notable push to cut parking (but no push for permits); parking plan shown

So, what's important in the 132 pages about Atlantic Yards released today in the board materials for tomorrow's meeting of Empire Statement Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, beyond the planned arena green roof and cageyness about blight I already mentioned?

Well, note that document is far more descriptive about reducing parking in the project to 1200 spaces--and unconcerned about the competition for free parking in the neighborhood--than about whether undeveloped sites should be bid out to other developers.
Below is the statement, in full, in the Executive Summary of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), which was released prior to the board meeting. (The full DSEIS presumably will be released tomorrow and offer more analysis.) MULTIPLE DEVELOPER ALTERNATIVE
The analysis of the multi-developer alternative concludes that the alternative would not be practicable, and would not be effective in accelerating construction o…

Draft SEIS is notably cagey about goal of blight removal; provides three construction phasing plans but says they're not predictive

So, what's important in the 132 pages about Atlantic Yards released today in the board materials for tomorrow's meeting of Empire Statement Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, beyond the planned arena green roof I already mentioned?

Well, consider that the Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) understandably indicates that a delayed buildout of Phase 2 of the project until 2035 or so wouldn't cause significant problems.
Is that delayed buildout likely? Unclear. 
According to the ESD, illustrative phasing plans are not supposed to be predictive. In fact, the joint venture documentation with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group "includes a target construction schedule that is comparable to the duration studied in the 2006 FEIS," or a ten-year buildout.
What about blight?
Still, the DSEIS is notably cagey about one of the main goals of the project, the removal of blight, which gets mentioned infrequently. …

Yes, green roof planned for Barclays Center. But is it also aimed to contain escaping bass?

Update: see the Preliminary FAQ.

Yes, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner plans a green roof on the Barclays Center, as I conjectured last month, based on the hint that "modifications" were planned, to be paid for in part by expected new partner the Greenland Group.

That certainly would make the arena roof--once designated for public access, remember--a more pleasant site for residents of the new housing around the arena.
But I suspect that this "secondary roof" will also be designed to contain the escaping bass that also has plagued the arena, and has not been resolved. If so that's progress. But Forest City doesn't like to admit such things--they'd rather portray this as a nice greening of the arena.

From the summary of the Draft Supplementary Impact Statement, part of Board Materials for tomorrow's meeting of the Empire State Development's board: In addition to the above, the project sponsors are considering the construction and insta…

From the Response to Comments: the conundrum of an unfinished Phase 1, plus unexamined impacts of undisclosed arena elements

I've been going through the Response to Comments document produced by Empire State Development to accompany the release last month of the Final Scope for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. (The SEIS is coming this spring, and more information may be announced at the ESD board meeting tomorrow.)

A judge ordered a SEIS regarding Phase 2 of the project, but Phase 1 isn't finished.

So that sets up a conundrum: the baseline condition will assume Phase 1 is finished, but...  it's not. So the construction impacts of the remaining Phase 1 buildings will also be analyzed. But Phase 1 as construction will be assumed to be part of the background condition.

No, it doesn't quite make sense to me, either.

What's the baseline?

The comment:
Comment 18: The baseline should start now, not at the time of the completion of all of Phase I. There is no logic to moving the baseline to a point the project agreements don’t even require to exist, especially given changes to the …

Supplemental alert: overnight excavation at intersection of Atlantic and Sixth avenues

AtlanticYards.com, not Empire State Development (which usually circulates them), today sent a  Supplemental Report to the previously issued two-week Construction Alert:
LIRR Yard Activities Block 1120 & 1121
New Information: In connection with work that will be taking place in the yard, the contractor will be performing test pits (small area excavations) within the vicinity of the Atlantic Avenue and 6th Avenue intersection. The purpose of these test pits are to determine the location of underground structures and utilities. The excavations will be plated and/or patched over at the end of each work day.

Work will be performed in accordance with DOT permits which require that the work be performed at night (10 pm to 6 am). Work will be performed, between the time frame of March 24, 2014 and April 23, 2014, with the initial work taking place during the overnight hours of March 25-27th. No weekend work is contemplated at this time.
Part of the work will impact the Atlantic Avenue bus …

At Empire State Development meeting Friday, Atlantic Yards should be on the agenda

While there's no public notice of the agenda yet, Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing and shepherding Atlantic Yards, is expected to discuss the project at its board meeting Friday, March 28, at 9:30 a.m.

ESD is supposed to issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement this spring. (It will appear on this page.)

Also potentially at issue is an update on developer Forest City Ratner's planned sale of 70% of the project going forward to the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group.

(Dealing with foreign-owned companies, as evidenced by the intrigue involving Mikhail Prokhorov's plans to move the Nets' business office to Russia, has grown more complicated, at least when the owners are located in global powers in potential conflict with the United States.)

Meeting details

According to the public notice, the meeting will be at:
Empire State Development
633 Third Avenue
37th floor Conference Room
New York, NY 10017

The meeting is open to the public, b…

Praise for 78th Precinct's response after Wrestlemania buses idling in arena parking lot across from residences

There may be a flaw in the monthly list of events (March, April) circulated to neighbors by the Barclays Center. While the calendar helpfully indicates the number of attendees expected, that does not necessarily indicate the impact on the community.

For example, Nets crowds tend to know the drill, and get in and out fairly quickly, while one-off concerts, especially those appealing to older crowds, tend to draw many more vehicles, including idling limos.

And some shows, whether or not they draw huge crowds, involve lots of equipment trucks, which--especially if they're infrequent visitors to Brooklyn--may well impinge on the neighborhood.

Such was the case Monday, 3/24/14, with the WWE brought its wrestling extravaganza to Brooklyn, leaving trucks to idle in a parking lot across the street from residences.

Last night, at the 78th Precinct Community Council meeting, neighbors thanked Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri and his crew, notably Community Affairs Officer Brian Laffey, for th…

From Brooklyn Bureau: Plan for Community Use of Barclays Center Emerges (10 events, at a discount)

From my article in City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau today, Plan for Community Use of Barclays Center Emerges:
One anticipated—and delayed—element of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a promise to rent the arena “to community groups for at least ten (10) events per year, at a reasonable rate, with net proceeds from such events to be used to support nonprofit community organizations.”
That community events program should finally become visible when the Barclays Center begins its third season of operations, at the end of September. Given the “significantly reduced cost,” said organizer Sharon Daughtry, executive director of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), who spoke at a launch event March 14, “a lot of money can be funneled into our community organizations.”
Such events—which could include fundraisers, concerts, job fairs, and banquets—may be held in various arena locations, including the arena bowl, the Cushman & Wakefield Theater (a truncate…

Geopolitical pickle: Nets owner Prokhorov pursues unprecedented effort to move team under a Russian company

So, the Russian savior of the Nets, who has a cordial relationship with President Vladimir Putin and is own political ambitions, is caught up in a bit of a geopolitical pickle, yet unresolved, an unprecedented effort to move the company owning the team overseas. 
Bloomberg News reported yesterday Billionaire Prokhorov Heeding Putin Call With NBA’s Nets: Less than two years after taking the New Jersey Nets over the Hudson River to Brooklyn, billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov is planning a longer move: to Russia.
No, they won’t play their home games there, but Prokhorov is planning on putting the basketball team under the control of one of his Russian companies. The move would help Prokhorov fulfill President Vladimir Putin’s request that Russian-owned overseas companies be registered locally and pay taxes to his government. Prokhorov told reporters in the Kremlin yesterday that such a transfer would comply with the National Basketball Association’s rules. That also would ensure the N…