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Showing posts from April, 2016

A hazard on Sixth Avenue: Con Ed truck blocks only functioning sidewalk

After harassment complaints, Greenland Forest City finally rolls out color-coded ID system for construction workers

A "Dear Neighbor" letter was distributed yesterday on some blocks near the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site in Prospect Heights, heralding a long-promised color-coded identification system that should make it easier to recognize project construction workers and should put them on notice that they can be recognized.

The letter states that the developer has "zero tolerance for illegal and inappropriate behavior," does not reference the public (and non-public reports) of sexual harassment and other obnoxious behavior by some fraction of construction workers, reported here and in the Daily News.

One resident who was harassed described in December how in the morning "the neighborhood is swarming with construction workers. As a female it is like being in a shark tank just to walk down your own street."

She earlier this month expressed disappointment that it had taken so long to respond, and Greenland Forest City Partners spokeswoman Ashley Cotton said they were…

Two information sessions, two Community Board announcements for 461 Dean affordable housing

The 461 Dean web site indicates that there will be Affordable Housing Information Sessions on May 10 at BAM and May 16 at Bed-Stuy Restoration, as well as announcements at the Community Board 2 and Community Board 8 General meetings on May 11 and May 12.

It will be interesting to see how the general public responds to the low number of low-income family sized apartments (just 10 of 181 total affordable units) and whether there are any questions about living next to an arena (crowd noise, event noise) and construction truck pathway, or the modular building's history of construction problems.

The web site requests that attendees RSVP to 461dean@mutualhousingny.org or call 718.246.8080 ext 224, but I'm pretty sure you don't have to RSVP to a Community Board meeting.


461 Dean Affordable Lottery, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park

History lesson: B1 was not supposed to block the bank, but even B2 would do so (and now does)

The photo below, showing the nearly finished B2 (aka 461 Dean Street) tower from Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place to the north, reminded me of a fundamental deception behind Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, one that may be relatively small (in the grand scheme of the project) but still telling.

When the project was announced in 2003, Forest City Ratner's promotional material stated that the largest tower, the (then) office building at Flatbush and Atlantic avenue since known as B1, would be "set back slightly from the intersection... to maintain the view corridor to the Williamsburg Bank building."

But that didn't make sense. Not only would the "Miss Brooklyn" tower block the view corridor whether it would be 620 feet tall as proposed or 511 feet as reduced, the tower to the south, B2, would also block the view, as Empire State Development Corporation, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project, later acknowledged:
However, given the location of t…

Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt closed this weekend

An announcement for work that was signaled in the recent Construction Alert:
As part of the construction of the Pacific Park Brooklyn project, ConEd will be installing electrical equipment for 535 Carlton Avenue (B14) & 550 Vanderbilt Avenue (B11). To accommodate this work, one block of Dean Street between Carlton & Vanderbilt Avenues will be temporarily closed to through traffic on Saturday April 30th 8:00AM - 6:00PM and Sunday, May 1st 9:00AM - 6:00PM. Pacific Park Brooklyn Community Liaison Office
1-866-923-5315
communityliaison@pacificparkbrooklyn.com

Empire State Development
1-212-803-3736
atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov

As Islanders go to second round of playoffs, neighborhood braces for noise and disruption

So the New York Islanders, by far the better home team at the Barclays Center, have made it to the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs. That means 7 pm home games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday May 3 and Friday May 6, with a possible game on Tuesday May 10 if the series goes six games.
Ny Islanders Playoff schedule for 2 nd round at Barclays Tues 5/3-7pm,Fri 5/6-7pm,Tue 5/10 TBD * if necessary* — NYPD 78th Precinct (@NYPD78Pct) April 26, 2016 It means likely sellout crowds and an amped fan base. As Newsday's Randi Marshall wrote, "Fans at Sunday’s Game 6 compared the bedlam with some of their best memories at the [Nassau] Coliseum."

The difference is that the Nassau Coliseum was surrounded by parking lots, which meant a tailgating culture and a place to blow off steam without impinging on the neighborhood (though some fraction of fans could get aggressive and nasty toward opposing fans, as noted in this April 2015 account).

That suggests that …

Lottery opens for affordable units at 461 Dean modular tower, part of "revolution in building construction" (but no mention of problems)

So it's out, finally, after some delay: information on the 60-day lottery for the 181 affordable (or, better described as "income-linked") units at the 32-story 461 Dean Street, both via NYC Housing Connect and a new website affordable.461dean.com, with lots of cheerful information.

The building is mostly studios and one-bedroom units. In the lottery, 50% of the units will be set aside for residents (or recent former residents) of Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8. Residents will pay rent based on 30% of their income, which can range from low- to middle-income, a very wide range.

Doubling down

The 461 Dean website doubles down, claiming Brooklyn as a "trendsetter" and "at the center of a revolution in building construction," given that this is "is the tallest modular building in the world."

Unmentioned: the building has taken twice as long as promised, was plagued by leaks and even mold, and has cost far more than expected. Also, while develope…

A document from the April 13 presentation and a railyard photo

There isn't that much illuminating from the six-page presentation from developer Greenland Forest City Partners prepared for the 4/13/16 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting, but the fourth page shows an image that few people see: the work going on in the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Yard.

Overall, the construction is to serve as footings for a deck to support vertical development, but I believe what's pictured is the installation of electrical substation equipment.

04132016 AY QOLPresentation

State says "incident should not have occurred," but no penalties; continued incursions met by lack of enforcement

I got a response yesterday from Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, regarding the incident last Friday in which workers unloaded a truck outside his house a block away from the project, blocking traffic, pedestrians, and a bike lane:
“No contractor is allowed to unload anywhere but at the site, and this incident should not have occurred. We have reinforced to the developer to abide by the regulations of the truck protocols and all other site-related guidelines and made it clear that all deliveries must be made to the project site and never unloaded on neighboring streets.” But my follow-up question--are there any sanctions?--went unanswered.

As I said on the Daily News podcast on Friday, at this point apologies and pledges are insufficient; such incursions must be met by sanctions that offset the advantage the developer gets by inflicting impacts on the community.

This was by no means an isolated incident.

More enforcement i…

From the latest Construction Alert: new street closures coming on Dean, starting tomorrow

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert, (bottom) covering the two weeks beginning yesterday and circulated yesterday at 1:54 pm (late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, segments of Dean Street should be closing at different times.

Notably, tomorrow, 4/27/16, water connection work for the B3 (aka 38 Sixth Avenue) residential tower requires the closure/partial closure of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues.

The work is expected to start after 10 am and be done by 5 pm, as stipulated by DOT permits. Pathways will remain open to pedestrians, as stated in the Community Notice at right. This work will not require any disruption of water service to residents along Dean Street or within the Barclays Center.

Additionally, temporary closures of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues may occur for electrical installations by Con Edison to serve the B11 (550 Vanderbilt) and B14 (535 Carlton) tow…

Ratner and Gilmartin ranked #66 in Commercial Observer's Power 100

So here's the gentle profile (written by a 2014 college grad!) of Forest City Ratner's executives in the Commercial Observer's Power 100 (here's last year's short blurb): 66. MaryAnne Gilmartin and Bruce Ratner (79 in 2015)
President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies and Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies and Executive Vice President of Forest City Enterprises
“If I have to leave my kids everyday, it better be good,” MaryAnne Gilmartin said.
And as president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, she certainly makes it worthwhile. Ms. Gilmartin, who is in charge of the New York City office wing of its Ohio-based parent company, works closely with Bruce Ratner, together spearheading many of the $1.5 billion in projects FCRC has under development.
The company officially started operating as a real estate investment trust under the moniker Forest City Realty Trust on Jan. 1 of this year, which Ms. Gilmartin said has helped the company align wi…

Police scrutiny of off-route truck traffic increasing, linked to death & Atlantic Yards; expect discussion at Tuesday's Precinct Council meeting

DNAinfo reports, in Police Crack Down on Trucks After Cyclist's Death, But Summonses Are Rare, how enforcement efforts in Park Slope last Thursday were welcome but rare.
And yes, there's an Atlantic Yards angle:
In addition to local officers, a team from the NYPD's Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety unit was in the neighborhood Thursday to issue summonses, a police source said. Those officers are specially trained to spot trucks operating illegally and they were invited to Park Slope by local police, the source said.
The action was planned before Gregg's death in response to a recent increase in truck traffic around the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction site, the source said. Expect more discussion of the truck issue at tomorrow's 78th Precinct Community Council meeting, held at 7:30 pm at the station house, at 65 Sixth Avenue at Bergen Street.

What about that MPT presentation about narrowing streets and sidewalks? Not finished, says the state.

Those at the 3/13/16 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn Community Update meeting saw an MPT (Maintenance and Protection of Traffic) presentation, regarding how access to streets and sidewalks will change as construction on the project moves forward.

But that presentation, prepared by Greenland Forest City Partners consultant Stantec and discussed--if not fully evaluated--by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), has not yet been made public on the page maintained by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing and shepherding the project.

I checked with ESD, which told me that the presentation will be posted only when DOT approves it. While it makes some sense to want the most up-to-date information, this was a public meeting, and attendees could simply try to reconstruct the presentation. There's no reason, in my book, not to share that presentation under the caveat that it's a draft.

Are there really 1,700 construction workers (no) and 2,500 arena workers (questionable)?

So, how many people actually work on Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction?

Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton was quoted in a 4/11/16 New York Daily News article regarding plans to create a sticker system to identify construction workers: “At any given time we could have 1,700 construction workers out there. I need levers in order to create accountability for these workers."

However, at the Community Update meeting 4/13/16, Cotton said, regarding that sticker plan, "I have a thousand workers to ID."

That suggests that there are currently 1000 workers. That's tough to believe, just based on the eyeball observations that I and others have made of the site.

But if there were more oversight, as well as the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement (but never hired), maybe we'd know.

Could additional construction on the project site ultimately mean more workers? Possibly. But again, let's have a neutral party evaluate numb…

On Daily News podcast, I and DN's O'Keeffe talk Barclays Center, Pacific Park, and the need for government to step up

Yesterday, I appeared on a New York Daily News Sports podcast with Michael O’Keeffe of the Daily News Sports I-Team, which produced four articles (scroll down to I-Team) on the Barclays Center and the larger Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, and their impact on the neighborhood.



We discussed a lot about the project, including the arena's location, which uses public transit but has a very small margin for error given the tight fit in the neighborhood, the recent quality of life complaints regarding project construction and operations, why some fears of the project didn't come true, the "Culture of Cheating," how sports fandom sometimes leads to narrow thinking, the reason for an arena not designed for hockey, and the impact of the Islanders and "tailgating culture."

I several times said "the devil's in the details," since that refers to so much regarding the project, including whether arena workers are truly happy (they get too few hours), w…

New York City’s Political Power 50: Jonathan Rosen at #26 (and now BerlinRosen part of fund-raising probe)

From the New York Observer's New York City’s Political Power 50:
26. Jonathan Rosen, Co-Founder ofBerlinRosen
Mr. Rosen, of the PR firm BerlinRosen, is perhaps Mr. de Blasio’s best-known outside consultant—but the mayor’s relationship with Mr. Rosen and others has been gaining greater scrutiny. Mr. Rosen is not a lobbyist and as such does not have to disclose his meetings with the mayor, but his firm represents a slew of boldfaced names that have major business at City Hall. BerlinRosen also handles the mayor’s nongovernmental press, putting out his message as Mr. de Blasio continually tries to influence national politics and spinning on issues like his campaign contributions. One of those boldfaced names Rosen represents is, of course, Greenland Forest City Partners and the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project.

It gets complicated

Today, the New York Post reports:
A top aide to Mayor de Blasio and a consulting firm that helped him win City Hall are under investigation as part of a …

Photos: 535 Carlton contractors use Prospect Heights corner a block away for noisy unloading

What's going on here?

Well, as a Prospect Heights resident living near the corner of Bergen Street and Carlton Avenue wrote to Empire State Development (copying me and others), his family and house guest " awoke to copper pipes being dropped into bins at 7:50 am this morning by construction workers from the 535 Carlton Project."

That location, the corner of Bergen and Carlton, is one block south of the construction site, outside the delivery area (and in front of a fire hydrant).

That posed dangers to pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, as the bins blocked both traffic land and bike lane.

The resident confirmed to me that the materials were being delivered to 535 Carlton, which has a fence that extends into the street purportedly to accommodate cranes and deliveries.

Violations

This seems to be both a vehicular violation (blocking street, parking at hydrant, etc.) as well as a violation of the state Memorandum of Environmental Commitments the developer signed, which stat…

DBP's Reed and BP Adams call for downtown Brooklyn upzoning (more/again?) for office space

A 4/20/16 op-ed in Crain's New York Business, from Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, is headlined The Brooklyn boom could get much bigger. Here's how: Unlock the borough's commercial potential before it becomes a victim of its own success.

Citing the surge in high-resident residential construction, the strain on infrastructure, and the low office vacancy rate, the authors write:
To truly satiate demand and allow for firms to grow and stay in the borough, we must look beyond basic market forces to generate the additional commercial density needed to secure the future of Brooklyn’s economy. Wasn't that exactly the point of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning? Yup. Except the rules were written loosely enough to allow upzoning for housing development, without any reciprocal affordable housing, and that was far more lucrative than building office space.

They call for measures to "meet the original goals of t…

LIRR weekend pile-drilling work announced; Dean Street block closed this weekend for utility work

There will be Long Island Rail Road pile-drilling work this weekend, according to an announcement from the developer, though no indication was made regarding the level of noise. (This weekend work was not specified in the most recent Construction Update.)

Also, Con Edison will be doing electrical work this weekend, thus closing Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues during daytime hours Saturday and Sunday.

This also was not specified in the Construction Update, which typically covers only work done at the behest of developer Greenland Forest City Partners. However, community complaints at the last public meeting led the developer to pledge to try to alert residents to such project-related work.

A message from Pacific Park Brooklyn:
As part of the Pacific Park Brooklyn construction, contractors will be drilling piles below grade in the LIRR yard near 6th Avenue between Atlantic Avenue & Pacific Street from 7AM - 7PM on Saturday, April 23, 2016 and Sunday, April 24, 201…

A bicyclist killed by truck in North Slope off truck route; continuing concern regarding trucks on residential streets around Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park

Yesterday, as reported by outlets such as Gothamist and Streetsblog, a truck driver on narrow Sixth Avenue killed a cyclist at Sterling Place. (I lived near there for 17 years.)

There's no evidence the truck was heading to or from the Barclays Center, but the construction and operation of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has changed the road system, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis. One Gothamist commenter wrote, "Trucks on 6th have become much more of an issue since the Barclays Center opened."

Gothamist noted that the 78th Precinct, which has found a number of moving violations, has not issued tickets for violating a truck route. The rules are somewhat flexible, but not completely so:
An operator is allowed to travel on a street that is not a designated truck route for the purpose of arriving at his or her destination.When accessing such a location, the operator must leave a designated truck route at the intersection that is nearest to his/her destination, proceed by th…

Another Islanders playoff game, another episode of post-game honking and yelling

At least it didn't happen around midnight, as on Sunday. The post-playoff experience last night, after the New York Islanders' playoff game, started at about 11:15 and lasted 30 minutes, with fans honking and screaming.



That suggests that the recently-announced Islanders Code of Conduct hasn't had any effect; in fact, if it is this document, it says nothing about post-game conduct.

Some Islanders fans commenting on Twitter, YouTube, and my previous post essentially said "Get over it."

In other words, this is what happens with a boisterous fan base after an important hockey game, and it's wrong or unrealistic to expect quiet. Maybe.

If so, then maybe it's important not to build sports facilities without more of a cordon around them, as New York City zoning regulations require--and were overridden by the state in the case of the Barclays Center.

Are new Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park investors sought to make project go "even" faster? Evidence suggests some delay (+Greenland stress?)

On Tuesday, 4/12/16, the Real Deal reported that Greenland Forest City Partners was seeking new investors for three buildings: the planned B12 and B13 condo towers on the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site, as well as the B4 tower--where the developers aim to build office space, after previously planning apartments--at the northeast corner of the arena block.

The next night, at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting, a spokeswoman for the developer wouldn't say much about that plan, but her words, I think, were inadvertently revealing,

"There was report earlier about B12, B13, B4 being marketed," said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. "Is that accurate?"

"Yes, there is a report that is accurate that we are seeking to recapitalize our investment in order to make the project run even more expediously [sic]," responded Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton. "So we are interes…

If B4 tower won't include affordable units, will they go into Site 5? Developer won't say.

On 6/27/14, Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials announced a plan that set 2025 as the deadline for the Atlantic Yards affordable housing--after the longstanding ten-year timetable had been extended to 25 years, with an "outside date" of 2035.

The compromise also included this pledge:
Ensuring sustained development of affordable housing by requiring that the project developers will provide 35 percent of the completed units at the site as affordable housing units until 1,050 affordable housing units are built. This new deal ensures that the delivery of affordable units does not lag behind the creation of market rate units. After 1,050 units, then the percentage of affordable units could drop, for a time, to 25 percent, until it was raised with a final buildout of three 50/50 (affordable/market-rate) towers.

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, who helped negotiate that new timetable, warned--as I wrote 4/6/16--that if the B4 tower at the …

When truck delivering sheetrock blocks Dean Street, it also signals flaws in modular plan (incomplete components installed)

The main point of the Instagram posting below from yesterday is to show how a delivery truck for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction blocks a turning lane (and bicycle lane), next to a closed sidewalk along the B3 (aka 38 Sixth Avenue) site on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues.

But note that the truck is delivering sheetrock to the site of adjacent B2 (aka 461 Dean Street), the only tower being built via experimental--and, we now know, flawed--modular construction.

They're not supposed to have to deliver sheetrock. That's the whole point of modular construction.

As developer Forest City Ratner (which owns this building outright, as it's not part of the joint venture with Greenland USA) explained in 2012 most building components--sections of apartments--are supposed to be delivered finished from the factory, with workers on site placing the modules and connecting building systems.

However, after leaks and mold plagued the lower floors, as I reported last Au…

Resorts World NYC Casino Plaza: public amenity or fan gathering space?

Oh, remember that one justification for moving the bulk of the unbuilt B1 tower across Flatbush Avenue to build what I've dubbed the "Brooklyn Behemoth," according to Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, is that "a key thing we think we can accomplish with this is keeping the plaza permanent open space."

That positions it as a public amenity, rather than a branded business deal, since the official name is the Resorts World NYC Casino Plaza.

It's also a key safety valve for arena attendees. In fact, as WPIX-11 (a partner with the Barclays Center, remember) reported yesterday, in Islanders fans swarm Barclays Center for playoff festivities, it was the scene for a modified tailgate: attendees "were greeted by live bands, team gear and a chance to hang out with some hockey legends."

For now, AY CDC's Jaiyesimi wears new hat, taking over ESD Atlantic Yards role from Filler

An interesting piece of news emerged at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting last Wednesday.

Tobi Jaiyesimi, who last January was named Executive Director of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, an advisory body that's a subsidiary of Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, now has additional duties.

"I wanted to let you know a slight staffing change on our end. Sam Filler is currently still at ESD. He has transitioned roles, and he will no longer working directly on this project," Jaiyesimi said. " I will be taking on some of his responsibilities as relates to this project specifically."

Does she have a new title, I asked.

"No, I like Director of the AY CDC," she said, adding that things are still in transition.

Indeed, they'll have to update the Welcome message (right) on the ESD's Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park page, at least.

Question raised: institutional memory

The Islanders win a playoff game. Fans celebrate at midnight. Neighbors endure it, on a school night.

It was their first playoff game ever in Brooklyn last night, and there was a full house watching the New York Islanders win in overtime, their first victory in three games against the Florida Panthers.

One witness describing the atmosphere--in a building often criticized for being unfriendly to hockey--as "every bit as lively, raucous and boisterous as what you’ll find in any other building in the National Hockey League."

And that meant it spilled out into the street as midnight approached, and even afterward--on a school night. The video below--shot halfway down Pacific Street from the arena--shows yelling and honking.. Apparently the new "Islanders Code of Conduct" can only go so far.

The arena operators need to do more, but they face a challenge. Fans understandably want to celebrate, and they'd be even louder if they were tailgating outside the Nassau Coliseum.

But the arena backs into a residential neighborhood. The next home playoff game is Wednesday, als…

A hazardous situation at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street

Yesterday was a rough one for pedestrians at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, where construction continued on the northwest corner for the B3 tower, aka 38 Sixth Avenue.

As detailed in the first Instagram post, a flagger waved vehicles through even when pedestrians had the green, thus putting them in peril. As shown in the second post from Wayne Bailey, a truck blocked southbound traffic on Sixth Avenue, though there should have been a place inside the construction fence for such trucks.

An email sent to me by Dean St Resident reports "nearly got ran over" this morning because of #pacificparkbk Safeway Atlantic 18 wheeler blocked entire traffic lane at 6th Ave & Dean St and "flag man kept waving cars through" when pedestrians had the walk light, "glad I'm alive to tell story" #535carlton #550vanderbilt #38sixthave #pacificparkbk #78thprecinct #communityboard8 #615Dean #664pacific #pedistriansafety #moreenvironmentalmonitors @empireststedev email sent …