Automatic Traffic Recorders and manual counters have been sighted at some of the intersections in the vicinity of the arena in the last few days. The photo to the right shows a counter in a green safety vest at Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street Saturday, June 2nd at 8:15 PM.
They are a sign the baseline study is currently underway that will provide one set of data later to be used to assess the success of Sam Schwartz Engineering's Transportation Demand Management Program. Apparently at least some data in the FEIS will still be used as well because the baseline study includes a smaller study scope than the FEIS.
The idea of a baseline study was disclosed to the public in the fall of 2011. Its final version was released in April. It includes 56 intersections that will be assessed using manual counts. That information will be supplemented with 51 automatic traffic recorders (ATRs). The manual counts will provide vehicle turning movement volumes, pedestrian crossing volumes and bicycle volumes. The ATRs will provide a continuous count of vehicle volumes over the course of 9 days. The study also includes "travel time runs." They will assess the speed and amount of time it takes for vehicles to travel along Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, 3rd Avenue, and 4th Avenue.
On Tuesday, May 22nd FCRC and their traffic consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering will present their long-delayed Transportation Demand Management program (TDM). PHNDC (an Atlantic Yards Watch sponsor) has developed some questions we'd like to hear answered during the presentation.
FCRC is required to implement a TDM as part of the 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) between FCRC and ESDC. The specific TDM actions required by the MEC are reprinted at the end of this article.
Robust TDM plans include both incentives and disincentives to discourage driving and parking. (AYW has already written about the need for disincentives.) The known details of FCRC’s TDM plan only include incentives. Disincentives such as Residential Parking Permits and an arena parking surcharge can only be implemented with the assistance of the City and State.
The parameters of the TDM, as laid out in the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, are carefully worded in a way that limits FCRC's ongoing responsibility to provide meaningful relief from the large volume of traffic generated by a 19,000 seat venue. Before the opening of the arena, FCRC is required to "implement incentives to reduce traffic demand associated with the operation of the Project to reduce the overall number of vehicles coming to the arena for a Nets game within one-half mile of the arena by 30% of the initially projected demand." (Italics added.) As we discuss further below, the plan's goal isn't actually to reduce the number of arena patrons driving, but the number of patrons driving within a certain radius and at certain times to the arena. We may see less gridlock at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, but the bridges and local streets - one-half mile removed from the Barclays Center - may still be flooded with traffic.
Unlike most arenas and stadiums in the country, Barclays Center operations are tightly squeezed into residential neighborhoods. Capacity shortfalls in the vicinity of the arena from fewer on-site parking spaces, travel lanes and lay-by lanes than anticipated in the FEIS, should be a meaningful incentive for the TDM to exceed the original performance goals. Even if Forest City claims it will be able to do better than what's required of them, there's no way to verify this: the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments does not require any oversight to evaluate TDM measures beyond the first six-months after the arena opening.
Here are some questions we'd like to have answered by Forest City and Sam Schwartz:
ESDC and FCRC have issued a supplemental construction alert giving notice that work in Vanderbilt railyard will be extended to 24 hours a day for some periods through June. Work already takes place in the railyard from 6 AM to 3 AM. The notice states that working hours are being expanded to help speed up the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge. Work to reconstruct the bridge began in December 2010, nearly 3 years after it was closed for reconstruction.
According to the notice, plumbing work scheduled over the next few weeks and located in the section of the railyard between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues cannot be executed while other work is taking place there. It is described as "quiet work" that will be localized and intermittent. The work will be lit either by the LIRR yard's permanent lights (only those lights in the vicinity of the work), or by portable lights.
The hours the lights will be used will be expanded again when the "cutover" of LIRR operations from the southern tracks to the northern tracks takes place. Around the clock work will occur immediately before and during the cutover, which will take place over the course of two weekends in mid-June. Moving LIRR operations to the northern tracks is the next step in the construction of the railyard. The southern half now has to be lowered 27 feet to be at the same height as the recently excavated northern half.
Community groups learned from Empire State Development Corporation CEO Kenneth Adams on May 2 that less than half of the 1,100 parking spaces required for arena patrons in ESDC’s 2006 and 2009 development agreements with Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) would be available at the opening of Barclays Center. FCRC and ESDC appear to believe their Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan will be effective enough to revise expected demand for arena patron parking on-site down by 50%.
Robust TDM plans include both incentives and disincentives to discourage driving and parking. We’ll know more about the TDM plan for Barclays Center on May 22 when FCRC, its transportation consultant, NYCTA and LIRR present it. But the details of the TDM plan in the 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments include only incentives, and the draft scope of the TDM plan FCRC’s consultant presented to community groups in January did not include some effective disincentives.
Barclays Center still appears to guarantee reserved parking to all suite-holders. Its web site includes the following information on its FAQ page:
On May 2, ESDC's CEO Kenneth Adams announced there would be "south" of 550 parking spaces in block 1129. He said the target is to deliver half of the 1,100 detailed in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP). The project plan since 2006 has always required 1,100 parking spaces for arena patrons in the entire Atlantic Yards Project footprint. The original plan detailed up to 944 spaces in total in block 1129 with a large percentage used by non-arena generated vehicles. Only in 2009 were the plans changed to place all arena patron parking in block 1129.
The commitment to provide 1,100 arena patron parking spaces inside the project footprint has now run up against the physical constraints of block 1129, forcing a reduction by the developer. AYW's analysis also suggests the 944 spaces detailed in 2006 would have run up against the same constraints.
The plans of ESDC and FCRC run up against the laws of physics
In order to enable the parking lot on block 1129 to fit the 1,100 spaces required for arena patrons, the 2009 MGPP mentioned the possibility of the use of stackers. In an ambitious multi-tasking of the only space available, the lot also became home to the parking for residents of building B2, employees of the 78th Precinct and construction workers. In addition, a LIRR facility was added, 754 Pacific Street was retained for construction offices, and the lifespan of the use of construction staging at the location was lengthened.
Below is a copy of an open letter sent to the Mayor and to The New York Times by a local resident. The resident lives near what is now the construction staging area for the project and will soon become a full block of surface parking. It is also currently anticipated to continue as a location for construction staging for 25 years or more. Unlike most arenas and stadiums around the country, the operation of Barclays Center is integrated into a residential community.
April 27, 2012
An open letter to Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York:
My daughter Chelsea was born December 29, 2010 in the nasty aftermath of the Blizzard that crippled New York. Conquering the obstacles of unplowed Brooklyn streets, we made it to the hospital in one piece and came home with our little girl. We’re New Yorkers and can navigate a difficult situation. However, since bringing her home almost a year and a half ago, her days and nights have been filled with the relentless noise, dust, dirt and vibration of a project that you’ve given your support to: The Atlantic Yards Project.
Our apartment on Carlton Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn faces the staging area for this development that few have rallied for and many have opposed. Last night at 11:00 pm our entire apartment shook with a force equal to or greater than that of the earthquake that hit this area last summer. This morning tractors were buzzing around at 4:00 a.m. This has become the status quo and I’ve had enough. I’m not opposed to development, but I am most definitely opposed to disrupting the sleep and well being of a community.
I now go to bed at night dreading the inevitable wake ups. My wife and I take sleeping pills in an effort to sleep through the disruptions. We create white noise in the bedrooms to drown out the noise. My blood pressure has gone up in this time and my daughter wakes up crying.
My wife and I have lodged a dozen or so calls to 311, contacted the Atlantic Yards Project, called our Council Member, complained to one of the trucking companies, and logged complaints on a locally run website. Unfortunately, it’s a fruitless effort and I believe our only recourse may be incurring the expense and disruption of packing up my family and moving from a home and neighborhood that we love.
I don’t know why the lives of regular people should be so disrupted night after night, potentially for years to come, to expedite the interests of a few, but I’m hoping you can answer that question. We've all heard the litany of politically tested platitudes that usually surround controversial developments, what can you do to help us out? It’s not right. Chelsea and the rest of us deserve a good night sleep, don’t you think?
Prospect Heights Resident
AYW has learned that Forest City Ratner's engineering firm Stantec has filed an application with the NYC Department of Buildings for construction of a surface parking lot on block 1129 (bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street) for Barclays Center patrons. The application specifies 722 parking spaces for the lot, and a 30 foot curb cut on Vanderbilt Avenue. The application documents indicate installation of 16 detention tanks for storm water management, presumably instead of planting areas that would otherwise reduce storm water runoff from the lot. The application also calls for fencing at the lot line, calling into question the four feet of planted space buffering the fence and the lot specified in the Technical Memo issued by ESDC in December 2010 in response to a court decision in litigation challenging the agency's approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan. As of May 2, the application is under review at DOB pending approval.
The application carries a legend "THIS SITE IS EXEMPT FROM COMPLYING WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE NYC ZONING RESOLUTION AS PER LETTER DATED DEC.20,2011 FROM ESDC." The text of the letter is not available from the DOB web site, so it is not clear on what basis exemption is claimed. Atlantic Yards' 2009 Modified General Project Plan did not disclose an override to NYC zoning regulations for surface parking lots. AYW has argued that the lot should be designed to comply with City zoning requirements.
Unlike nearly every other arena and stadium in the country, Barclays Center is fit tightly inside residential neighborhoods. It is largely surrounded by one way local streets and residential-width sidewalks, not the highways and commercial-width sidewalks that serve most other facilities of its kind.
Changes to the project have resulted in less capacity for travel lanes, lay by-lanes and sidewalks than was originally analyzed in the project's environmental impact statement. Now, a survey by AYW confirms the sidewalks in the vicinity of Atlantic Yards also have less capacity for pedestrians than the project's environmental analysis anticipates. The study finds that a critical measurement used in the formula to assess sidewalk capacity by the State was regularly used incorrectly in the FEIS. As a result, the capacity of more than 86% of the sidewalks in the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) are overstated, often by significant margins.
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
About a year ago, we launched Atlantic Yards Watch because construction at the Atlantic Yards site had resulted in severe impacts to the quality of life of the project’s neighbors, and it seemed like nobody in government was paying attention. We wanted to provide a way for residents to log incidents and make those reports visible. Since then, we believe the community’s reporting on issues like rodent infestation, illegal parking by construction workers, and violations of air quality protocols have helped to spur action on the part of the City and the ESDC to better enforce regulations and project commitments.
We encourage folks submitting incidents to call 311 first to get a report number. If you have a look at our incident page, you will see sometimes people do, and sometimes they don’t. We think construction impacts in general would be addressed more effectively if more people submitted their reports to 311, especially now that your office has assigned a resource to coordinate response from City agencies and work with the ESDC. It’s even possible that if all reports were submitted to 311, and 311 was able to sort and categorize them appropriately and report them on the City’s website, we might not need to continue to run AYW any longer, and we could go back to our regular jobs.
That brings us to the point of this letter. Recently, we were informed by representatives of your office that all callers reporting Atlantic Yards incidents to 311 would be required to identify the location of the incident as “620 Atlantic Avenue” so 311 would be able to identify the report as being related to Atlantic Yards. This is the case even if the incident being reported is blocks away from 620 Atlantic Avenue. Frankly, we don’t think this is going to work. For the last eight years, thousands of people living near the project have been used to thinking of the site as “Atlantic Yards” or “Barclays Center,” in part because Forest City Ratner has spent hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of dollars publicizing those names. Nobody recognizes “620 Atlantic Avenue.” However, we were told that enabling the 311 system to key incident reports to “Atlantic Yards” or “Barclays Center” would require the entire system to be rewritten.
Loud noises at night have triggered multiple incident reports filled with the exasperation of local residents in the last several days and weeks. One Dean Street resident last night shouted "Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!" to a worker banging his crowbar against a fender in the staging area at 10:30 PM. In another case a resident on Vanderbilt reports a vibration so impactful artwork fell off the walls at 12:15 AM.
A resident on St. Mark's Avenue reports "intense pounding/crashing noises coming from the construction site as I write -- "and we are 3 blocks away with sound-proofed windows! ... How is this permissable?" St. Marks Avenue is uphill from the construction site and some rear windows have an unobstructed path for sounds emanating from the construction site. The filer reports noise extending to 1 AM on Wednesday night.
Another filer from Pacific Street reports two "extremely noisy" nights in a row and that "the loud beeping sound of the trucks with loud bangs and booms stops me from sleeping. I can still hear it even with ear plugs." The filer also complains about the "bright white stadium lights that shine directly into my bedroom window." The lights are railyard lights installed to faciliate LIRR repairs that can only be executed when the railyard is dormant, but have been retasked by FCRC for use now by construction crews. The filer asks, "Does anyone take these complaints seriously or will I have to takes matters into my own hands and seek legal advice?"