24-hour work to move LIRR operations from the southern to the northern half of Vanderbilt Railyards (referred to as the "cutover" in ESDC's Atlantic Yards construction alerts) is causing consternation among residents. AYW has received several complaints about jackhammers, saws, and the persistent beeping of reversing construction vehicles. One resident describes "jackhammering, tons of noise."
The video to the right is a of a worker using a saw on LIRR's tracks at 2 AM. The filer of the incident report that includes the video has a decibel meter and reports a 120 db level. No steps to attenuate the noise are visible in the video.
The use of noisy equipment like saws and jackhammers is not specified in the most recent construction alert. The alert warns the community about the intermittent use of the LIRR railyard's lights all night, and that from 3:30 PM to 1:00 PM "loud banging noises by dump trucks will occur as they empty their loads of stone in the east yard between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues." But it does not describe jackhammering or the use of saws, and the noisy work described ends at 1:00 AM, not the later hours that the incident reports from nearby residents describe.
The Nets announced yesterday that Jay-Z will open the Brooklyn location of his 40/40 Club in the Barclays Center arena. The announcement states the 9,000-square foot venue will be ready for Jay-Z's opening night concert September 28. AYW estimates the capacity of the venue to be approximately 300 people.
The Brooklyn 40/40 club appears to follow the model of Jay-Z's other locations in Manhattan and Atlantic City. Those locations are open until 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM, respectively. At the Manhattan club, the schedule lists events that begin after 10:00 PM most nights of the week. If the Brooklyn location is covered by the liquor license currently under review by the State Liquor Authority, the Brooklyn location would presumably close at 2:00 AM based on a recent letter from Barclays Center's attorney to CB6.
40/40 Clubs in Atlantic City and Manhattan prominently feature bottle service. In recent months, proposals for new restaurants Prime 6 and Kemistry Lounge offering bottle service have found stiff resistance from local neighbors. At its May 2 general meeting, Community Board 6 denied Kemistry's application for a full liquor license. At the same meeting, CB6 granted conditional approval to the Barclays Center application based on representations made by Barclays Center management at an April public meeting that liquor service would end before the fourth quarter of NBA events. Since that time, it has been revealed that the Barclays Center would also operate clubs that will continue to serve alcohol up to one hour after events, as late as 2:00 AM. The 40/40 announcement comes less than a week before the second of two hearings in front of the State Liquor Authority regarding Barclays Center's license.
A letter from Barclays Center attorney William Schrieber to Brooklyn Community Board 6 dated June 5 mentions a detail of the arena's plans for liquor sales that apparently has not been disclosed up to now: Barclays Center's four clubs will serve alcohol up to one hour after arena events end—as late as 2:00 AM.
Section 5 of Mr. Schrieber's letter states:
"For premium, limited access areas of the Arena such as the suites, clubs and the restaurant, alcohol service will continue until one hour after the end of NBA games and other events.
"Sales of alcoholic beverages for all public events at the Arena will end throughout the Arena, including the suites, clubs and the restaurant, no later than 2:00 a.m."
At an April 10 public meeting held at the 78th Precinct station house, representatives from Barclays Center maintained that liquor sales would end at the beginning of the fourth quarter of NBA games. No exception for the arena clubs was stated. Officials from Forest City Ratner Companies, when asked about liquor sales during public meetings, have likewise maintained that sales would end at the beginning of the fourth quarter. FCRC tends to frame discussions of arena operations in terms of NBA games, even though such games make up less than 20% of the 220 events expected to take place at Barclays Center each year.
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.