Study finds many problems remain after years of reports showing noncompliance with environmental commitments were submitted to ESDC
An analysis of documents submitted by the environmental consultant HDR retained by ESDC to monitor compliance with Atlantic Yards' noise and air quality protocols has found that the agency has been advised of significant areas of non-compliance on an ongoing basis since construction began in 2010. The analysis is contained in a report prepared for AYW by Sandstone Environmental Associates of Metuchen, NJ. Sandstone also found that some air and noise mitigations originally planned were likely inadequate, several planned mitigations were implemented late or not at all, and others that had been implemented unevenly were not being enforced either by FCRC, ESDC or City agencies.
Among specific examples are the following:
- Dust suppression protocols are often violated. Too few air quality monitors are being used given the scale of the site, and those that have been deployed are not used during extended hours construction.
- The 3/4" plywood being used for construction fencing does not have sufficient noise attenuation properties to shield nearby residences.
- The model of double-pane windows offered as a noise mitigation for nearby buildings may not have an attentuation rating sufficient to insulate residences from construction noise.
- Construction equipment that did not meet the project's stated air quality standards has been allowed to remain in service on the site for months while compliant equipment was waiting to be received.
- The ConEd power grid required for use of electrical, rather than diesel, equipment and generators was installed more than ten months late after construction activity had peaked, and then was largely not utilized by contractors.
- Use of unauthorized truck routes by contractors is pervasive, with little or no enforcement by ESDC and the City.
- Extended hours and nighttime construction work is routinely scheduled much more frequently than disclosed and committed in Atlantic Yards' Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
American Society of Landscape Architects calls for sustainable design for Barclays surface parking lot
The New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA), an organization of landscape architects in New York City, Long Island and Westchester, has submitted a letter to ESDC CEO Kenneth Adams about the plans for the surface parking lot for Barclays Center patrons on block 1129. NYSLA expresses "dissatisfaction" with the proposed plans, and calls for a more sustainable plan that benefits NYC "through vegetation, shade, a minimized carbon footprint, stormwater management and pervious parking surface materials." The heart of their recommendations is that the lot meet NYC DCP standards, and that it be constructed using green technology.
The group writes that it finds the proposed design "troubling, potentially dangerous to long-term public health, averse to maintaining environmental quality and inconsistent with NYC’s intent to strengthen the economy, combat climate change and enhance quality of life through thoughtful and environmentally beneficial design."
The use of block 1129 for an interim surface parking lot is a contentious piece of the Atlantic Yards plan. In 2009, the Project's plans were changed and the delivery date of the housing and open space on block 1129 was extended to 25 years or more, meaning the surface parking lot could be in place for decades rather than the few years originally intended.
Update June 18: DOB has amended the full stop work order on the site to allow the approved work of grading and removal of minor construction debris. Since the installation of the retaining tanks has not been approved yet, the stop work order will remain in place for that work. We will post further information when it is provided.
The Department of Buildings has issued a stop work order for construction on block 1129. The stop work order is dated June 15th and describes the violations as "various." The address cited is 583 Dean Street, which is the address under which FCRC has submitted the plans for the surface parking lot on block 1129. The order states the work on the "full site" is to be stopped "except to make site safe."
Community members have complained about the work on the block 1129 for multiple reasons, most seriously recently for vibrations on buildings in the historic district along Carlton Avenue. Several incident reports from that area have been filed on this website about vibrations over the last several weeks, including a ceiling collapse.
The only work currently approved in relation to the implementation of the lot is grading and minor removal of construction debris. The plans for the detention system to be used for handling the storm water runoff from the lot and the plans for the lot including fencing are listed as "disapproved" on the DOB website.
The work on the lot for the last month has appeared to exceed the scope and impact of the approved work. This week excavations at least 20 feet deep were made. What appears to be tanks for the detention system have been placed along Carlton Avenue.
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: