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?"
UPDATE MARCH 26TH: FCRC spokesman Joe DePlasco has told Atlantic Yards Report the security guard at the Pacific Avenue gate confirms a PC Richards truck was the "culprit" that knocked over the traffic light. 311 and 911 were notified. Daidone Electric arrived at the scene at 8:15 AM to work on the light. The traffic light was up and running by 10:15 AM.
However, while earlier 911 and 311 calls may have been made by the security guard or construction personnel and Daidone Electric may have been there earlier, when a resident arrived at 9:20 AM Daidone Electric was not there and no personnel were assisting the public in relation to the blocked intersection. The resident called 911 at that time. Emergency personnel arrived around 25 minutes later. While operable now, the light was not up and running at 10:15. It was not repaired until sometime afterward.
According to the PC Richards location nearby, the truck was not theirs. AYW has also placed a call to the regional PC Richards distribution center to see if a truck associated with it knocked over the light. The information will be useful as a step towards identifying what manuever the truck was attempting to execute that knocked over the light. The goal is to have a functional and safe intersection that meets the demands the intersection must bear.
Pacific Street at the Carlton Avenue intersection is pinched by construction fencing, making it difficult if not impossible for many trucks to manuever in the vicinity of the intersection. It is the temporary lack of room to manuever at that location because of the construction fencing that is the root cause of the regular accidents with the traffic light.
Construction apparently caused an emergency yesterday morning when a traffic signal at the Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street intersection was knocked down for the fourth time this year. This time the knocked over light blocked Pacific Street and electric wires were exposed. Because vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic wasn't routed away from the site, all used the same sidewalk to get around the problem. The incident occurred only a few feet from the location of the work removing the mock-up of the Barclays Center facade announced with a Supplemental Construction Alert on Friday.
The video above shows cars driving around the location of the downed traffic light as the work to remove the facade continues in the background (note the flashing light). When a local resident first encountered the scene there were no flaggers guiding traffic. In fact, although a guard was in a security booth nearby, only cones warned drivers of the problem.
Video attached to an incident report shows trucks stirring up what the report calls "drifting dense massive dust" in the staging area on block 1129 today. The video reportedly documents nine hours of activity through the course of the day in which trucks stir up dust. No steps to mitigate the dust took place during that period.
Air monitoring is required to take place upwind and downwind from construction work in order to capture the adverse impact of the work on air quality. The filer reports that the closest air monitors were located on Vanderbilt Avenue at Pacific Street and the Sixth Avenue Bridge between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. If confirmed, these locations would not seem to be positioned to capture the work causing the dust in this location today. The dust clouds on the video appear to head westward toward Carlton Avenue and Dean Street.
More than three weeks after it was created, a mountain of dirt the last two construction updates stated "will be completely covered" was finally covered last night.
The lack of covering has been a real concern to nearby residents because of the hazard dust will migrate from the stockpiled material. Dust did blow from a similar pile over the summer. Winter weather conditions, especially this winter, are erratic and do not reliably suppress dust.
A 2 1/2 story tall mound of soil, described as backfill in the last two construction alerts (January 30 and February 13), has been uncovered on an ongoing basis since it was first created over two weeks ago. The mound is located in the staging area on block 1129 and continues to grow. The mound has a base of about 150 by 100 feet. The photo above on the left is the view from Vanderbilt Avenue toward the west. The photo to the right is the view south from the third story of a residential building on Dean Street.
Residents of the streets surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project have numerous concerns about impacts that will follow the opening of Barclays Center arena, but few are greater than the effect of a new surface parking lot planned for the block bordered by Carlton Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street and Pacific Street. The block is known as block 1129.
Following FCRC's renegotiation of the project plan in 2009, the duration of use of block 1129 for surface parking was extended, the number of spaces were increased, and up to two cars were assigned to each space using stackers. In addition, for the first time all the parking planned for the arena was concentrated there. Originally scheduled to be an "interim" surface lot in place for perhaps four years, it is now likely the full block of parking will be in place for at least 12 years, by which point the developer is required to start the construction of one residential building on the block. The remainder of the site can remain a parking lot for as long as 25 years or more since the project's development agreement allows further extension under certain conditions.
The picture on the left above commissioned by AYW is an illustration of the lot configuration and stackers necessary to provide the 1,100 parking spaces specified in the 2009 Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan. Given the density and number of parking spaces, the lot would not comply with New York City's design standards for surface parking lots. For comparison, the picture on the right shows a possible design for parking on block 1129 based upon City standards. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)