Saturday, February 07, 2009

ESDC says it was wrong, AY could be "shovel-ready" for stimulus money; FCR nixes proposals by BrooklynSpeaks

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) says it was wrong in comments last week to the Courier-Life chain that Atlantic Yards wasn't "shovel-ready" and thus ineligible for federal stimulus money.

Also, in a letter (PDF) to Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin said no to the requests made by BrooklynSpeaks (and endorsed by him), essentially because they wouldn't be practical as the construction--as she assumes--begins in "mid-2009."

(It's not implausible that lawsuits could be cleared by the middle of the year. Some construction might begin. Other lawsuits are expected to be filed, though it's unclear whether they would stall work.)

ESDC backs off

The news came first in an article by the Courier-Life chain's Stephen Witt, who writes:
Separately, ESDC Communications director Warner Johnston backtracked on the agency’s comments made last week to this paper that the project would not be eligible for federal stimulus money because it wasn’t “shovel ready.”

“I am afraid that my office put out some inaccurate information regarding Atlantic Yards and whether it was shovel-ready. I take full responsibility and apologize,” Johnston wrote in an email.

“As we have stated in the past, the temporary suspension of work at Atlantic Yards is due to pending litigation. Once it has been resolved, work will continue. Stating that this site is not “shovel-ready” was inaccurate,” he added.

Johnston directed any further questions regarding federal monies to FCRC, which refused to comment.


The implication is that Atlantic Yards is in the mix for some sort of stimulus funds--likely to build the railyard that Forest City doesn't want to pay for.

Response to Brennan

Gilmartin, asked to stop further street closures, wrote that the developer "does not anticipate any street closures in the immediate future. When construction of the arena begins street closures will be required." (She doesn't say which streets, but Fifth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue would be demapped, as would be Pacific Street from Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue.)

(BrooklynSpeaks sent its letter to Gov. David Paterson, who has not responded, as far as I know. Brennan wrote to FCR and ESDC.)

As for reopening the Carlton Avenue Bridge, Gilmartin wrote that its "demolition and reconstruction... is being coordinated with the construction of the new LIRR yard. Re-opening it is not practical or feasible, given the coordination issues, expense, and the fact that it will be put out of service again as soon as construction starts, which we expect to occur in mid-2009.”

As for the request to create interim open space on demolished sites, Gilmartin deemed it not practical “because we expect the land will be necessary to accommodate construction logistics and to meet other environmental commitments before the end of 2009.”

Construction schedule

So, how long would the project take? Gilmartin stuck to the ten-year schedule, with a big asterix.

“As you are aware, the project has been delayed by litigation," she wrote. "FCRC fully intends to build out the project in approximately ten years consistent with the schedule set forth in EIS [environmental impact statement] subject to financing and market conditions (albeit with a delayed start). Any official updates to the construction schedule will be made available to the public as soon as they are available."
(Emphasis added)

In other words, as Chuck Ratner of parent Forest City Enterprises has said, "we are terrible" at predicting when projects "go from idea to reality."

1 comment:

  1. While the ESDC and Forest City Ratner have repeatedly claimed that "the temporary suspension of work at Atlantic Yards is due to pending litigation," that is flatly untrue.

    The lawsuits hold no sway over work -- or the absence of it -- on the railyard portion of the project site. The demolition of the Carlton Avenue Bridge (which now rests half-deconstructed), for instance, could continue right now. That work is not encumbered in any way by any lawsuit.

    Why work has been suspended, and why the ESDC and FCRC feel a need to lie about it, is a mystery. Could it be because financially strapped Forest City doesn't have the money to proceed?

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