Friday, September 02, 2011

After "continuing violations regarding truck protocols," state to issue first-ever "notice of violation" to Forest City Ratner, posing potential fines

Is Empire State Development (ESD, aka Empire State Development Corporation), the state agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards project, finally cracking down on contractors and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) not following the rules at the construction site?

Well, slightly, which in the context of widespread complaints marks a step forward.

Errant trucks

On 8/25/11, after I saw the Atlantic Yards Watch post, Not an isolated incident: truck use of residential Clermont Avenue is widespread, I asked ESD to comment.

Agency spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded two days ago, on 8/31/11:
In general, the identified instances of non-compliance have been corrected. ESD is able to fine the developer for persistent violations, but most violations have been episodic instances of non-compliance by one of the contractors working on the project. ESD plans to issue a notice of violation to FCR for several continuing violations regarding truck protocols.
What's that mean? Mitchell responded:
A “notice of violation” is a letter from us to FCRC stating that FCRC has not complied with the MEC [Memorandum of Environmental Commitments]. FCRC has 30 days to comply with the MEC, and if they do not, ESD is able to require them to pay a fine of $1,000 per day.
Yesterday she clarified that it was the first notice of violation.

Note that it's not clear what "several continuing violations regarding truck protocols" describes. It could refer only to the mis-use of truck routes, but it sounds broader. So it also might apply to the failure to cover trucks with a tarp to suppress dust or perhaps apparently improper deliveries.

What does it mean?

Given that there have been periodic--and seemingly persistent--blatant violations, with ESD calling them isolated incidents, it's notable that the state has finally, belatedly acted.

Then again, exposure--at least of some violations--seems to have prompted improvements in procedures; the most recent report from Atlantic Yards Watch has trucks finally following the truck routes.

This violations are likely fixable--they seem to be shortcuts that save contractors time and therefore money. So I bet that, within the 30 days, and likely sooner, Forest City will indicate that it has taken new measures to comply, and to have its contractors comply.

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