Forest City nixes community input

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Developer Forest City Ratner Companies has nixed several interim ideas that a community organization has suggested before the Atlantic Yards project gets underway.

In a letter sent to Assemblymember James Brennan, the company responded to several interim measures for the 22-acre arena/hous­ing/commer­cial project that the organization BrooklynSpeaks suggested in a letter to Gov. David Paterson.

The recommendations include returning the Carlton Avenue Bridge to service, creating interim public space in sites already demolished, and utilizing vacated buildings the company owns for community use or affordable housing until construction starts on those sites.

“The demolition and reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is being coordinated with the construction of the new LIRR yard,” wrote FCRC Executive Vice President Maryanne Gilmartin. “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.”

Gilmartin stated that the company does not think it’s practical to create interim open space for public access on their demolished sites because these sites “will be necessary to accommodate construction logistics and to meet other environmental commitments before the end of 2009.”

“Encouraging the re-use of vacant buildings or land on the site for an interim period of time is not practical given the fact that such uses/occupants would only need to be vacated /relocated in the near future,” she wrote.

Gilmartin noted that FCRC is a landlord to a number of residents on the site and that neither the company nor the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) are proactively seeking to relocate any of them at this time.

“If any resident chooses to be relocated at any time, FCRC will work with them,” she wrote.

In the letter, Gilmartin also addressed construction staging and worker parking, the construction schedule and community outreach and communications.

“As you are aware, the project has been delayed by litigation. FCRC fully intends to build out the project in approximately ten years consistent with the schedule set forth in (the) 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,” she wrote.

The copy of the letter was also sent to several elected officials as well as to Community Boards, 2, 6 and 8 members and BrooklynSpeaks members.

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.

Meanwhile, MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan reiterated that the Vanderbilt Yards part of the project remains a pubic/private partnership in that FCRC is responsible to build a temporary rail yard during the construction phase, and then to build a new permanent yard for the Long Island Railroad after construction is completed..

The deal is for FCRC to pay the MTA $100 million at closing and no closing date is set yet, he said.

Updated 3:32 pm, October 19, 2011
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