It's now official—the 15 residential towers of the Atlantic Yards project will be built using modular construction. The first building, known as B2, is scheduled to break ground on December 18. That is more than two years later than was envisioned in September 2009 when the project's Modified General Project Plan was approved.
The delay was perhaps due in part to the time required to tool up the factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to build the modules used to construct B2 (and later buildings). But as we found out yesterday from the New York Times, the factory has been in operation for some time. Because modular construction means fewer jobs and lower pay for construction workers, the more practical reason for the delay in announcing the use of modular has more to do with negotiating a deal with their unions who were strong initial supporters of the project. Now that deal has been struck, details of the plans for B2 will be presented tonight at Borough Hall, less than three weeks from the start of construction.
As Atlantic Yards Watch explains, there are a number of open questions about B2.
What are the construction plans for B2?
The 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) left B2 without publicly-disclosed construction plans. The original arena block plans anticipated office and residential towers integrated with the arena and built in quick succession. B2 was to be complete one month after the arena, with the entire block complete about a year after the arena opening. Now to construct B2 FCRC must contend with traffic and pedestrian demands generated by an operating arena next door. And because of the use of much of the remaining area FCRC controls for arena patron and broadcast uplink surface parking, there are fewer locations available for construction staging than anticipated when the plans for construction were originally approved in 2006. This may mean sidewalk and lane closures are more likely at the same time that demands on local streets and sidewalks have increased.
With the use of modular construction, the method and timing for getting modular components to the site is not known. If the modular units are large, will delivery have to take place at night? Numerous complaints have been filed at this website because of the regular use of extended hours construction work during the last construction phase.
How will sidewalk use be affected by B2 construction?
The two stretches of sidewalk where B2 is located have appeared stretched beyond capacity after events at the arena. ...
AYW reported previously the permanent sidewalk along B2 on Dean Street will have a 3.5 foot effective width if B2 is built to the property line, instead of the 11.5 foot effective width anticipated by the 2006 FEIS. The narrow width may not be sufficient for a location adjacent to a 32-story residential tower with retail on the ground floor squeezed in between two arena entrances/exits. One of those exits was not anticipated in any public project documents.
There are questions related to temporary construction closures for sidewalks as well—temporary closures that may last as long as twelve years on the arena block. Originally all of the construction on the block would have been completed within a year of the arena opening. Adding to the challenge, the construction of 215 Flatbush directly across Dean Street from B2 may be underway at the same time. That developer is likely to ask for sidewalk closures as well, raising the possibility both sidewalks will be closed at the same time.
Where will B2 residents park?
On-street parking is scarce for residents near the project site. Not only do local car owners compete with arena patrons, they now compete with arena employees, an increased number of city employees, and visitors to the Atlantic Center mall. ...
If City zoning had not been overridden by Atlantic Yards, FCRC would have had to provide parking spaces equivalent to 40% of the number of residential units in B2. Assuming there are 350 units in B2, that would mean FCRC would have to supply 140 parking spaces. In the 2006 plans 350 permanent were included below grade in B2. In 2009 that permanent parking was moved to later in the development of the arena block, and 100 of those spaces were "moved" to block 1129.
The only parking area designated in project documents not currently used for something else is the surface lot in block 1129, and that lot has been nearly full several times during arena events, leaving few existing spaces for future B2 residents.
What are the plans for affordable housing in B2?
The Empire State Development Corporation and FCRC promised to deliver 2,250 units of affordable housing as part of the Atlantic Yards project. The vast majority of those units are in the project's second phase, which ESDC in 2009 agreed to extend for up to 25 years.
FCRC has has long claimed that its first residential tower would be built with 50% affordable apartments, or 182 units. However, documents submitted to the NYC Housing Development Corporation as part of FCRC's application for affordable housing bond financing in the summer of 2012 show only 35 two-bedroom apartments suitable for families included in B2's affordable component. Of those apartments, only 9 are intended for families making at or below the median income for Brooklyn. More than half of the "affordable" two-bedroom apartments are intended for families earning more than $100,000 per year.
The Times' Charles Bagli writes today that, "Half of the 363 apartments in the first building will be for poor and working-class families (emphasis added)." That seems impossible unless the plans have changed in the last few months.
Will Brooklyn residents finally be able to get construction work at Atlantic Yards?
The Atlantic Yards project claimed it would create thousands of construction jobs for Brooklynites, but local residents seeking jobs building the arena were largely disappointed. The 2005 Community Benefits Agreement required FCRC to hire an independent compliance monitor to oversee the agreement's benefits, including job training and placement. The compliance monitor has never been hired. FCRC's most recent commitment was to hire a monitor for the residential development now beginning with B2.
However, the group responsible for job training under the CBA, BUILD, closed its doors a few weeks ago. Perhaps of greater importance, the decision to use modular construction means fewer construction jobs. And under a deal negotiated with the city's construction unions, workers in the modular factories will make 25% less than members who work on-site. The reduced number of jobs for less pay may make it more difficult to launch the type of apprenticeship program described in the CBA.
For more questions about B2, read the full article.
Forest City Ratner's presentation of the plans for B2 will take place Thursday, Nov. 29 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Brooklyn Borough Hall. The meeting is open to the public.