Rep. Maloney, state and local officials decry NYC Department of Design and Construction's proposed 91st Street Marine Transfer Station safety plan

11/21/2014

November 21, 2014

Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora
Commissioner
Department of Design and Construction
30-30 Thomson Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101

Dear Commissioner Peña-Mora

We were astonished that the community is being asked to provide comments on the so-called safety plan presented at the most recent meeting of the CAG.  The plan provided so little detail that it is virtually impossible to provide meaningful comment, except with respect to the final item which has an extremely negative impact on Asphalt Green’s operations.  Since Asphalt Green’s soccer field will be taken for large and indeterminate periods of time during demolition and construction, this proposal will have a significant and unexpected impact on Asphalt Green’s operations.  We note that a completely different plan was presented over the summer and we have not received any information as to why the earlier plan was dropped.  We would like to know the reason the earlier plan was dropped and we would like to know the cost of this plan as well as the cost of the prior plan.

The plan presented essentially consists of three elements: sidewalk sheds at two locations, 3M film on windows on one side of Asphalt Green and a ‘safety zone’ of varying dimensions that will be erected without warning in the middle of the soccer field at unidentified times for a period that can stretch until 2017.  Without a specific construction plan, it is not possible to match the “safety plan” with the work to be done to determine whether the plan is appropriate.  The work plan that was provided the following day suggests that work will be done in Zones 1 and 2 throughout most of the demolition and construction process.  Please note that while this suggests a 56 week timetable, at the meeting it was suggested that work could continue until 2017.  Furthermore, it is not clear what work will be done when, when lifting activities will take place or when the clear zones will be implemented.

We understand that while the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) originally offered a mere 7 days to comment on this “plan,” but that in recent conversations it was made clear that there is no deadline while issues remain unresolved.  The comment period should not start until the plan is fleshed out with specifics.  Nonetheless, we do have comments based on the preliminary plan provided. 

 

1.      Sidewalk sheds.  We have no objection to the concept of sidewalk sheds, but we do not have enough information to know whether the safety sheds proposed by DDC are adequate. 

a.     Coverage. It is not clear to what extent the sidewalk sheds follow the actual work being done.  There was discussion about how many feet the sheds will extend, but nothing is in writing.  The picture suggests that there are some areas adjacent to the ramp where people may be walking that would not be covered by a shed.  We would suggest that the sheds should cover all areas adjacent to the work area where people ordinarily walk.

b.     Materials. It is not clear what materials will be used in the sheds and the extent to which they will protect against ordinary debris.  We have been informed quite strongly that they would not protect against a projectile such as the chisel that flew through Asphalt Green’s window.  We would suggest that there be a discussion of materials with the safety experts hired by the community and agreement on using the best available materials.

c.      Duration. There is no information about the amount of time that the sidewalk sheds will remain in place.  We would suggest that the safety sheds should remain in place as long as work is being done on the ramp.

2.     Safety Film.  While DDC advises the installation of safety film on the windows, they were unable to provide any information about what the film protects against or why it would be beneficial.  It is hard to agree that something would be a positive with no information whatsoever about what it will do and what the drawbacks might be.  We were referred to a video which was finally provided the following afternoon, but questions remain.

a.     Purpose and Effectiveness. In order to determine whether the film makes sense, we would need more information as to what the film does and does not do.  We were told it would not protect against a flying chisel, but there was no information about what it would protect against.  While the video makes clear that it would slow a break-in, it is less clear about whether it would protect against flying projectiles or construction debris. 

b.     Visibility. Since no examples were provided, it is not clear whether the film would impact the view from the windows, create darkness on the inside of the building or have other negative impacts.

c.      Placement. DDC is proposing to put the film on some windows immediately adjacent to the ramp, but not on the windows where the pool is or the windows at the front of the building (although a sidewalk shed is proposed for that location).  We would need more of an explanation of why those choices were made.

3.     Clear Zones.  By far the most controversial aspect of this proposal are the clear zones.  On the one hand, clearly the greatest protection is afforded by keeping people off the soccer field entirely; on the other hand, this has a profound impact on Asphalt Green’s operations, both during day camp and during the year, since the project will effectively make the field unusable.

a.     Lost income for Asphalt Green.  Asphalt Green’s soccer field is key to its operations.  It provides a significant portion of Asphalt Green’s income and since the field will be unavailable some indeterminate number of times, it is effectively unavailable for the entire duration of the project.  Even if the number of times the field is closed each week is relatively small, unless there is predictability in hours and days each week, Asphalt Green will not be able to plan any programs using the field for the entire period of demolition and construction. Losing income from the field, could have a significant impact on Asphalt Green’s finances.  The City could make up the lost income, but we were told that because the field is owned by the Parks Department, the City has no intention of doing so.  In order to keep this precious resource viable, we would suggest that the City should make up the lost income.

b.     Lost Facilities for City Students.  Students from three boroughs of New York City are bussed in to use Asphalt Green’s field and/or pool.  The loss of the soccer field will have a significant impact on gym programs for schools around the City.  We understand that roughly 75 schools use the field and/or the pool, including more than 60 public schools.  The City has not provided any information about how it proposes to supplement the lost programs.

c.      Day Camp.  Asphalt Green has requested, but has not yet received, a commitment that there would be no activity in Zone 1 or Zone 2 during Day Camp.  Without this commitment, Asphalt Green would not be able to run its Day Camp, which would have an extremely negative impact on its bottom line.  Ceasing construction would mitigate some of Asphalt Green’s losses.

d.     Materials. DDC has provided no information regarding the fence, what it will be made of and how it will be kept safely up without damaging the field.

e.     Duration and Timing.  DDC has provided only vague information about how often the clear zone will be required.  Without a construction plan with a specific timeline, it is impossible to know how often the clear zones will be in effect, and whether there are chunks of time when the field will be available.  Without details, it appears that DDC is taking the field for the duration of demolition and construction.

f.      Environmental Impact Statement.  The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) fails to disclose the true impact of construction on Asphalt Green, given the scope of the required safety precautions and the fact that they will potentially be in effect through 2017.  Indeed, the Lead Agency Findings Statement for New Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan CEQR #: 03-DOS-004Y  and the EIS repeatedly suggest that the impact on Asphalt Green will be minimal (“potentially affect access to small portions of these park facilities”) and that the duration will be short.  Indeed the EIS specifically states that “This ramp will be reconstructed over the existing ramp footprint…” At no point does either the EIS or the Lead Agency Findings Statement indicate that a significant portion of a playing field will be taken for much of the duration of construction.

                                                    i.     Section 2.2.2 says “Given this design and the fact that no operable windows open onto the entrance drive or face the MTS on FDR Drive, reactivation of the MTS would have minimal effects on the recreation center's function. DSNY finds that the Converted MTS would not result in significant adverse socioeconomic impacts.” 

                                                  ii.     Section 2.2.3 says “The Converted MTS would not create any significant new demand on services and community facilities and would not displace facilities or disrupt services. No significant adverse impacts to service delivery would occur.”

                                                iii.     Section 2.2.4 concludes “DSNY finds that no significant adverse impacts to open space would result from the Converted MTS”

                                                iv.     Section 2.2.18, which deals with construction impacts says “Given that the existing East 91st Street MTS access ramp is adjacent to Asphalt Green (with ball fields to the south and the Aqua Center to the north, east of York Avenue) and crosses over the East River Esplanade, ramp reconstruction would be expected to have short-term effects on these nearby park facilities, even though it would be in the same footprint as the existing ramp. Temporary construction fencing around the construction areas will alter the visual environment, and potentially affect access to small portions of these park facilities while the existing ramp is being demolished and the new one is being built. The estimated duration for demolition of the existing ramp is approximately five (5) months, and for construction of the new ramp is approximately six (6) months (which includes the portion of the ramp over the FDR and the section of ramp passing between the Aqua Center and the park), making these impacts temporary. The ramp work is scheduled to take place towards the end of construction, so that the new ramp is completed at approximately the same time that the proposed Converted MTS is completed.”  Similar language is contained in Section 32.4 of the EIS.

g.     Interference with Ability to Perform Services Under the License Agreement.  While taking some trees and a 16 inch strip of land adjacent to the ramp may not interfere with Asphalt Green’s ability to perform the services it is required to perform under the license agreement, creating clear zones on Asphalt Green’s field for an indeterminate number of days throughout the duration of construction surely would. 

h.     Adequacy of 150 Ft Clear Zone. If safety film is required on windows that are five floors up (and we are not suggesting otherwise), it leads us to question whether the 150 ft clear zone is adequate.

We appreciate the City’s desire to secure the site, particularly in light of the accident that occurred in July.  In order to comment on a plan, however, we and the community require a lot more information.  We hope you will continue to toll any comment period until the full plan is presented to the community.

 

                                                      Very truly yours,

 

                    

CAROLYN B. MALONEY               GALE BREWER                             LIZ KRUEGER

Member of Congress                      Manhattan Borough President         State Senator

 

           

DAN QUART                                    ROBERT J. RODRIGUEZ              DAN GARODNICK 

Assembly Member                              Assembly Member                         Council Member

 

 

BEN KALLOS

Council Member