Over the last month changes to the way truck deliveries take place at Barclays Center have increased meaningfully the number of violations of NYC law, the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments and Barclays Center Truck Delivery Rules and Requirements. With apparently no enforcement taking place, the consequence is a wide range of adverse impacts on the community: trucks idling for long periods; use of unauthorized truck routes; and blocking of bus lanes, bike lanes, no standing zones and travel lanes. Travel and the quality of life on Dean Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenue is particularly affected.
The violations have steadily increased through the summer, first as the method for processing construction trucks became impractical and at times impossible, and second with the introduction of truck deliveries to facilitate arena operations. Although no new rules for truck behavior have been posted on the ESDC website or listed in the bi-weekly construction alerts, trucks now queue and stage on a public street with residences instead of the privatized section of Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues.
A key change occured a week or so ago when FCRC took control of the arena from construction contractors and began operating the loading dock. The photos above and to the right from Thursday, September 12th show On-site Environmental Monitor Adam Schwartz directing a delivery truck backward into the arena site while an ambulance with flashing lights waits. ESDC's environmental monitor HDR was also at the scene. The truck moved out of the way as fast as it could. Several minutes later two ambulances were seen at a residence on Carlton Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets.
Dean Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues is currently being used both for construction truck staging and arena deliveries. The result has been chaotic for at least three weeks with the bus stop and no standing zones on the block frequently (illegally) obstructed by queueing vehicles associated with both the contractors and arena operators. Bicycle and travel lanes have also often been blocked.
In the photos above most of the vehicles on the left side of the street are waiting to make deliveries to the arena. Before FCRC took control of the arena there were only nominal signs of construction trucks in the vicinity being managed, but for the last several days at least, Barclays Center's white shirted security guards and a loading dock facilitator with a clipboard have been present. Even so, trucks have continued to block the bus stop, queue in no-standing zones, slow traffic and go off designated truck routes.
NYPD officers appear not to be ticketing trucks idling or parked illegally, and one traffic enforcement officer elsewhere on the site, shown a truck parked in a bike lane, challenged this writer to tell her exactly what trucks are supposed to do: "after all, the area is under construction."
Arena construction contractors fail to schedule deliveries and educate drivers
Before the staging area was moved, trucks already were regularly disobeying the law, largely because arena contractors are often unprepared to receive deliveries when they arrive. As a result, drivers either wait near the arena or drive to the closest location they can find to pull over, regardless of its proximity to residences. They then sit in their trucks to wait, sometimes with their engines idling. To the right is a photo from September 3rd shot from inside Dean Playground of a truck driver adjusting the load of his truck on Dean Street, which is not a designated truck route.
The change in the location of truck staging has brought the arena's scheduling problem closer to residents at a time when the number of deliveries has no doubt increased. In addition, with the arena completion deadline looming, the ESDC has allowed Hunt to receive deliveries for one extra hour from 6 AM to 7 PM.
In interviews over the last three weeks with AYW, truck drivers consistently say they are given little or no instruction before they come or once they arrive. They are just told to wait. Several construction personnel noted the obvious: there is no capacity for trucks to queue while waiting to enter into the site. However, queueing would not be necessary if trucks were being scheduled and managed as anticipated.
The failure to schedule trucks is in violation of both the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments and the Barclays Center Trucks Rules and Requirements, which state that if deliveries are untimely, they are to be turned away. Both documents use virtually the same language to describe the required management of truck behavior:
- Truck deliveries shall be scheduled, and untimely deliveries shall, in general, be turned away or reassigned with different delivery times. (All) Trucks shall be required to use NYCDOT-designated truck routes for traveling to and from the construction site, which include primarily Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, 4th Avenue, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway except as required for movement between staging and construction areas.
In addition, the Amended Memorandum describes the following measures intended to protect residents from noisy delivery trucks:
- A minimum 8 foot high perimeter barrier (constructed of 3/4" thick plywood), with a 16 foot high barrier (of 3/4 " thick plywood) adjacent to sensitive locations, including locations along Pacific Street, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue opposite residences and the Brooklyn Bear's Pacific Street Community Garden, and, where practicable, truck deliveries shall take place behind these barriers. Noisy delivery trucks, such as concrete trucks, are to be operated behind the barriers.
Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt, the original location delineated as the area for trucks to que in the Barclays Center Delivery Truck Rules and Requirements, was separated from residences by block 1129. For weeks FCRC and arena contractors have moved truck staging to Dean Street between 6th Avenue and Carlton, only feet from residences. And once trucks arrive, there is no place without risk of adverse impacts for them to queue, and until recently little discernable management.
To the left a crane on a truck operates while separated only by the width of a sidewalk from homes August 24th.
Loading dock operation
The operation of the loading dock is sensitive because large trucks require a wide turning radius and there may be tight squeezes at several intersections leading to the loading dock, entering and exiting the loading dock iself, and at Dean Street and 6th Avenue where trucks are required to turn. In addition, there is no legal or appropriate place for trucks to queue, and the operation of elevators and a turnstile requires precise scheduling to avoid adverse impacts on nearby residents. A plan to stage trucks heading to the loading dock in the Navy Yard is untested so far.
The elevators and the shorter turning radius are the product of changes to the arena in 2009, when the footprint of the arena was moved closer to Dean Street and the loading dock's area was reduced. Arena management recently described the loading dock as unique and challenging.
AYW has documented southbound trucks reaching Dean Street where the loading dock is located by making an illegal left turn off of Flatbush Avenue. In order to obey NYC truck regulations, trucks bearing south will enter Dean Street from Flatbush via 5th Avenue, meaning they will have to turn around the triangle in that location. Some truck drivers have told AYW that they have driven down Dean Street from 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt (illegal for trucks) because they have difficulty making the turn at 6th Avenue. Likewise, at least at this time some trucks have difficulty making the turn out of the loading dock without passing over the sidewalk. To the right is a large truck on September 15th passing over a sidewalk a few feet from residences. The fresh damage to the tree was not caused by this truck, but likely another truck doing the same manuever. Some, but not all of these problems may be because construction of the arena is still ongoing while arena preparations are underway.
Non-compliance has been an escalating problem for months
Three weeks ago, even before the closure of Pacific Street, the conditions were poor enough that AYW began conducting informal surveys of the area, interviewing drivers and other construction personnel, and photographing violations. Because of the number of violations, it has not been feasible to file individual incident reports for each. For example, during the course of a one hour survey on August 26th, we witnessed and documented 10 illegal acts by trucks. Conditions have deteriorated significantly since then.
The following are select examples of AYW's documentation of truck violations, much of it not posted here previously. Trucks have often been sighted driving down illegal routes on Carlton Avenue between Bergen and Pacific Streets, Dean Street between 6th and Vanderbilt Avenues, and Bergen Street west of Vanderbilt Avenue apparently as far as 3rd Avenue. Among the locations AYW has documented trucks illegally standing in the last three weeks are the south side of Pacific Street at 6th Avenue and at Carlton Avenue, Vanderbilt between Dean and Pacific Streets, the south side of Dean east of the Carlton intersection, the south side of Atlantic Avenue west of Vanderbilt, and the east side of Flatbush south of Dean Street. The highest concentration of violations is undoubtedly Dean Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenues. As often as not, trucks idle while waiting, no matter their proximity to homes.
Photo August 24th: The capacity of the original "queueing area" on Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues has been reduced significantly for some time, first by narrowing due to the construction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, then by the addition of construction staging onto one lane for much of its length, and finally by construction of the parking lot on block 1129. Construction staging newly located along the north side may have rendered it less useful for staging trucks because there is less room for trucks to pass each other.
Photo September 12th: As of last week, the street has been regularly closed to put in place drainage from the parking lot. The last several construction alerts have stated that Pacific Street would be closed at times for water main work. They have not stated what provisional plans exist to reroute trucks associated with the project. The closure is one source of the dispersal of trucks into areas of the neighborhood they do not belong.
Truck drivers also must contend with construction in roadways. Work on 6th Avenue, whether associated with the arena or the satellite uplink parking lot, sometimes blocks a critical route to and from the arena site. Bergen Street is a convenient alternative route in many circumstances.
Photo August 25th: For months, many trucks have taken an unauthorized route along Bergen Street between Carlton and 6th Avenues to access the arena or points across Flatbush to the west. AYW has a large backlog of documentation of trucks associated with Atlantic Yards construction traveling the unauthorized route along Bergen Street between Vanderbilt and Flatbush. The trucks are either heading to the arena or leaving the site to points west along Bergen Street. Trucks break the law when they cross a designated truck route like Flatbush without joining it. Above three construction trucks on Bergen Street next to Dean Playground are visible caught in the afternoon traffic snarl produced by street closures to implement the project.
Video September 6th: This truck parks in a lane against traffic on 6th Avenue, then drives against traffic onto Dean Street between 6th Avenue and Flatbush in order to back into the arena (7:15). There is no flagger visible. At 1:15 another truck drives down residential Dean Street where trucks are banned.
Photo September 6th: Trucks looking for a place to wait regularly stand on Dean Street and Carlton Avenue in a B65 bus stop adjacent to homes. According to truck drivers, the required turn north or south from Dean Street onto 6th Avenue can be a physical challenge. Sometimes the driver makes the choice to avoid traffic.
September 12th: Across the street from the previous photo, and with the construction barriers gone, a truck stops in the bus lane. As is a common occurrence, the truck driver is leaving his truck in order to try to find instructions. Dean Street is not a legal truck route and it is illegal to block a bike lane.
September 6th: A truck on Dean Street near the Carlton Avenue intersection. Like Bergen Street and Carlton Avenue, AYW has documented an uncounted number of truck violations on Dean Street.
Photo August 24th: A truck in the bike lane is unloaded while other trucks queue on the south side of Dean Street. In the meantime another truck squeezes through the travel lane that remains. At this stage in the project many drivers are one-time visitors to the arena, and some are unfamiliar with driving in an urban setting. All drivers interviewed in the last three weeks state they are not given much information beyond the 620 Atlantic Avenue address.
Complicating matters, construction impacting sidewalks and travel lanes is now taking place throughout the 22 acre footprint of the project. As a result, traffic already compressed into fewer open travel lanes than has ever existed in the area, is compressed further by construction barriers that narrow streets, confuse visibility, and make turns more difficult.
Photo August 24th: A driver uncertain of his instructions was found first idling in a no standing zone. In an attempt to do the right thing he then took his truck down Dean Street. Later he was seen going down Bergen Street to reach the arena.
September 6th: This video is one of a sequence attached to an incident report showing how poor coordination from Barclays Center led to an idling truck being left by a driver seeking assistance. The truck in the foreground did pass through the Pacific Street staging area, but it left the authorized queueing area to park on the public portion of the street. One possible reason is that it had to get out of the way of another truck that had entered Pacific behind it. The video shows a Barclays Center truck squeezing by only to park further down the block in a no-standing zone.
September 6th: It is illegal to park in a bus stop or stand in "no standing zones." Delivery trucks have been sitting in this bus stop and in these no-standing areas during nearly every visit by AYW. Community-members must walk around the trucks to reach the bus which must stop in the travel lane. To AYW's knowledge there has been no enforcement by NYPD.
Photo August 24th: Through the summer trucks have often pulled over in this spot on Vanderbilt between Pacific and Dean Streets. In this case the truck also partially blocks the bike lane, forcing bicyclists to go around. Trucks parked in this location tend to then turn on to Bergen to reach the arena, as this truck did while AYW watched. Limited capacity in the Pacific Street "queueing area" or at the arena may have forced this expansion of the truck staging area.
Photo August 24th: Like Vanderbilt, an area on Atlantic Avenue just west of Vanderbilt has been used as a truck staging area when capacity on Pacific Street or in the arena is insufficient to absorb the truck when it arrives.
Photo September 14th: The construction alert two weeks ago (although not the most recent one) gives notice three parking spaces in front of residences across from the loading dock have been removed to facilitate construction. Note that one sign is posted on the tree apparently hit by a truck turning out of the arena site/loading dock. The alert states:
- The gate at Dean and 6th Avenue has been relocated to the position of the permanent truck dock for the arena. Approximately three (3) parking spaces along Dean Street directly across from this have been taken for construction purposes. The taking of these spaces continues to be necessary in order to maintain the turning radius for truck deliveries into and out of this gate. At completion a new fence will be installed in board of the new curb. It is anticipated that this condition will be in place for two months during which time all work will be completed, weather permitting and barring any unforeseen conditions.
The italics have been added. Time will tell whether the the temporary construction condition becomes permanent in order to enable trucks to exit the loading dock.