It’s the Great Wall of Prospect Heights.
Chinese-government-owned developer Greenland and Forest City Ratner are getting ready to break ground on two new Atlantic Yards high-rises next month, and to contain the noise the construction will generate, they are building a state-mandated 16-foot-tall wall around a whole block of the site. The wall bounding the area between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Pacific and Dean streets will eat up 85–100 parking spaces and narrow each of the streets, according to a construction update at a community meeting last Wednesday night. A Forest City spokeswoman said the big barrier is unpleasant, but it’s the only way.
“It is not lightly that we came to this solution,” said Ashley Cotton. “This is rough, we realize that.”
Joe Chan, a vice president with the Empire State Development and former head of the pro-business Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, echoed Cotton’s mea culpa.
“Clearly you’ve got here a logistically complicated project, and not a whole lot of space to work in,” he said.
The temporary wall, which is supposed to stand for two years, will be made of steel, plywood, and cement Jersey barriers, and will be six feet wide at its base. Because the cranes needed to erect the two towers have to be placed outside of the buildings’ footprints, the wall has to encroach on the roadway.
For the duration of the construction, Carlton will lose its bike lane and a sidewalk on one side; Dean Street will retain its bike lane, but lose a sidewalk; and Vanderbilt will lose a sidewalk and get narrower. Pacific Street will remain closed to everyone but construction workers.
The building at 535 Carlton Ave. is one of two towers the developers agreed to start work on as part of a deal cut with activists in June to speed the completion of the discounted portion of the project. All apartments in the tower will be rented for less than market rate. The other building, which abuts Vanderbilt, will contain condos to be sold at market rates. The block is supposed to include four new buildings in all.
These two are supposed to be constructed using traditional techniques rather than the modular process used at B2, the first residential structure in the mega-development formerly known as Atlantic Yards. Work has been stalled at that building for months as a dispute rages between Forest City and contractor Skanska over cost overruns and alleged design flaws. This week, Forest City bought the Swedish contractor out of the joint company and Navy Yard factory they shared, and the Brooklyn developer hopes to restart work on the experimental structure as a lawsuit regarding cost overruns continues.
Cotton said at last Wednesday’s meeting that Forest City still believes in modular construction techniques, but did not say what method future construction would employ. Her boss MaryAnne Gilmartin told the New York Times in April that the next three buildings would be built conventionally. The Times report outlined a dispute between Greenland and Forest City over continuing to use modular as work on B2 dragged, but Cotton stressed that the two companies have not settled the issue for good.
“We’ve said this again and again,” Cotton said at the meeting. “It was a problem with the partner, not the process.”