By Stephen Witt
Ground broke this week on Forest City Ratner Companies’ $4 billion Atlantic Yards project. As developer Bruce Ratner promised, the first contracts for this initial work — worth more than $600,000 — have gone to minority- and women-owned firms as per the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signed with eight local community organizations. “While this is preliminary work in anticipation of the actual construction, it brings us a step closer to making Atlantic Yards a reality for all of Brooklyn,” said Ratner, President and CEO of FCRC. “From the current open rail yards will grow a new and enhanced facility for the LIRR, a new mixed-income community, thousands of needed jobs, public spaces and other amenities for people throughout the borough and the city,” Ratner said. “Atlantic Yards is about the future of our borough and how, when we work together, we can create one of the most progressive affordable housing developments in the City,” Ratner added. The largest of these contracts was awarded to the women-owned demolition firm A. Russo Wrecking to remove the MTA bus parking facility on the east side of the track. Another large contract was given to the minority-owned security firm Eddington & Associates. Other minority- or women-owned contracts went to J&J Asbestos Abatement Corp., C & W Cleaning, JMV Associates and Cole Consulting. Previously, FCRC hired the nation’s oldest minority-owned professional design and construction firm, The McKissack Group, to manage the $182 million worth of work being done on the Vanderbilt Rail Yard. According to the legally binding CBA, at least 20 percent of the construction contract dollars will go toward minority-owned and 10 percent to women-owned businesses. Additionally, the CBA calls for 35 percent of construction workers to be minorities and 10 percent women, and the entire project will utilize 100 percent union labor. Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Group at FCRC, said the preparation work includes the aforementioned removal of the old MTA bus parking facility, as well as boring samples of the soil. The boring samples distinguish between contaminated and uncontaminated soil so both can be disposed of properly, as well as telling the company the best spots to place columns for the construction of the platform, Stuckey said. In addition to the preparatory work, FCRC said they plan on demolishing on of their buildings – a former automotive repair shop — at 179 Flatbush Avenue to make way for the Barclay’s Center arena and 16-skyscraper project. The demolition will be performed by Cole Partners, a minority-owned firm, with construction management services provided by Gateway Demolition. Air monitoring during and after abatement was conducted by Safety Environmental, also a minority-owned firm. “As always, our contractors will conduct this work in the least intrusive way and we will be in direct communication with the local community to provide updates and address any concerns,” said Stuckey. Also keeping FCRC at its word is the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), who earlier this month put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) for an environmental monitor on their behalf to oversee the construction. The monitor will assure that mitigating measures addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement are kept during the construction and other phases of the development. Among the requirement items the ESDC environmental monitor will oversee include protecting nearby historic buildings, traffic conditions, air and noise quality, the scheduling of truck deliveries, rodent control and implementation of measures to retain and detain storm water. The RFPs are due back next week and it is anticipated the monitor will be hired within two weeks after that. Community Board 2 District Manager Robert Perris called the RFP a positive development. “If we get the right kind of oversight structure in place, then maybe we can mitigate many of the construction impacts,” said Perris. Stuckey also welcomes the prospect of an environmental monitor and said FCRC has already opened links to nearby residents or others who require additional information, or have concerns related to this or future work. These parties can call FCRC at a special toll free hotline at (866) 923-5315 or email FCRC at email@example.com. Additionally, the Atlantic Yards Community Affairs Liaison Office, located onsite at 24 6th Avenue, will be open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. weekdays to provide updates and answers to any questions or concerns.