Friday, March 18, 2011

EDC UnPhased: What About You?

The NYC EDC. frustrated in its efforts to gain approvals for ramps that will grind the Van Wyck to a halt, is now claiming that its partial first phase of development can move forward without any stinkin' ramps. Yet, these are the same sleight of handers that tried to slip fraudulent traffic data passed NYSDOT, only to have WPU's Brian Ketcham smacked the effort down over one year ago.

The real danger here is that it will be all of the surrounding communities-Flushing, Corona, East Elmhurst and College Point-that will be made to suffer if no one steps up and forces a full and independent review of what EDC is trying to pull. Yet, as we have seen, the area elected officials-with the exception of Senator Avella and CM Halloran-have remained timidly on the sidelines.

This is not an example of righteous representation. You don't have to be an opponent of the project to want to insure proper oversights and control over the development agency-not when we have seen how certain mayoral agencies have screwed up managerial projects such as CityTime and cost tax payers millions as a result.

So, does anyone want to simply take what EDC at face value that this first phase will not need ramps? To get a better picture of what the potential traffic impacts will be, we once again rely on Brian Ketcham's analysis-data that will be the foundation of the lawsuit brought by WPU against the city's illegal segmentation of the Willets Point project.

As Ketcham points out, "The proposed Phase One Willets Point project totals 1.35 million square feet and includes a 650,000 square foot big box retail center generating 84% of all vehicle trips. NYCEDC has proposed this scaled down project in order to avoid dealing with ramps connecting with the Van Wyck Expressway at the northeast end of the Iron Triangle—ramps they are having a hard time getting approved."

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers! This is still one humongous development-and it will be anchored by box stores! Yet the city council doesn't want to exercise the oversight over this? And, as Ketcham highlights, EDC is up to its old tricks-rooking the guests and cooking the books. How so? Under counting, and false baseline analyses.

As Ketcham tells us:

"EDC claims this Phase One project will have a lower traffic impact than earlier proposed for this development. They make this claim based on estimates for traffic impacts based on under reporting trip generation rates.

EDC assumes few people will drive to the site but will walk or use transit to shop. Willets Point is remote from transit and is more than a mile from downtown Flushing, the closest population center.

They assume trip generation rates that produce relative few auto trips—rates that are below accepted standards and lower still than used at nearby Flushing Commons and the Gateway Center in East New York.

They assume vehicle occupancy that is higher than assumed for either of these other projects that cuts traffic volume by a third."

Same old EDC it seems. But what happens when we adjust for a more accurate baseline analysis? Well, the number of trips simply jumps: "EDC reports the project will generate about 1,400 car and truck trips for weekday PM peak hours. Adjusting for auto use and trip generation rates will double this number to 2,800 trips. Adjusting for vehicle occupancy will increase the number of trips to nearly 4,000 trips in the PM peak hour.EDC has shaved the numbers used in estimating project impacts to minimize project traffic and thereby eliminate the need for Van Wyck ramps."

Would anybody buy a used car from these people? But the part we really like is the assumption-the last refuse of traffic scoundrels-that masses of folks will be using the train and buses. Unbelievable-and simply more evidence that the good citizens from Bay Terrace, Mitchel-Linden, Bowne Civic, Malba Gardens, Juniper Civic and Comet were right to join with WPU and the Natural Resources Defense Council to call for an independent review of all the traffic assumptions in this project.

But Ketcham isn't finished-and his coup de grace is in his comparison of this phased development with Gateway Mall in East New York: "EDC is proposing 910 parking spaces to service a 650,000 square foot big box retail complex. Gateway Center in East New York provides nearly 3,000 spaces for the same size retail center."

Con man Robert Preston in the Music Man couldn't do a better job than EDC in trying to beguile the people with false promises. Yet in spite of all of its attempts at minimization, EDC can't diminish the fact that this large partial development will have a massive and unmitigatable impact that necessitates those ramps:

"In spite of all the data manipulation EDC reports severe gridlock conditions at the two entry portals to this project: 126th Street at 34th Avenue and 126th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Technical Memorandum 004, provided by EDC on March 14th, four days before the deadline for submitting comments on this proposal itself reveals that with Phase One traffic volumes overall LOS for 126th Street/GCP Ramp at 34th Avenue with Phase One traffic are a severe F with average vehicle delay of 422 seconds (7 minutes) with 4 of 5 approaches LOS F with delays of 7.7 to 13.5 minutes, sufficient to completely block access to the project site. These conditions will be much worse once reasonable adjustments are made for trip generation characteristics that could double or even triple project traffic impacts."

So, EDC has under reported project traffic impacts, has failed to investigate how traffic will move into and out of the proposed Phase One project including how shoppers might access off-street parking, is proposing far less parking for a 1.35 million square foot multi-use project than is standard practice, claims the project will have a low traffic impact and buries the truth in their Technical Memorandum 004 that reports severe gridlock conditions at critical portals that will prevent access to the site for most of the day.

It is clear from this brief summary that EDC must provide more access to the Phase One project and the Van Wyck ramps must be one of these access points. Of course, what the resultant impact would be on the Van Wyck is an entirely different story-one that EDC can't continue to dodge forever.