Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Walmart and Related,Trafficing in Deceit

In this morning's NY Daily News, the paper reports on the traffic study commissioned by the Walmart FreeNYC Coalition for the impact of a Walmart supercenter on the neighborhoods surrounding Related's Gateway II mall. The study, conducted by Brian Ketcham demonstrates that the Walmonster-above and beyond all of the expanded mall's additional traffic-will itself generate more than 70,000 car trips a week to the area: "Building a Walmart in East New York will flood the area with traffic, opponents say in a new report."

This, as the report points out is, "a 32% jump in traffic," above what the mavens for Related had estimated. It also comes with huge "externality costs," impacts on the health and safety of East New York residents that the original EIS neglects to identify. These costs will run about $20 million a year and can be seen from the following chart:


Externality Costs

Added Travel Time Costs (Congestion) $4,040,960

Air Pollution (Health Costs) $2,135,280

Noise Impacts (Health Costs) $367,360

Accident Costs, Internal $3,362,002

Accident Costs, External $1,864,081

Pavement Wear & Tear $482,160

Vehicular Wear & Tear Costs $459,200

Other Externality Costs (1) $7,645,680

TOTALS $20,356,723
Brian Ketcham Engineering, PC, January 27, 2011

(1) Includes environmental degradation such as the control of water pollution,
oil spills, the lost value of highway land removed from tax rolls, and, most
apparent today, the foreign policy and military costs of ensuring an abundant
supply of imported oil. Greenhouse gas emissions and their destabilizing effect
on climate are another important environmental externality from motor vehicle
use. Traffic generated by a Wal-Mart included in the Gateway II will generate
about 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually."
As to be expected Related-in the form of the original honest man, Jesse James Masyr-downplayed Ketcham's findings: "He just makes hysterical claims, " Masyr said. "He is so off the mark." Of course, Masyr forgets to point out that it was Ketcham who exposed the fraudulent data that was submitted by Eng-Wang Taub on the Willets Point development-where the consultant claimed that half of all the trips generated by the development would be accommodated by mass transit.
In addition EWT was the traffic consultant on the Kingsbridge Armory, where Ketcham's critique of the consultant's work was accepted by the city council in its rejection of the plan-and by extension EWT analysis. All of which points to a serious flaw in all of this environmental consulting-a condition in NYC that has devolved into a virtual monopoly for AKRF and its go to traffic affiliates-EWT and URS. What we have here is a closed loop where favored consultants tailor their analysis to suit either EDC or a private developer.
And Masyr forgets that this kind of collusion doesn't always end well for the community-as is the case for the Rego Center Mall: "As the Daily News reports, that mall has ground traffic to a halt: "The road to building a retail mecca in Queens is paved with backed-up one-way streets. Rego Center opened its doors a few weeks ago, hoping to lure shoppers with Kohl's, T.J. Maxx and Century 21 department stores. And bargain hunters are coming. But traffic in the already congested area, which includes the Long Island Expressway, Queens Blvd. and Junction Blvd., is also starting to jam up."

And a local civic group is screaming: "There is a bottleneck at all hours," said Robert Holden, of the Juniper Park Civic Association, who lives in nearby Middle Village. "They are going to have to double-deck the Long Island Expressway or the exit." Local officials have been working with the city Transportation Department and developer Vornado Realty Trust to hash out traffic congestion issues."
But Rego Center is small stuff when compared to what awaits East New York should the Walmonster come to the Gateway expansion. There is a huge potential environmental hit that the community will take-a further example of the high cost of low prices. This is something that the entire environmental justice community should be all over-particularly since the city's own health department air quality survey indicates that it is precisely communities like East New York that experience the worst air pollution because of a proximity to highways. And there is no doubt that the Belt Parkway will be gridlocked if Walmart is the mall's new anchor tenant.

All of which underscores why alternatives to the Walmonster need to be entertained-and they do exist. Walmart brings so many negatives into a community-at least we can prevent them from further despoiling the East New York air!