There are more than 60 project underway in Lower Manhattan today, including work at the WTC site
The Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC), established by executive orders issued by New York Governor George E. Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in November 2004. The orders were re-issued under Governor Eliot Spitzer on January 2, 2007. The LMCCC is charged with coordination and general oversight of all Lower Manhattan construction projects worth more than $25 million south of Canal Street.
Q: Tell me about the ultimate goal of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center.
Let's start with what I call the overarching operational statement, which is "facilitate, mitigate, and communicate." I don't think anything better captures what the core activity initiative of the Command Center is. And that is to facilitate construction. Get it done as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible, as cost-effectively as possible, and within the programs that are defined and planned for the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan. That's the facilitate piece of it.
Mitigate means that we've got [to balance] a massive amount of construction to accomplish it within hopefully the shortest period of time, and at the same time maintain the quality of the community, in the largest sense of the word community -- the residential community, the business community, the tourist community, the retail community, the commuting community. All the various constituencies that have an interest in Lower Manhattan. That's a massive undertaking all by itself, those two things.
And then the third, which I think is key to accomplishing it, is to communicate, and to communicate in different ways. First to communicate what's going to happen and when it's going to happen, for how long it's going to happen, and what the impact is going to be. But in addition to that [is communicating] what the vision and the reward is for the community in going through this process of reconstruction and rejuvenation. It's more than just reconstruction. It's a reconfiguration, a metamorphosis -- [Lower Manhattan] is morphing into a new environment, an environment that addresses the impediments of Lower Manhattan going from good to great. That means a program of giving people a clear and crystal sense of what it will be like when it's completed, how it will function, the quality and richness it will bring to their lives. That message, that visualization, that communication is critical to the overall communication program we mean to put in place.
Q: What are the steps you're taking to see these initiatives through?
We've identified the core functional areas of the Command Center, so let's talk about the Command Center itself. The Command Center is a physical place where those functions happen. It's where the core mission among the various projects is accomplished. It's where the engineering skills and talent are resident to get that done. It's where the entities that are charged with completing these projects meet on a daily basis. It's where the various projects interact with one another. It's where the elements of the programs are managed on a day-to-day basis, whether that be air, traffic, noise, aesthetic considerations. It's where people meet face to face. It's where coordination sessions are held on a constant basis. It's a central place for the assemblage and dissemination of information, necessary both for the progression of the projects and informing the community, and the creation of the message.
Q: What are the different groups that are present in your office?
The thing about the Command Center physically, we have different nodes in here. There is a node for traffic control and enforcement. That group is responsible for monitoring the impact of construction for traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian; and they will soon be equipped to tie into the operational center in Queens, so that traffic [signals] can be changed or resequenced if necessary. Traffic agents are dispatched to maintain the flow of traffic - if there's heavy construction activity or where we run into a bottleneck -- on a response basis. So there is an operational arm of traffic enforcement here.
There is an environmental monitoring program managed from here. The information from our fixed air monitoring stations comes here on a daily basis; and the activities of the sites are audited and controlled from an environmental standpoint from a central location here as well.
The utilities are present. The utilities are necessarily the first order of business for all of the projects to go forward, [such as] the relocation and reconfiguration of the utilities -- and that's a massive coordination job. Whether it's Verizon, whether it's Empire City Subway (which controls the conduits for Verizon), or Con Edison, steam, water, etc.
There are city departments here-- those departments that are necessarily involved in the construction. It's more than representatives -- it's work teams.
Q: Which city agencies?
"Most of the issues that arise involve multiple agencies and entities, so if you can gather them all in one room, you can address and resolve the issues..."
The City Department of Transportation (DOT), state DOT, city Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Protection Agency, and city Department of Design and Construction have a presence in the Command Center. Port Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), those that are responsible for the projects, Battery Park City Authority, private developers - also have representation in the Command Center. And the LMDC -- it's a very short commute for them.
Most of the issues that arise involve multiple agencies and multiple entities, so if you can gather them all in one room, you can address and resolve the issue without having to go through voicemail and e-mail, etc. The idea is that it's a functional, operational place.
Q: How did you get the agencies to commit to having team members here?
The executive order requires it, and they see the benefit of this. It gives them an ability to facilitate the work that they need to get done -- it gives them a tool and a vehicle. It's not intended to be another bureaucratic government entity. It's intended to be a facilitating entity, and that's the way it's going to function. The Command Center is the operating arm for what we call "centralized services" to support developments in Lower Manhattan.
Q: What are the functional logistics of the Command Center?
If you think about the construction that's going on, it's all mapped out. When you start aggregating the total labor force that will be required within the time we're talking about, when you start aggregating the total amount of materials that will be required -- steel and concrete, the total amount of heavy equipment and machinery -- and you look at all that, it starts to become daunting.
There is an effort in and of itself that needs to be addressed when it comes to bringing equipment [and labor] into Lower Manhattan and deploying it without gridlocking or strangling Lower Manhattan or severely impacting the community. And so the concept of centralized services -- of a mobilization and deployment area for labor, with a transportation system to get them in, whether you bring them in by bus or by van -- is being explored. The concept of a concrete batching plant or maybe several of them, to avoid a couple hundred thousand concrete trucks on the streets, is another effort we're looking at. Layout areas for the materials, so that they can be staged and delivered to the sites just in time, rather than having them stacked on the streets adjacent to the sites. We'd like to be able to enforce a general operating standard that each site needs to contain itself within its construction fencing -- nothing on the sidewalks, nothing on the streets, no trailers. We'd like to enforce the concept of standardized construction fencing with some artistic content, so again the visual aesthetics are preserved. So those are initiatives that will be addressed within the Command Center as an engineering function.
There's also a scheduling function that needs to be looked at as the projects interact with each other, and there will be a program-management firm that comes in and assists us with that, because it is a very large program.
Q: Can you speak more about the communications efforts?
The communications function is both about creation of the message and management of the media, and it's about the community-relations element. LowerManhattan.info is one of the principle vehicles for accomplishing the communications function. It's used for both the dissemination of information as well as for the creation of the message and the imaging.
Q: To whom does the Command Center Report?
The governing structure is that the Command Center reports into the mayor and governor and is responsible to the mayor and governor for accomplishing basically that role -- to facilitate, mitigate, and communicate. I think those three words really capture it.
Q: Who funds the Command Center?
The funding is from the Federal Transit Administration. The majority of the projects I articulated for you are transportation projects, and so the funding comes from there. And the belief, which I share, is that in the end, the projects will cost less and will be done more effectively and efficiently in a shorter period of time, by virtue of the facilitation of the Command Center -- so that we will end up saving taxpayer dollars.
Q: So none of the funding is via the LMDC?
It is distinct funding from LMDC. I would say it's not via the LMDC, but we need a vehicle in order for the federal funding to flow, and it could be LMDC, it could be Empire State Development Corporation. There would have to be an eligible recipient [to carry out] those funds.
Q: How will the Command Center's different departments be broken out?
I have seven "direct reports": director of construction coordination and mitigation, city operations director, first deputy, communications director, fraud director, director of environmental programs, community relations director, and all of the administrative staff.
There's also an executive committee that's advisory to the Command Center and mandated to meet monthly. There are six members of the executive committee: heads of the MTA, Port Authority, LMDC, city Economic Development Corporation, city DOT, and state DOT.
Q: What role does the executive committee play?
Their function is advisory. They're a policy group. Let me give you a few examples of that: We would like to get standardized contract language around diversity. We would like to get standardized language in the contracts on environmental protocols, procedures, and performance commitments -- including enforcement provisions for contractors that don't comply with it. We'd like to get standardized language in the contracts for traffic control, construction fencing operations at the sites -- those kinds of things. We'd like to get provisions in the contracts around fraud prevention.
And those kinds of things are policy issues across all the agencies.
The ability for us to get in place a [temporary] concrete batching plant is going to depend upon the developers and the agencies cooperating, in agreeing that substantially they will take their concrete from that plant because that plant will be operated by a private-sector individual, and that private-sector company is going to want at least some assurances that it has a market for what it does, and with certain price guarantees so it protects the public as well. And we would expect that private-sector entity to put the capital up for this as well.
We expect cooperation on the methodologies for getting the workforce in and out. For vetting of the workforce and making sure the sites are secure.
So it's those kinds of cross-agency and area-wide issues that the executive committee is really intended to address.
Q: It seems wise to streamline contracts with consistent language.
If you have a standard-form contract that's being used with standard practices, I think everyone benefits from the efficiencies created there.
Q: How will the Command Center be involved with work-permit issuances?
We don't issue permits. In the permitting process, though, there will be a link between the Command Center and the agencies that issue those permits, so that we have their technology and we're given advance notice when a permit is applied for. We'll be given a copy of the application. We can then assess what the impact of the issuance would be and relate it to the rest of the construction so that the agency doesn't just issue the permit and then we find out later that it's causing some difficulty. [For example,] you wouldn't want the city to issue a permit for a sidewalk café in an area where the sidewalk is about to be taken over for construction.
Q: How will the Command Center be involved with contracts?
The individual agencies still issue the contracts for construction. We're not involved in either tendering the contracts or awarding them, or managing the contracts. The agencies still shoulder the absolute and exclusive responsibility for delivering their projects on time, on budget, and within the scope of the programs, without significantly impacting or impeding the environment in Lower Manhattan. They have that responsibility, and the Command Center does not relieve them of that.
The developers are going to be letting contracts to individual construction firms, and we would ask the developers also to include those standardized provisions -- that the contractors will employ the dust-control program; that they will employ the noise-control program; that they will use low-sulfur fuel; that they will use equipment retro-fitted to scrub out particulates so that we're not putting particulates in the air; that they require their contractors to keep all equipment and materials in the site; that they don't allow parking in the site so they don't encourage people to drive in. Those kinds of provisions we would like to see standardized in every contract put forth by the private or the public sector.
Q: Can you speak more about the plans for aesthetics around construction sites?
|Logo captures center's mission: "facilitate, mitigate, communicate"
Lower Manhattan lives on its feet. People don't drive around Lower Manhattan to get places -- they walk. They live at the street level. So you've got to make that experience pleasant. That's critically important. What you see unfortunately in Lower Manhattan now is what I call "visual cacophony." [Construction sites] use French barriers, they use plywood, they use different color plywood -- and it looks eclectic, it looks cluttered. Especially in an area as dense and compact [as Lower Manhattan]. It's more important here than anywhere else to do it, because the impact can be so severe in such a small area with so much construction in such a densely populated area.
We had a preliminary meeting with Amanda Burden from City Planning and she's more than excited about the idea of doing some of these things. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council already has a grant for providing some artistic content. What you want to do is maintain the sense of place.
Q: The community will certainly appreciate it, particularly showing what the finished product will look like.
Yeah, it's a good technique to use. If we can get the creative juices going, and if we can engage the artistic community, it would be really great. And that's part of the community effort.
Q: Will the Command Center be around indefinitely?
The executive order has a sunset to it: December 31, 2010.
Q: In time for the Freedom Tower to be up?
It will be up.
Q: When you talk to the different stakeholders about the extent of Lower Manhattan construction, are they overwhelmed?
Not at all. They're clamoring for it. It's like, Get it done. We're invested in this community. We want to see this. We understand that there's going to be an impact. If anything, they understand what Lower Manhattan will be five years down the road. They've made the investment. They've made it through the last four years. They've paid the price for progress, and now they want to see the progress.
Q: What would you like people know about the work you're doing?
Don't look at Lower Manhattan for what it is now, look at it for what it can be, and will be. You've got to envision -- it's more than imagine the whole thing, because imagine speaks of the hypothetical. Don't judge Lower Manhattan for what it is today, but applaud it for what it will be tomorrow. It's a vibrant place. It's a great place. I love Lower Manhattan.