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May 8, 2007

Ombudsman slated for Brooklyn project

In wake of Atlantic Yards incident, a new community liaison

By Amy Zimmer

In the wake of the recent partial collapse of a building within Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards’ 22-acre footprint, state officials announced yesterday new measures to improve oversight of the $4 billion project as it moves into the construction phase.

The Empire State Development Corporation plans to hire an ombudsman to work as a liaison between the state agency, elected officials and the public.

NoLandGrab: To be clear, the announcement that an "ombudsman" or "environmental compliance monitor" was to be hired was first made in February (see, Atlantic Yards Report).

The ESDC will also establish two multiagency working groups to coordinate the developer’s work with that of various government agencies, and will regularly review how construction is affecting the area.

“These measures will ensure that the project moves forward with as little disruption as possible,” Patrick Foye, ESDC’s downstate chairman, said in a statement.

For those of you still hoping for a political solution to the Atlantic Yards problem, note that Foye said, "moves forward with as little disruption as possible." Those "disruptions" ESDC hopes to avoid would seem to include any common-sense initiatives or changes which might make Atlantic Yards anything but the most dense residential community in the nation or the biggest boondoggle in NYC history.

Meanwhile, decisions are being made behind closed doors («plus ça change…»):

The ESDC kicked off regular meetings on March 16 with local elected officials and will designate a Ratner representative to monitor construction and demolition.

“We are very glad to see the ESDC is taking responsibility to oversee the project,” said Candace Carponter, co-chair of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods — one of the plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit against the ESDC and Ratner over the project’s environmental review.

“Our concern is that the community is still not involved,” she added. “The two committees are made up of representatives from [city and state] agencies. There are no community members.” And she was concerned that the first working group meeting — held last week — was done behind closed doors. “If they’re not announcing the meetings and not giving the public an opportunity to participate, we’re not comfortable they will take public concerns seriously.”
Will the community be invited to future meetings? “We’ll certainly explore that recommendation,” ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield said. “The community will be very involved.”

"That recommendation" has already been made in public by City Councilmember David Yassky.


Posted by lumi at May 8, 2007 10:01 AM