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August 8, 2007

AKRF in the spotlight

The NY Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman profiles AKRF, the ubiquitous environmental-consulting firm that has become the go-to corporation for large-scale developments in NYC.

AKRF-Principals.jpgThe NY Observer, The Enviro-Consultants Everyone Calls
Atlantic Yards, Yankee Stadium, Ground Zero—AKRF gets paid handsomely to gauge the impact of big developments. Is the firm too powerful or just too good?

AKRF has become so ubiquitous that this low-key firm, headquartered on Park Avenue South, is no longer as invisible as it would like to be. In May, a handful of City Council members attacked the firm at a public session when it failed to find evidence that a downtown Brooklyn street was once on the Underground Railroad. In June, a state judge suggested that AKRF had a conflict of interest because it was working simultaneously for both Columbia University and the state agency overseeing the school’s expansion into West Harlem.
And these reviews became bigger and bigger, as the public and policymakers demanded that E.I.S.’s cover new topics such as hazardous materials. The Atlantic Yards E.I.S., for example, takes up 995 megabytes on three discs; AKRF has earned $4.8 million from the developer on the project so far, an Empire State Development Corporation official said at a May meeting.

Atlantic Yards Report, A first in-depth (but still brief) look at AKRF, in the Observer

Norman Oder considers Schuerman's article a good start, but fills in some blanks:

While the piece is a fair-enough introduction to AKRF, it doesn't quite answer that question and, while criticisms of the company's role in the analysis of Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn and the Columbia University expansion get aired, some other issues fall by the wayside.

So there's no mention of the company's successive work for Forest City Ratner and then the Empire State Development Corporation on the Atlantic Yards project. Nor is there mention of the Manhattan Institute report that describes the revolving door between government agencies and the consultant and also criticizes the way environmental impact statements can be gamed. Nor do we hear from the lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who has termed AKRF "accommodating consultants" and "trained in the abject aping of its master’s whims."

Duffield St. Underground, Is AKRF coming out of the shadows?

AKRF was chosen by the NYC Economic Development Corporation without competitive bid to analyze the historical claims of Abolitionist and Underground Railroad activity in Downtown Brooklyn. Our public authorities may give AKRF a free pass, but hopefully the citizens will not.

Posted by lumi at August 8, 2007 9:19 AM