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July 16, 2008

State Must Release Columbia Expansion Papers, Court Rules

City Room [NY Times blog]
By John Eligon

Good news for property owners in West Harlem fighting the forced seizure of their property for Columbia University expansion plans.

A state appellate court on Tuesday upheld a decision ordering the Empire State Development Corporation to release documents regarding the expansion of Columbia University to a group that opposes the plans.

The court voted, 3 to 1, to uphold a June 2007 decision by Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich of State Supreme Court that said the corporation’s decision to hire a consultant that also worked for Columbia was a conflict of interest. That conflict meant that correspondences between the corporation and the consultant were not exempt from public disclosure laws and needed to be released, Justice Kornreich ruled.

But the appellate court did find that certain documents were indeed exempt and did not need to be released.

The state in 2006 hired the consultant Allee King Rosen & Fleming Inc., or A.K.R.F., to conduct a study to determine whether the state would be justified in using its power of eminent domain to condemn property sought by Columbia for its expansion. A.K.R.F. was already working with Columbia on the expansion.

Consultants dealing with state agencies may be exempt from public disclosure laws, but in this case the judges found that a conflict of interest nullified the exemption in certain areas.


NoLandGrab: AKRF was hired to conduct the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

Atlantic Yards Report, Appellate court upholds ESDC/AKRF conflict in Columbia case

In a somewhat similar case regarding Atlantic Yards, a Supreme Court Justice ruled that it was improper for a lawyer to work simultaneously for developer Forest City Ratner and the ESDC--but the ruling was overturned when the appellate court found the representation was consecutive rather than simultaneous.

Unresolved: what exactly are the ESDC's guidelines regarding consecutive representation? How much of a gap must there be?

Posted by lumi at July 16, 2008 5:21 AM