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August 15, 2008

Was AKRF's work for Ratner a hindrance to hiring by ESDC? No, it was a justification

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote in July 2007 about the questionable but apparently legal practice of a developer like Forest City Ratner hiring consultants like AKRF, then paying for AKRF's work on the same project on behalf of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Since then, I've learned some details:
--AKRF had been working for Forest City Ratner since June 2003
--the ESDC's conflict-of-interest policy doesn't address issues of consecutive representation
--AKRF was hired without any competitive bidding or public notice because the ESDC was convinced speed and continuity were important.

All this suggests that AKRF, widely acknowledged as the largest and most experienced environmental consulting firm in New York, the consultant of choice for sponsors of major projects, can benefit from some cozy circumstances: in the case of Atlantic Yards, its preliminary work for the developer, rather than raise questions about the ethics about later doing similar work for ESDC on behalf of the public (from an account funded by the project sponsor), instead cemented the contract without competition.

In the case of Atlantic Yards, the voluminous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) adds up to nearly $4.8 million.

"The noncompetitive, nonadvertised aspect is questionable, as is who’s managing the consultant," observed Hope Cohen of the Manhattan Institute, who's critiqued the EIS process, when I forwarded her some documents for comment. "This question of who’s in charge is a fundamental problem in the public sector."

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NoLandGrab: Original contract with AKRF for the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement: "not to exceed $1.5 million."

Cost to-date of the Atlantic Yards EIS: $4,786,230.

Not finding any impacts that would alter or jeopardize the project in any way: Priceless.

Posted by eric at August 15, 2008 8:41 AM