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January 8, 2010

At Senate hearing on eminent domain reform, forceful criticism of the status quo and the ESDC's answers, but reform won't happen overnight

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers another in-depth report on Tuesday's State Senate hearing on eminent domain.

They should have stuck around.

Though three representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), answering questions about contracting with AKRF and the operation of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), faced persistent (if not all too lengthy) scrutiny from state Senator Bill Perkins during the first hour of an oversight hearing Tuesday, they left before hearing others offer forceful criticism of both the agency's performance and the state's notoriously condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws.

After all, the ESDC representatives who spoke--Executive VP Darren Bloch and General Counsel Anita Laremont--not only admitted no qualms about hiring AKRF but were unwilling to suggest any ideas for reforms.

(The third representative, Executive Director Peter Davidson, was silent. He's their boss, but didn't join the ESDC until September.)

Assessing the ESDC

That left Perkins highly critical of their performance.

Asked about the ESDC's responsiveness, he said, "The word does not apply. Clearly, intellectually, they cannot be telling the truth that they think it's OK for AKRF, paid by Columbia for a blight study, can be the best choice for a similar kind of study by the agency. I can't believe that they believe it's no glaring conflict."

What about their openness to legislative reform?

"Upon being asked, do you have any ideas about how to do this better, to have more respect and credibility in the community... they were silent, evasive, and I thought irresponsible because, after all, they have an opportunity to be a part of change, in terms of trying to do this better," Perkins said. "So I don't think we're going to get what we're looking for from them that way… They like the status quo."

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Posted by eric at January 8, 2010 11:14 AM