« Momentum strategy: Haier sponsorship deal for Barclays Center finally announced seven months after report, but is it really "lucrative" (as per NYT)? | Main | Freddy's "Toast to George Will" Recap »

January 11, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report: The Video(s)

Norman Oder — reporter, blogger, music video director — trains his lens on the Empire State Development Corporation.

Does ESDC board determine blight? On video, Dorkey can't find Pacific, Gargano evades Lehrer; both avoid Pinamonti's invitation to "come down and see"

It was probably the most astounding statement during the January 5 oversight hearing on eminent domain held by state Senator Bill Perkins: the General Counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Anita Laremont, asserted that consultant "AKRF does not find blight; our board finds blight."

Now Laremont was speaking technically; legally, the board is charged with determining blight. But how does it work in practice? AKRF works for the project applicant either simultaneously (in the case of Columbia University's expansion) or consecutively (in the case of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project) with the ESDC.

AKRF gets contracts worth several million dollars to produce reports (paid for by the project applicant) on blight and environmental impact. (As of May 2007, the Atlantic Yard tab approached $5 million.) Board members, as far as I know, get no compensation. They have no special training. They're not even listed on the ESDC web site.

In new and better view on video, ESDC General Counsel acknowledges no disagreement ever with consultant AKRF

Given the availability of new video, with a better view of those testifying, it's worth another look at the sequence during the January 5 oversight hearing when state Senator Bill Perkins questioned Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Anita Laremont about the agency's record hiring consultant AKRF, which always seems to find blight when asked to report on neighborhood conditions.

The ESDC: "quasi-governmental corporation," "public benefit corporation," "economic development agency," or just an "entity"?

State law calls [the ESDC] "a corporate governmental agency of the state, constituting a political subdivision and public benefit corporation," which a federal judge has shorthanded to a "public entity."

So ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont was not incorrect in calling it (video) "my entity" during testimony at a January 5 oversight hearing chaired by state Senator Bill Perkins. But should "entities" be in charge of determining blight and eminent domain?

Posted by eric at January 11, 2010 11:05 AM