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August 20, 2010

Case closed (more or less): yes, ESDC volunteer Rahm was in charge of Atlantic Yards, serving at times as a sole contact person for FCR officials

Atlantic Yards Report

Who's in charge here?

Rumors that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will soon announce a new staffer as Atlantic Yards project manager make the below account especially timely.

Documents unearthed via a long-lingering response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request offer strong evidence, if not definitive confirmation, that a below-the-radar volunteer was, during a crucial period, the ESDC's leading overseer of Atlantic Yards.

After all, lawyer Susan Rahm (below, in the audience at the 5/29/09 state Senate oversight hearing) was the sole recipient at least once of key communications from developer Forest City Ratner.

Disputed takes

As I wrote 6/2/09, there was evidence that suggested Rahm, a several-days-a-week volunteer since the summer of 2007, was running the show, a highly unusual position, given that the state agency had no other volunteers.

I had questioned whether Rahm was in a policy-making position, and was told by the ESDC that no, she was just a consultant.

Another person intersecting with Atlantic Yards disagreed. "When I was introduced to Susan Rahm, she was called the 'project manager' for Atlantic Yards," my correspondent told me. "Yeah, it’s a pretty general term, but I got the impression she was the chief operating official for the project, salary or no."

Rahm left her role in the second half of 2009, some two years after she signed on, but after Forest City Ratner and the ESDC had revised the General Project Plan and granted Forest City Ratner more flexibility.
...

Adding it up

Was Rahm in charge? It sure looks that way, though obviously she shared responsibility with Matlin and their superiors.

The question now: is anyone in charge? (And who might be coming?)

And if the rather vague and weak Atlantic Yards governance bill, now pending, is passed, will it set up a structure with real oversight?

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Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Posted by eric at August 20, 2010 11:42 AM