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August 23, 2010

Exclusive: Paterson loyalist with thin résumé to be ESDC's first official Atlantic Yards project manager; why wasn't position advertised?

Atlantic Yards Report

The news of the appointment is based on sources believed reliable; the rest of the article is based on public sources. The ESDC confirmed that an announcement about a new project manager is coming this week, though no name was mentioned.

After years with no individual formally overseeing Atlantic Yards, the government agency in charge of the project, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), will soon name a project manager.

However, that new staffer--at least according to the minimal publicly available evidence--lacks experience facing up to developers like Forest City Ratner and scrutinizing complex development projects, much less engaging the public.

And that may be the point, given that the ESDC has dutifully found blight on the project site, overstated expected economic benefits, and insisted in court that the official ten-year timetable is reasonable.

Getting a loyalist in place

This week, the ESDC is expected to name 33-year-old Arana Hankin, who has a relatively thin résumé but close connections to Governor David Paterson--a staunch, if misinformed, Atlantic Yards supporter--to this new, unadvertised position.

(Though the ESDC wouldn't say so, it looks like a volunteer, attorney, Susan Rahm, served as project manager during a two-year stint that ended last year.)

Is the appointment of Hankin, nearly five years after the agency began evaluating the project, an effort to impose order on Atlantic Yards?

That may be the ESDC's posture. Equally important, however, may be the governor's desire to place a loyalist in an ongoing position after his administration ends this year.

(Didn't Paterson impose a hiring freeze? Maybe there will be vacancies at the ESDC if some staffers take a state incentive program to retire. But shouldn't a position like this new one be announced and advertised, as was the ombudsman job?)

Though Hankin's been a Paterson aide in two stints, the only press account of her government service I could find--as described further below--suggests her willingness to pursue her boss's agenda, pressing the ESDC to move forward in funding a questionable project led by Elsie McCabe, wife of then-New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson.

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Posted by eric at August 23, 2010 11:11 AM