December 21, 2010
Atlantic Yards Report Round-Up: DDDB and BrooklynSpeaks vs. ESDC
In a legal affirmation (embedded below) in the case regarding the Atlantic Yards timetable, Jeff Baker, attorney for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, takes aim at the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) board meeting last Thursday, saying the ESDC denied the public access to documents and conducted an illegal meeting.
Nevertheless, it is important for the Court to understand the extent of the deliberations by the ESDC Board of Directors to understand the cursory review they conducted and recognize that instead of customary deference, ESDC's actions should generate skepticism and the Court should grant the stay pending a final review of ESDC's compliance with SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act].
Where's the report?
Anticipating that the ESDC would prepare a report complying with Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman's ruling and thus indicating that a 25-year project buildout would not be unduly burdensome, Baker sought such documents via a Freedom of Information law Request on November 29 by fax and regular mail.
On December 14, he received a response dated December 6 and postmarked December 9.
Immediately, on December 14, Baker demanded copies of the documents that would be presented to the ESDC board on December 16, to afford meaningful comment. He got no response.
In the courtroom argument tomorrow over the request in a stay in Atlantic Yards construction and a re-evaluation of potential project impacts over 25 years, the battle seems to be this:
Can charges of bad procedure and dereliction of duty overcome the facts of an official document in hand and ongoing construction--construction that developer Forest City Ratner thinks requires a $100 million bond (well-nigh impossible for community groups) to pause?
The hearing will be at noon in Manhattan Supreme Court before state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, at 60 Centre Street, IAS MOTION Part 57, Room 335. (I will reconfirm and update the location by tomorrow.)
Friedman made a preliminary ruling November 9 that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) make "findings on the impact of the Development Agreement and of the renegotiated MTA agreement on its continued use of a 10 year build-out for the Project, and on whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement [SEIS] is required or warranted."
(The Development Agreement, which has a 25-year deadline, was released in January, months after the ten-year date was approved in the Modified General Project Plan, or MGPP, in September 2009.)
The ESDC responded with a flurry of arguments, notably that the arena is already well in progress, and that the 25-year outside date for project construction was long ago disclosed. On December 16, it issued findings that an SEIS is not necessary.
The findings were criticized by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition as obfuscatory and evasive. The meeting, according to an attorney for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), included an illegal executive session and denied the public the opportunity to comment on the findings.
Given that judges are supposed to defer to administrative agencies, the petitioners face a high bar--though one they're trying forcefully to overcome.
When is the Barclays Center arena expected to open?
According to an affidavit from Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin, arguing against any stay in construction, work is carefully timed so the arena can be finished by the summer of 2012 so it then be "commissioned" to open for the basketball season in October 2012.
However, there are apparently some delays in the schedule separate from any potential delays caused by litigation, as consultants report, detailed below.
It's also unclear when an arena not-yet-commissioned for basketball could open before the season to accommodate concerts (such as for Jay-Z) and other events, though presumably such events are planned and basketball is the most complicated to stage.
How many construction workers will be working on the Atlantic Yards site?
According to an affidavit (p. 244 of the document below) by Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin that's part of the case challenging the Atlantic Yards timetable, the Number of workers will rise to about 600 or more when construction activities reach their peak:
Under the current schedule for building the arena, the census of approximately 120 union workers who are actually employed at the site is expected to increase dramatically, and will rise to about 600 or more when construction activities reach their peak. And there are hundreds of other workers now employed for the Project off-site.
That's far fewer than the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) predicted in 2006 and again just last year.
The Technical Memorandum issued in June 2009 by the ESDC offers quarter-by-quarter construction jobs estimates over an elapsed time of 13 years, as shown below.
The peak, when the entire arena block was supposed to be in construction, was 3710, according to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS.
Posted by eric at December 21, 2010 12:36 PM