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October 20, 2011

In softball Times interview, AKRF president shrugs off challenges to credibility, but the AY blight study tells a different story

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, we don't really expect hard-hitting journalism from The Times's Real Estate section, but really.

The president of ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF gets respectful treatment in SQUARE FEET | THE 30-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Edward A. Applebome, scheduled for the 10/23/11 Real Estate section of the New York Times:

Q Speaking of all these clients, some groups have questioned AKRF’s objectivity when conducting studies for them, charging that more often than not you reach conclusions in their favor, as with Columbia’s plans.

A If it’s an impact study, that’s really being done for the decision-making agency, and it becomes their document. It’s not an advocacy document — it’s a disclosure document.

In New York nothing’s easy. Communities care about what gets built, and adjacent property owners often care the most. Of course there is a lot of controversy surrounding some of the projects we are involved with, as was certainly the case with Columbia’s Manhattanville proposal. This is New York City and people have strong competing opinions they express in different forums, but we would not be as successful as we are if the quality and accuracy of our work could not be sustained.
(Emphases added)

AKRF in action

More often than not? Let's recall this sequence from a 1/5/10 oversight hearing led by state Senator Bill Perkins, querying Anita Laremont, then General Counsel of the Empire State Development Corporation.

"Has AKRF ever found a situation where there was no blight?" Perkins asked, drawing laughs from the audience.

"Let me just say," Laremont responded, a bit sternly. "AKRF does not find blight. Our board finds blight. AKRF does a study of neighborhood conditions. They give us a report, and we make a determination based on that as to whether the area is blighted."

(Not true, actually. AKRF was hired to do "a blight study in support of the proposed [Atlantic Yards] project.)

"Have you ever differed with their point of view?" Perkins asked. "Have they ever come back with a determination that was, in your point of view, not blighted?"

"No," acknowledged Laremont.

"Have they ever given you a determination that you concluded was not blighted?" he continued.

"No," she said.


NoLandGrab: And if The Times is going to do fluff on the real estate pages, shouldn't the Metro desk do this story with actual bite?

Posted by eric at October 20, 2011 11:22 PM