Friday, October 06, 2006

Brennan asks ESDC for AY financial plans

So it's not just journalists who've begun asking the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to reveal more financial details about the Atlantic Yards project.

Yesterday, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who represents Park Slope and adjacent neighborhoods and has previously called for significant reductions in the scale of the project, said his office submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for "the complete financial and business plans" for the project.

"The decision-time is here," Brennan said at a meeting of the Park Slope Civic Council. "Within the next month to six weeks the ESDC will be approving it, with our without modifications." Getting information about finances on the table is important, he said, "so issues related to density, affordability, and subsidy can be discussed."

His request includes projections for costs, revenues, and expenses, so it goes beyond the request I and others have made for the ESDC's analysis that claims $1.4 billion in new tax revenue from the project.

Will ESDC respond?

The ESDC has not been forthcoming to journalists and opponents, and ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano defends the practice in an interview being broadcast tonight. Then again, Brennan and fellow Assemblymembers should have some influence with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who, as one of the three members on the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), can stop or modify the project after the ESDC board approves it.

"I'm hoping that because I'm a state official, they'll cooperate," Brennan said. Rather than ask the agency to send him documents, he said that, as in previous requests, he'd prefer that the agency assemble the documents in a room and let him take a look.

He said he hoped his colleagues in the Assembly from Brooklyn will support his request. Fellow Assemblymembers Joan Millman, Roger Green, Joseph Lentol, and Annette Robinson all supported a bill Brennan unsuccessfully proposed to reduce the project by 34% but add subsidies for affordable housing.

"I think most people think it's too big and that eight percent"--the recently-announced cut back to square one--"is kind of insignificant," he said.

Brennan said he and his colleagues "have many concerns" about the size of the project, the implementation plan, and the amount of affordable housing that would be built in Phase 1 of the project.

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