Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ESDC being audited, but not over Atlantic Yards

[Note: updated and corrected]

The Village Voice investigation that questioned the activities of Charles Gargano, former chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and a board member of the Port Authority of NY/NJ, isn't the only look into Gargano's activities.

The New York State Comptroller's Office has been conducting a "scorching audit... that demanded the agency repay more than $100,000," according to the Voice.

An article in the Real Deal suggests that new Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli may be trying to help new Gov. Eliot Spitzer move Gargano from his post at the Port Authority of NY/NJ. However, according to DiNapoli spokesman Dan Weiller, the audit has been under way for nearly a year, so the timing has nothing to do with the new comptroller.

While Weiller said he could not confirm the content of the audit, press reports have suggested it's related to ESDC member items paid to the Suffolk-Nassau Chamber of Commerce and then benefiting Gargano's nephew Frank Gargano.

Picking your spots

An inquiry in this case certainly seems legitimate. Then again, an inquiry into the ESDC's questionable Atlantic Yards fiscal impact analysis issued last December also would have been legitimate.

However, that's when Comptroller Alan Hevesi was negotiating his exit under a cloud of allegations and essentially crippled in his job. This audit was already ongoing.

So it's a reminder that the timing for Atlantic Yards approval at the state Public Authorities Control Board in December, was, from the perspective of project supporters, quite fortuitous.

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