Thursday, March 01, 2007

Glasnost at ESDC: criticism of AY oversight aired at board meeting

Comment from the public is now welcomed at board meetings of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a policy change instituted by the administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer that marks a significant step toward glasnost.

Yesterday, critics of the Atlantic Yards development took advantage of the opportunity to warn the ESDC board that, given the recent water leak and difficulty in contacting responsible officials, oversight of the site preparation and construction work was urgently needed.

The opportunity came at the end of a brief board meeting held to discuss the ESDC’s Moynihan Station project. The board members, several of them on the phone from Albany, quickly discussed an amendment to the project, asked for comment, and prepared to vote.

"Urgent concerns"

Then Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee and representing BrooklynSpeaks—which earlier blew the whistle on the oversight issue—asked to be heard, saying she had “certain urgent concerns” regarding Atlantic Yards.

ESDC Downstate Chairman Patrick Foye, on the speakerphone, asked her to be brief, noting that the agency had not yet set rules for public comment regarding issues not on a meeting agenda. He added that he’d be happy to schedule a meeting with de la Uz and others.

De la Uz briefly explained that the organizations in BrooklynSpeaks “have been troubled by the absence of visible public oversight” and said that work shouldn’t begin without such a mechanism.

ESDC is supposed to announce an environmental monitor in less than two weeks. BrooklynSpeaks has favored a local subsidiary to oversee the project.

Foye thanked her for the summary and again encouraged her to set up a meeting. He demonstrated neither resistance to the request nor any special sympathy for it. But he was cordially professional, and de la Uz, who had come to the meeting backed by four other BrooklynSpeaks members, said she would, indeed, follow up.

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