Thursday, April 19, 2007

What's a "reasonable worst-case scenario"? ESDC considered terrorism, just not in EIS

Critics of the Atlantic Yards environmental review had previously been told by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that post-9/11 terrorism was beyond the scope of the law:
Emergency scenarios such as a large-scale terrorist attack similar to the World Trade Center attack, a biological or chemical attack, or a bomb are not considered a reasonable worst-case scenario and are therefore outside of the scope of the EIS. However, as indicated in Chapter 1, “Project Description,” the proposed project would implement its own site security plan, which includes measures such as the deployment of security staff and monitoring and screening procedures…. Consultation with NYPD and FDNY has been taking place and would continue should the project move forward. Disclosing detailed security plans is not appropriate for an EIS.

Now there's a response from Forest City Ratner in the ligitation challenging the environmental review and seeking a temporary restraining order to block demolitions. In it, FCR attorney Jeffrey Braun points out that no regulation requires terrorist attacks to be analyzed.

"Preeminent security consultants"

Further, he points to a series of actions that suggests that the ESDC and the developer have taken the terrorist issue quite seriously:
In this case, the submissions in opposition to the petition will show that ESDC made the eminently sensible determination that the risk of a terrorist attack was not appropriate for inclusion in the SEQRA process, which would have entailed the publication, including availability on the Internet, of information about risk assessment and security measures. The submissions also will show that FCRC retained preeminent security consultants and, working with those consultants, participated in extensive confidential reviews of the Project with the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Task Force, to assess the risk of a terrorist attack and to address that risk in an appropriate manner. Given the nature of the threat, however, it would not be appropriate—indeed, it would be foolish—to expose the risk assessment materials to public scrutiny.

That may be so, but in other projects there has been at least some acknowledgement of security issues.

For example, a 9/25/05 technical memorandum regarding proposed design changes to the Freedom Tower, from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), states: In response to security concerns, the building base, an approximately 190-foot-tall pedestal, would have a protective shell of steel and concrete.

(LMDC is not an ESDC subsidiary, run by gubernatorial appointees, but a
joint State-City corporation governed by a 16-member Board of Directors, half appointed by the Governor of New York and half by the Mayor of New York.)

What's a "reasonable worst-case scenario"

And the question remains: what's the difference between "a reasonable worst-case scenario" under the scope of state law and "a reasonable worst-case scenario" under a common-sense understanding?

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