Friday, May 18, 2007

ESDC signs environmental monitor; AKRF’s tab nears $5 million

While the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has not yet hired the promised ombudsperson to represent the public or the “owner’s representative” to represent its overall interests at the Atlantic Yards site, yesterday it approved the hiring of a long-planned environmental monitor, a job that also be described as an “owner’s reprepresentative” for mitigation oversight.

The firm, Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (HDR), is expected to be on board in early June. AKRF, the consulting firm that wrote most of the Atlantic Yard environmental impact statement (EIS), has been serving as the interim environmental monitor since February, and been doing much more (see below).

All the three positions cited above will be paid for by the project developer, Forest City Ratner, which is business as usual in ESDC projects.

Nomenclature issues

On the ESDC’s agenda yesterday was a somewat confusing item:
Mitigation Monitoring Consultant Services–Authorization to Enter into a Contract with Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture and Engineering, P.C. (HDR) for Owner’s Representative Services and to Take Related Actions.

That locution results from the ESDC’s own changes in nomenclature. The first RFP, in February, called for an “environmental monitor” to be hired in March, but generated no qualified proposals. More recently, the ESDC modified the RFP to more specifically describe the services requested. Eight firms were invited to respond; three did so, ESDC spokesman A.J. Carter told me.

The term is up to ten years at discretion of the ESDC. (Arguably, the project takes longer than the officially projected ten years, the term would have to be extended.) The cost is estimated at $250,000 to $500,000 a year, based on the level of services directed.

“We independently choose the ombudsperson, environmental monitor, and [overall] owner's rep,” explained ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield. “They will all be consultants paid for out of a fund that FCR replenishes periodically to pay for outside services. It saves the state and taxpayers money while maintaining our independence.”

Oversight issues

Among the oversight issues for the environmental monitor:
1. Compliance with the specific measures to protect historic buildings
2. Implementation of environmental investigation and remediation measures and construction techniques pertaining to hazardous substances
3. Measures to reduce the effects of construction on traffic conditions, air quality and noise, including the scheduling of truck deliveries, the use of designated truck routes, the use of on-site staging areas to reduce queueing on city streets, etc.;
4. Implementation of a rodent control program
5. Implementation of measures to retain and detain stormwater
6. Use of low emission boilers for the project buildings
7. Implementation of incentives to reduce traffic demand associated with operation of the arena

AKRF’s tab

Another agenda item yesterday stated:
Atlantic Yards Arena Land Use Improvement and Civic Project – Authorization to Amend the Contract with AKRF, Inc. to Provide Environmental Consulting Services

The ESDC authorized $630,000 in additional payments, bringing the amended contract total to $4.786 million, Carter told me. (I wasn't able to attend the meeting.)

According to an ESDC document, the additional funding “is needed to cover expenses related to unanticipated additional work, to complete the Final EIS, post-FEIS litigation support in connection with an Article 78 proceeding [the lawsuit challenging to the environmental review], and interim mitigation monitoring services. The additional funds are due to the unusually high volume of substantive comments on the Draft EIS, additional effort associated in responding to comments that were inadvertently omitted from the FEIS issued on Nov. 15, and preparation of the memo in response to post-FEIS comments.”

It would be interesting to see the breakdown of the bills. Did AKRF charge double time to get the FEIS revised over the Thanksgiving weekend so it could be approved before the end of the Pataki administration?

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