Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The new Community Advisory Committee has a seat for the CBA, but the ESDC won't say why

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has begun to recruit a reconstituted and expanded Atlantic Yards Community Advisory Committee (CAC), to meet quarterly and provide comment on the project, and is asking local elected officials for nominations.

Only the chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Executive Committee gets an automatic seat, but the ESDC hasn't explained why.

(The letter at right refers to an "Executive Board," but the CBA calls it a committee.)

According to the letter from project Ombudsman Forrest Taylor, the CAC will have 17 members, a distinct increase from the six-person board that petitioners in the lawsuit challenging the AY environmental review have called toothless.

Appointee process

The new CAC would include one member selected by each one of the ten elected officials representing the area; two members each from Community Board 2, 6, and 8, to be selected by the respective board chairs; and the chairperson of the CBA board.

Two of the elected officials, Borough President Marty Markowitz and Rep. Yvette Clarke, are enthusiastic supporters of AY, while two, Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery are opponents; the rest have expressed support mixed with criticism. The Community Boards have generally expressed mixed to negative views of AY.

So it's likely that the CAC would tilt somewhat toward a critical posture. That suggests that a reserved seat for the CBA would counteract that tilt slightly.

The other elected officials are State Senator Eric Adams; State Assemblypersons Jim Brennan, Joan Millman, and Hakeem Jeffries; and City Council Members David Yassky and Bill de Blasio.

That CBA seat: why?

Why does the CBA get a seat while other organizations, such as the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), not get one? CBN produced an extensive critique of the environmental impact statement and has open meetings, unlike the CBA. Then again, CBN is a plaintiff in the pending lawsuit over the environmental review.

When I spoke with Taylor on Monday, February 4, he said he'd get back to me with a statement. Three days later, he said I should contact the ESDC press office, which I did, twice, with no response so far.

At a meeting last month, when Taylor was asked if CBN would get a representative, he responded, “You know your elected officials just as well as I do.” Indeed, it's likely that an elected official critical of the project would appoint a representative from CBN.

Then again, it's likely that an elected official supportive of the project would appoint a representative from the CBA. After all, for the six-member CAC that barely met during the consideration of Atlantic Yards, Markowitz appointed Delia Hunley-Adossa, who chairs the CBA Executive Committee.

A legal document prepared by the ESDC in the environmental lawsuit merely said (p. 27) that Hunley-Adossa "has many ties to the local community," without citing her role in the CBA.

CBA role and schedule

According to Taylor's letter, the CAC's role will be to provide comment as the Project moves through its various phases as well as provide ESDC and the developer the opportunity to regularly update a group of community representives.

It is anticipated the CAC will meet quarterly, with each meeting including a discussion of the work having occurred, work that we anticipated occurring in the next quarter, and responses to questions having arisen out of our discussions.

Our goal is to have the first CAC meeting in late February to early March.

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