Friday, May 23, 2008

Jeffries says Assembly should hold AY hearing; FCR instead offers breakfast update

While the State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions is holding a hearing today on the progress of development projects on Manhattan's West Side, there's a strong argument for a hearing to assess the status of the Atlantic Yards project as well.

Whether that hearing, including representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner, will get scheduled is another question. Assembly leadership--apparently Speaker Sheldon Silver--has so far balked, according to Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

Joint committee hearing

Jeffries, who represents Prospect Heights and the AY footprint, is a member of the Corporations committee. He said last night that he and two neighboring legislators--Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who chairs the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation committee, and Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who chairs the Cities committee--want to hold a joint hearing of their committees regarding Atlantic Yards, given the uncertainty regarding the project.

"I'd like to get all of them, ESDC and the developer, on the record, under oath," Jeffries said at a meeting of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council at P.S. 9 on Underhill Avenue. (Among the questions worth asking: how exactly were the generous timetables for the project determined?)

"There's been some resistance," Jeffries said. "The developer has offered to meet with legislators at a legislative breakfast. I think there's been enough back-room conversation."

He said hoped a hearing could sort out plans regarding eminent domain, the financing of the arena, the commitment to build affordable housing, and any negotiations to sell the Nets to an ownership group that would have them play in Newark's Prudential Center instead.

In Silver's court

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who chairs the Corporations committee, supports such a hearing, Jeffries said, but, "ultimately, leadership has to make the call."

While Jeffries didn't directly blame Silver, the Speaker wields ultimate power in the Assembly. Silver has supported Atlantic Yards. And Forest City Ratner's $58,420 contribution on January 7 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account probably helps Silver bend an ear in the developer's direction.

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