Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Developer Chakrabarti: environmental review process is "workfare" for lawyers and consultants

A lot of community groups don't like the environmental review process that, under city, state, and national law, requires elaborate disclosure documents that are burdensome to produce but not necessarily helpful.

And developers don't like them, either.

"Workfare program"

Vishaan Chakrabarti, the Executive Vice President of Design and Planning for the Related Companies, offered forceful comments (video) October 16 at the Vertical Density Symposium sponsored by the Skyscraper Museum in conjunction with its Vertical Cities: Hong Kong | New York exhibition.

"Our environmental impact process is completely flawed," he said. "Our regulatory process for a project like Moynihan Station--probably over $15 million has been spent on environmental work that no one will ever read, that is its own kind of workfare program for lawyers and consultants.”

Now Chakrabarti was arguing for a process that would make it easier to enable density at a site that he believes could accommodate such density--and needs it to make the project work economically.

But it was notable that a developer would share some of the same frustrations that community groups express: the process produces endless documents that are too hard for most people to read (well, it was worthwhile to read some not-so-credible statements in the AY review) and aimed significantly as a defensive strategy for litigation.

An even longer EIS

The Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) comes on three CDs, plus another CD for the General Project Plan.

Just for the heck of it, I requested the FEIS for the Access to the Region's Core project, which would involve a new tunnel under the Hudson River.

It comes on a DVD. The Table of Contents alone is 29 pages.

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