Friday, February 13, 2009

The Atlantic Yards Community Liaison: office or "capacity"?

You'd think that the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) community point person, Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Forrest Taylor, would be up to speed on developer Forest City Ratner's community point person, the occupant of the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office (CLO), right?

So, how much did Taylor misspeak Wednesday night? That's when he identified Sonya Covington as the FCR's Community Liaison Officer; then, after speaking with the developer the next day, he contacted me to clarify that person in the job was Bill Murphy.

According to one community member, however, Taylor's initial statement was not far off, especially since Murphy, depending on semantics, might not be the Community Liaison Officer. And that, I suspect, may have something to do with the cash-strapped developer seeing its staff stretched thin and the CLO reconceived..

A tangled tale

Peter Krashes, who lives on Dean Street opposite the eastern end of the project footprint, told me of his difficulty last month in reaching the CLO, formerly run by Sheldon McCray, whose email address--albeit without an @ sign--is on the sign (right) posted on 6th Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets.

"My first step was to call the Community Liaison Office on the number that was on the sign, and left a message," Krashes recounted. "I went by there to the office, and did not find anybody there. I sent emails. I finally called Forrest Taylor. He gave me Sonya Covington's name."

Krashes left Covington a voicemail. She called back and left a voicemail, asking why he called. Krashes left another message, explaining that his inquiry was related to current construction activities.

About a day later, Krashes reported, "Bill Murphy left a message, saying he was calling because I had reached out to Sonya Covington."

"When I spoke to [Murphy], I asked specifically and he did not identify himself as the Community Liaison Officer," Krashes recounted. "He said, 'Forest City Ratner has a capacity for a Community Liaison Office, and I am part of that effort.' The Community Liaison Office does many things: jobs, housing, construction.'"

The original press release, issued in December 2006 as the project received its final approval, stated:
Forest City Ratner will also open a community affairs office on the project site that will be operated and staffed during all phases of the construction project.

So, Krashes asked, was Covington the Community Liaison Officer? Murphy, according to Krashes, "wouldn't answer; he said only that she works for Forest City Ratner. "

A result of layoffs?

What does all this mean? At the very least, that communication should be improved.

But the concept of a "capacity" suggests that Forest City Ratner, which has shedded employees in the economic downturn, is having its remaining staffers share roles.

(After all, the developer has fallen behind on its Construction Updates page, as I pointed out last December 17, and it still hasn't been updated since October.)

Charles Bagli of the New York Times recently called Atlantic Yards "sort of a good-times project," one born in a time of economic optimism.

Maybe the Community Liaison Office was a "good-times" element of a "good-times project."

1 comment:

  1. Happy Days Aren't Here Again
    Ratner's sky's not blue
    Not clear again
    Can't sing D'Amato's song of cheer
    again
    Ratlantic Yards is dead. Amen!

    from:"The Ballad of Poor RATLANTIC YARDS"

    PH

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