Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Forest City Ratner pulls the strings behind the AY Construction Updates (and why the ESDC should answer questions)

(This is one in an irregular series of articles about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a hearing on Atlantic Yards.)

Well, we all know that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was willing to repeat Forest City Ratner's not-credible claim last December that lawsuits--as opposed to a cash crunch--had stopped ongoing work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

Here's another example, in which documents prove that Forest City Ratner--not the ESDC--is the author of the not-so-informative semi-monthly Atlantic Yards Construction Updates.

Uneasy relationship

This may not seem like a big deal, but it's illustrative of an uneasy relationship in which ESDC must both oversee and promote Atlantic Yards. Officially, the ESDC circulates and posts the updates, announcing:
In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.


(Click on all graphics to enlarge)

Deferring to Ratner

The statement that "ESD and Forest City Ratner provide" suggests that the state agency should be willing to answer questions raised by discrepancies in the updates, such as my query about why announced utility work on Pacific Street never apparently occurred.

However, the ESDC sent me to Forest City Ratner, which ignores my queries and, not being a government agency, is not subject to any oversight. So the government and the developer should be asked about Pacific Street utility work at the upcoming Senate oversight hearing.

Behind the Construction Updates

Why didn't the ESDC answer me? One plausible explanation is that it didn't have an answer--because it's merely a conduit for a document prepared by Forest City Ratner.

How do I know this? As a resident who gets construction updates emailed directly explained to me, the ESDC slipped once, failing to strip Forest City Ratner employees' names from a memo emerging from the developer's office.

In December 2007, residents were forwarded the following update, credited to Forest City Ratner's Scott Cantone. (The other names are either FCR or state employees.)


The update was followed by this apologetic email from an Empire State Development Corporation staffer.


Here's an example of the heading on a typical Construction Update circulated by the ESDC as an attachment:


Another  recipient of FCR's originals

For another example of the original form of the updates, see this message, excerpted below, from FCR's Sonya Covington to Delia Hunley-Adossa of Community Benefits Agreement signatory Brooklyn Endeavor Experience.



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