Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When it came to the railyard work stall in December, the ESDC was more enabler than evaluator

(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.)

I've written recently about how the Empire State Development Corporation lets Forest City Ratner pull the strings on Atlantic Yards Construction Updates and leaves the developer in charge of explaining a discrepancy in those updates.

Here's another example: when work stalled in December at the Vanderbilt Yard, the developer blamed lawsuits, and the ESDC endorsed that explanation.

"The latest I have is that they’ve done all the preliminary work they can complete until the lawsuits are taken care of," ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston told me. "The work will resume when litigation is resolved." His source: "our people who work with FCR."

Unexplained contradiction

However, that ignored sworn affidavits by Forest City Ratner officials that the construction schedule was “carefully drawn to allow the arena to be ready for the 2009-10 season by commencing work now on vacant properties that are owned by FCRC, the MTA and the City, with work on properties that are owned or occupied by other parties deferred until the pending judicial challenges to the Project have proceeded....”

In other words, ESDC refused to challenge the developer on the discrepancy. 

So, is the ESDC an evaluator or an enabler? Is the ESDC ensuring that public purpose is dominant or is it assisting a private developer to get a project done, no matter what?

It's another contradiction facing a public authority birthed during the Civil Rights era, with the significant (but not only) purpose of rebuilding slums, to the ESDC, whose slogan is "New York Loves Business."

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