Monday, August 31, 2009

Last day to submit comments to ESDC; harsh comments from condemnees' lawyer

Today is the last day in which comments are accepted on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (GPP) for Atlantic Yards, so the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) likely should receive a host of comments by the deadline.

Will any of them have an impact? Unlikely.

However, the ESDC, likely via its environmental consultant, AKRF, will have to respond to the comments and present a summary of those responses to its board members before the vote to re-approve the plan, likely on September 17.

And those responses, or lack thereof, may be part of future litigation. Note that the ESDC did not issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), as many critics have argued, and comments on the environmental impact--rather than the business terms in the GPP--may be considered off topic.

Still, it will be interesting to see how and if they're answered.

Harsh criticisms

Attorney George Locker, who represents residential condemnees within two buildings in the AY footprint, has submitted some harsh comments on behalf of those clients:
  • The public notice for July 29 & 30 public hearing was improper
  • The ESDC’s denial of documents regarding the project's costs and benefits precluded full and complete public comment
  • The modified GPP and technical documents allow for the project to be completed "greatly in excess of 10 years," which he contends--so far, unsuccessfully--violates eminent domain law
  • The plan fails to guarantee the construction of affordable housing, and there is insufficient public benefit
  • ESDC and its partner Forest City Enterprises have refused to provide displaced residential condemnees with written leases for their future relocation into affordable housing within the project.
He concluded:
ESDC is a creature of the Legislature and is obligated to implement the NY UDC [Urban Development Corporation] Act, which is remedial legislation, so as to accomplish the letter and spirit of the Act. ESDC’s conduct throughout has evidenced a corruption of its public purpose and a disdain for its duty to be honest and forthright with the public and with condemnees. The hijacking of a public agency for the purely private benefit of a private real estate developer is anathema to the democratic process and a disgraceful abuse of ESDC’s right to exercise eminent domain. ESDC should halt all actions to further AYP [Atlantic Yards Project] until ESDC can be brought under the appropriate legal oversight to assure that integrity prevails over the massive public fraud that AYP represents.

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