Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jeffries on Atlantic Yards governance bill: optimistic, but "significant negotiation" still required

I caught up today with Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, lead sponsor of the new version of the Atlantic Yards governance bill, to ask what's different this year, with the Empire State Development Corporation apparently on board.

"We have been working closely together over the last several months to convince the agency of the need to create a governance structure to improve transparency and accountability related to the project moving forward," he said. "In order for ESDC to create a subsidiary, we need to legislatively authorize that action, which is why Senator [Velmanette] Montgomery and I have introduced the bill."

Negotiations coming

Why is the ESDC more receptive? "I think agencies are generally more receptive when legislation is less proscriptive, as it relates to the manner in which they are expected to conduct themselves," he said. "The bill, as written, still requires significant negotiation between elected officials, community leaders and ESDC as to the precise nature of the governance structure moving forward."

That may be an interesting discussion; the legislation last year had clear roles for local appointees, while the structure right now is vague.

"The conversations with ESDC are ongoing," Jeffries said. "I have expressed the sentiment that the framework laid out in the governance legislation should be viewed as a working document for an agreement, in the future. Similarly, the subsidiary structure that currently exists with respect to Moynihan Station, Queens West, and Brooklyn Bridge Park provides an extremely useful model."

Support and questions

What does Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Atlantic Yards supporter, think?

"I have not had a detailed conversation with him on this issue, thought I do hope to do so within the next several days," said Jeffries, noting that Silver's been busy with the budget.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who chairs the corporations committee, has been supportive. The committee reported out the bill this week with only a couple of "no" votes out of about 15 members.

The concern expressed, Jeffries noted, was not related to Atlantic Yards but to the proliferation of corporations and authorities. (Indeed, Brodsky's been trying to close down many of them.)

In this case, however, the ESDC already has jurisdiction over Atlantic Yards, Jeffries noted, so governance would consolidated within a subsidiary corporation..

He said he expected some hurdles in the Senate, but trusted Montgomery's leadership.

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