Friday, January 06, 2012

After 15 months, still waiting for response to a Freedom of Information Law request regarding ESDC official's trip to China to support Forest City Ratner's EB-5 sales efforts

So, how far did New York State go to assist Forest City Ratner in its efforts to raise a low-interest loan of $249 million from immigrant investors seeking green cards under the federal government's EB-5 program?

After 15 months, I'm still waiting for a response to my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Empire State Development Corporation. Nothing's changed since I wrote about my request nearly five months ago, in August.

Still, thanks to New York Times coverage of EB-5 gerrymandering,  there's now much more concern about whether New York State bends the rules to help favored projects. So there's even more reason the state should practice transparency.

My query

On 10/5/10, I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for:
records regarding Executive Director Peter Davidson's planned trip to China this month on behalf of the New York City Regional Center's effort, under the EB-5 visa program, to market an investment in Atlantic Yards.

Specifically, I seek records, including but not limited to correspondence to, from, and within the Empire State Development Corporation, that explain:
  • the cost and itinerary of the trip
  • what Mr. Davidson is expected to do (outline of remarks, etc)
  • the solicitation for and decision to make the trip
  • any evaluation on ESDC's part of the job numbers used by NYCRC
What we know, and what we don't

We do know some of what Davidson did, and we also know that it's not ESDC's job to evaluate job projections, however much they differ from the projections the agency did itself.

But we don't know how much the state spent, or how it was decided that Davidson would join the trip.

As I later learned, and wrote 12/8/10, Davidson (left in photo) made at least one misleading speech, telling potential Chinese investors that Atlantic Yards "will be the largest job-creating project in New York City in the last 20 years.”

He also delivered anodyne but official-sounding proclamations (as in the photo) honoring immigration agencies, thus helping the New York City Regional Center--and thus Forest City--recruit investors by providing an aura of endorsement.

Davidson this past November left for a post at the Port Authority.

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