Friday, May 04, 2012

ESD CEO Adams says agency seeks ways to formalize public input on Atlantic Yards "before the project's done 25 years from now"

It's actually not on the video, but there was a telling moment during the meeting May 2 held by Empire State Development (ESD) CEO Kenneth Adams with Atlantic Yards community stakeholders.

(L-r.) Carlo Scissura, Arana Hankin, Ken Adams,
Justin Ginsburgh. Photo and set by Tracy Collins. 
Adams was ruminating on the obligation he acknowledged for his agency "to be more responsive than we were as an agency in the past."

While ESD is still figuring it out, based on discussions with elected officials, Adams said they were open to a "formal structure for community input over the long life that we expect the project to have."

"25 years from now"

"Again, it's not a secret that there have been legislative efforts to do that," he continued. "So that sort of prompted my original interest, in conversations with Senator [Velmanette] Montgomery and Assemblyman [Hakeem] Jeffries, Council Member [Letitia] James and Council Member [Steve] Levin."

"We're having discussions, and we're open to doing it," he said. And that would be "a way to formalize a system for us to be more helpful, more responsive... before the project's done 25 years from now."

Changed agency posture, it seems

If Adams's tongue was in his cheek regarding the timetable, it was hard to notice.

Indeed, the state agency in charge of Atlantic Yards seems to have shifted its posture. After years of asserting that the project would take ten years as originally projected, in late 2009 the agency "negotiated" a Development Agreement with Forest City Ratner that gives 25 years before penalties kick on--at least on the project as a whole.

Now Forest City Ratner has been saying it aims to get the project done much faster and, indeed, if its daring modular construction effort comes to fruition, it may accomplish that.

But from the ESD's perspective, I'd contend, the issue is no longer that the project could take 25 years, it's whether a 25-year buildout would be any worse, in terms of community impact, than a ten-year one. The agency produced documents saying the longer buildout wouldn't be worse, but lost in court.

And now the agency is deciding whether to appeal a unanimous appeals court decision ordering it to conduct a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement on the effects of such a lengthy buildout.

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