Saturday, June 14, 2014

ESD non sequitur: short time for SEIS review justified by "delay in Phase II construction and limited Project changes" (but what about lengthy document?)

So why exactly did Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, give so little time to respond to the court-ordered Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which was released 3/28/14, and with a comment period ending 5/12/14?

Project critics and opponents thought the process was set up to meet Forest City Ratner's plans for its pending joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group.

After hearing complaints about the time, the state authority gave an obfuscatory answer in the Response to Comments chapter of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued and approved last week.

Comments

Comments on the issue came from Assemblymembers Jim Brennan and Walter Mosley, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and even a project supporter, Meredith Staton:
I request that ESD extend the public review period for the DSEIS by an additional 60 days, thereby providing the public with more time to review the extensive materials released for comment. (Brennan)

I don't know how anybody could read all of [the DSEIS] in a short time. So I'm hoping they would extend the time for us to review it. (Staten) [sic]

I want to put into the record my request that the public review period for the DSEIS (released on March 28th — 34 days ago) be extended for an additional 60 days. As announced by ESD, you will close the period for written public comments on May 12th, 45 days from the release of the DSEIS. I, along with many others, believe that is an insufficient amount of time for my constituents and neighbors to properly analyze and respond to a document of more than 1,200 pages, and compares unfavorably to an 85-day public comment period allowed for the draft scope of work issued on December 19th, 2012, and a 67-day comment period for the DEIS issued on July 18th, 2006. To this end, I would urge ESD to re-evaluate and re-issue a new deadline in response to this most recent impact study. (Mosley)

DDDB strongly objects to the grossly insufficient time given to comment on a document of this size and complexity. ESD must admit that it has had over two years to work on this document and is providing only the bare minimum of legally required time to comment. This is further evidenced by the fact that the comment period on the MGPP lasts until May 30th. As ESD is well aware, that slightly longer comment period is required pursuant to Section 16 of the UDC Act which requires a minimum of a 30 day comment period following the public hearing on the MGPP. It is quite obvious that if ESD actually cared about public comment, it would, at a minimum have had the comment period for the DSEIS match the comment period on the MGPP. (DDDB)
Response

The response was brief:
The comment period complies with applicable SEQRA regulations. Because the DSEIS was a draft supplemental EIS focused on a delay in Phase II construction and limited Project changes, ESD determined that a longer time period was not required for adequate public review.
Let's take a look at that.

The comment period complies with applicable SEQRA regulations. 

True.

Because the DSEIS was a draft supplemental EIS focused on a delay in Phase II construction...

It doesn't necessarily follow that a delay means a simple set of circumstances. As stated by Mosley, the document was more than 1200 pages. Consider this rather detailed memo on transportation issues.

and limited Project changes, ESD determined that a longer time period was not required...

Though the formal changes are limited, the potential impacts of delay--and the interplay with delayed aspects of Phase 1--may be significant.

 for adequate public review. 

The notion of adequacy is dubious, because there's no sign there's adequate review by the ESD board, either: they rubber-stamp documents without question, even when there's good reason to think the Final SEIS is not complete.

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