Skip to main content

ESDC "carefully considered" post-FEIS comments, but won't release them (or responses)

Though the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) invited public comment on the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), it won't immediately make public those nine letters nor the agency's responses, which essentially dismissed the concerns expressed.

Rather, in a contradiction of ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano's comments on Friday, the agency directed me to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, which would delay the process until after Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) vote scheduled for December 20. Gargano, when asked at a press conference whether the agency could supply the documents to me, had said "of course."

By contrast, the ESDC in the FEIS made public a huge volume of comments and responses. Commented attorney Jeff Baker, who represents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and is a veteran of state environmental reviews, "Of course they should be public. There is no legal requirement for formal publication of the comments and responses, like the comments on the Draft EIS published in the FEIS. However, they are public records and must be made public."

"If Gargano is proclaiming transparency, and if the PACB is going to properly review the project, that information should be made public," he added.

Atlantic Yards is on the agenda for the December 20 meeting of the PACB, the final level of state review. The votes are controlled by Gov. George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the only Democrat. While there's pressure on Silver to stall the project until the administration of incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer, a fellow Democrat, Pataki is reported to be offering legislators some carrots, such as a long-awaited pay raise, if they embrace several initiatives, including Atlantic Yards.

What's missing

Without the documents requested, we still don't know the ESDC's response, for example, to issues raised by DDDB's Baker about response times for emergency vehicles, the ESDC's unwillingness to consider the threat of terrorism, and the agency's highly questionable blight report.

A response to a FOIL request, much less the delivery of documents, can take weeks. So it's highly unlikely that the ESDC would produce the documents requested before December 20.

A slim opportunity

The opportunity for further comments on the Atlantic Yards project came up on November 27, when Gargano told reporters that the ESDC would continue to accept comments during the ten-day period before the board was to vote.

"If we get any substantive comments, we will take them into account," said general counsel Anita Laremont, who said the ESDC was not required to respond to them in writing.

Such an opportunity for additional comments was not specified in the FEIS. The State Environmental Quality Review Act does not spell it out:
Prior to the lead agency's decision on an action that has been the subject of a final EIS, it shall afford agencies and the public a reasonable time period (not less than 10 calendar days) in which to consider the final EIS before issuing its written findings statement. If a project modification or change of circumstance related to the project requires a lead or involved agency to substantively modify its decision, findings may be amended and filed in accordance with subdivision 617.12(b) of this Part.

Board approval

When the ESDC board met last Friday to approve the Atlantic Yards project, Rachel Shatz, the agency's director of planning and environmental review, read from a statement: "We received a total of nine letters. Staff, with our consultants, carefully considered all the comments and determined that no new issues have been raised and there is no need for any additional analysis in light of the information and conclusions in the FEIS. And the directors have all received copies of these letters."

Copies available?

In the post-meeting press conference, I followed up.

Q: The responses to the questions that came in in the last ten days, were those responded to in writing or not?

Charles Gargano: They were responded to in writing. We have found--I think there were nine?

Rachel Shatz: Nine letters that came in.

CG: Nine letters. And they have been responded to.

RS: Internally.

Q: Can I get a look at that?

RS: We'll review... [The rest of her statement is inaudible on my tape.]

CG: He wants copies of the--of course.

Of course not.

On Tuesday, ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen told me via email that I'd have to file a FOIL request. The agency indeed does have the option to require such a request. But Gargano's response certainly indicated cooperation and transparency.

Or did he, as on the Brian Lehrer Show a week ago, misspeak?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…