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Interim Atlantic Yards Environmental Monitor in place (and guess who?)

Residents around the Atlantic Yards footprint have noticed an engineer walking around and an air monitoring station set up. It turns out that, while the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has yet to hire an Environmental Monitor, as per a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued last month, an interim monitor is in place.

The monitor? AKRF, the consulting company known for producing lengthy environmental impact reports that justify development projects while resisting legal attack. AKRF produced the Atlantic Yards environmental impact statement, which remains subject to an expected legal challenge.

The ESDC is evaluating the RFP in-house, agency spokesman Errol Cockfield told me, and a selection should be made “very soon.” Once that firm is chosen, AKRF will hand off the task.

[As I’ve written: Some context about consultants AKRF, who have worked on projects ranging from Shea Stadium to Battery Park City. Obviously large developers value AKRF's work, but a frequent critic is Richard Lipsky, whose Neighborhood Retail Alliance lobbies for local businesses over big boxes and large developments (but is an Atlantic Yards supporter). In a post on his blog, Lipsky wrote, "The AKRF folks are simply rationalizing their job which is to make a great deal of money by minimizing impacts and conducting dishonest research."]

Not an ombudsman

The monitor has some very specific tasks, as detailed in the RFP, including the assurance that appropriate equipment is used, construction isn’t too noisy, and that rodent control and stormwater management plans are implemented.

The monitor, Cockfield noted, is not designed to serve as an ombudsman for the public. So what should residents with concerns about construction activities do?

He suggested three options: contact the city via 311, the developer via the Community Liaison Office, or the ESDC itself. The ESDC hasn’t set up a specific contact number or person, but, then again, it does take public comments at its meetings, and on February 28 was reminded of the urgent need for monitoring.

[Update: George Locker, attorney for 13 tenants in the project footprint, comments, "There is one other alternative for tenants of Ratner who live in the footprint while demolition proceeds- it is a Class E felony for a landlord to harass its rent regulated tenant(s). See New York Penal Law section 241.05. In June 2006, the 78 Police Pct. issued complaint #2316, for harassment, filed against the contractor and Forest City Ratner, based on the mechanical demolition on 6/12/06 against one wall of 624 Pacific Street. So in addition to phoning 311, tenants should call 911." That criminal complaint, he says, was taken but not pursued.]

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