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ESDC plans ombudsperson, new working groups for AY oversight

In an implicit acknowledgment that the oversight for the Atlantic Yards project is inadequate--with only an interim environmental monitor in place, an ineffective Community Liaison Office from developer Forest City Ratner, and the recent fall of a parapet from the Ward Bakery--the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has begun to put some reforms in place.

The plan, for which full implementation is expected shortly, was in the works before the April 26 Ward Bakery incident. It will involve an ombudsperson to deal with elected officials, community representatives and the public, and various interagency working groups. One of the latter committees met last week.

Uneven coverage

The news was reported yesterday in the Daily News, which published its exclusive, headlined Brooklyn arena project gets safety net, on page 24. ESDC later issued a press release.

Today Metro advanced the story, quoting community representatives as saying it's a good first step but that grassroots groups are excluded. (The Times, Post, and Sun all passed on the story.)

Timing: not quite yet

The role of an environmental monitor, who originally was supposed to be on board in early March, will be folded into this plan. (I was told yesterday by ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield that the monitor was the same as the "owner’s representative for construction activities," but today he clarified that they are separate positions.)

Cockfield added today: "The term 'Owner's Rep' is used in this instance as a term of art and not a literal definition of who the Owner is. Our hiring of the Owner's Rep is so we have a representative to oversee the State's interest in the project."

The ombudsperson--which I'm assuming is the same as the environmental monitor (but maybe that'll be clarified)--would be hired by the end of May.

The ESDC's press release included the following boilerplate, in the first sentence at least:
“Atlantic Yards will bring much-needed jobs and affordable housing to the heart of Brooklyn,” said Patrick Foye, Chairman Empire State Development/Downstate. “These measures will ensure that the project moves forward with as little disruption as possible.”

ESDC letter

Below is the letter sent to local elected officials.

ESDC Oversight and Monitoring Measures for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project

Atlantic Yards is a critically important project that will bring jobs, affordable housing and increased economic activity to the city. We are committed to seeing the project completed, and we are equally committed to minimizing disruptions. We believe these measures will accomplish these goals as we work to see this project completed on schedule.

ESDC will implement the following steps:

I. The designation of an ESDC Atlantic Yards ombudsperson
This person will provide elected officials, community representatives and the public with access to current information about the project. The ombudsperson will report to senior officials at ESDC and help facilitate the cooperation of the various government agencies involved in this project.

II. The designation of an Owner's Representative for Construction Activities
This person (or consultant team) will serve as ESDC's representative to monitor the construction activities performed by the developer at the project site. The Owner's Rep will have direct access to ESDC senior officials and staff and will have unlimited access to the site during all phases of construction. The Owner's Rep will coordinate with the developer's construction team and city and state agencies responsible for overseeing construction related activities to keep ESDC apprised of substantive issues during construction.

III. The creation of an interagency working group
ESDC will be pull together representatives from MTA, NYCEDC, NYCDOT, NYCDOB, and others to review approved and planned work on a monthly basis.

IV. The creation of a transportation working group
Concerns regarding transportation impacts, during and after construction, have been consistently mentioned by community and elected leaders. ESDC will organize a small working group of city and state agencies, community representatives and local elected officials to discuss anticipated issues and available mitigation opportunities.

V. Hold regular meetings with local elected officials
ESDC will host regular meetings to update and inform elected officials about overall progress and key project milestones.

As the project moves into the construction phase, we will continue to work with developer Forest City Ratner, elected officials, and our partners in City government to make sure quality of life is maintained.


  1. Who is/are the "owner(s)" being represented per item II?


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