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ESDC general counsel claims that ESDC board, not consultant AKRF, "finds blight"

There was a telling moment last night during state Senator Bill Perkins's oversight hearing on eminent domain.

I'll have more coverage tomorrow, but the statement below by Anita Laremont, general counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation, is worth consideration.

Laremont was responding to a series of tough questions about AKRF, the ubiquitous environmental consultant that consistently delivers the reports that government agencies need to get projects past legal challenges.

Notably, ESDC was criticized in a plurality decision blocking the use of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion, given that both the ESDC and Columbia had hired AKRF simultaneously. (With Atlantic Yards, the relationship was merely consecutive; AKRF first worked for Forest City Ratner before working for the state.)

Laremont says AKRF just does research

"Let me just say though, to clarify one thing," Laremont told Perkins. "AKRF does not find blight. Our board finds blight. AKRF does a study of neighborhood conditions. And they give us a report, and we make a determination based on that whether or not the area is blighted."

What the board can't find: Pacific Street

Well, AKRF gets paid millions of dollars while board members show up very, very uninformed. Remember, as shown in the video below from the December 2008 ESDC board meeting, board member Charles (Trip) Dorkey asked to know the location of Pacific Street, a key block in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

The issue of blight was determined months earlier. How could he have found blight if he couldn't find Pacific Street? (The video is by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, part of the Battle of Brooklyn documentary in progress.)


  1. gives new meaning to not passing the laugh test.


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