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In new and better view on video, ESDC General Counsel acknowledges no disagreement ever with consultant AKRF

Given the availability of new video, with a better view of those testifying, it's worth another look at the sequence during the January 5 oversight hearing when state Senator Bill Perkins questioned Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Anita Laremont about the agency's record hiring consultant AKRF, which always seems to find blight when asked to report on neighborhood conditions.

Also more notable is the audience laughter and a slightly more clear transcript.

"Has AKRF ever found a situation in which there was no blight?" Perkins asked, drawing laughs from the audience.

"I can't answer that question," Laremont responded. "I can't answer that."

"In any of your cases with them, you've used them on other projects, I assume" Perkins continued. "On any of the other projects, have they ever reported back to you--"

"Let me just say, though, to clarify one thing," Laremont responded, a bit sternly. "AKRF does not find blight. Our board finds blight. AKRF does a study of neighborhood conditions and they give us the report, and we make a determination based on that as to whether or not the area is blighted, which is a little different from AKRF finding blight."

"Have you ever received information from AKRF in any of the other projects, in which you said, You're right, this is not blight, or You're wrong, this is not blight. Have you differed with their point of view?" Perkins asked.

"No," acknowledged Laremont.

"Have they ever come back with a determination that was, in your point of view, not blighted?" he asked.

"No," Laremont allowed.

"Have they ever given you a determination that... you concluded was not blighted?" Perkins continued.

"Not that I recall," she said.

"So, from your point of view, they're 100 percent blight?" Perkins asked.

That drew more laughter from the audience.

"Wherever they go, they come up with blight, that's what you're telling me," he said.

"What I would say is that, in each case, where we've had a blight study--" note Laremont's slight verbal lapse--"study done by AKRF in respect of a project, the project has been upheld through all legal challenges, and in each case, the courts of this state have found that our finding of blight was warranted," she said.

Thus she was relying on the state's broad deference to agencies like the ESDC, as attorney Michael Rikon pointed out later in the hearing.