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On video, watch Atlantic Yards CDC ignore its rules on public comment

It really needs to be seen again, this willful bypass of transparency.

On Tuesday, my round-up coverage of the meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation described how the AY CDC failed to follow its rules on public comment, as confirmed on the overall meeting video. Now I've excerpted those three moments into one short video.

Starting off

At the beginning of the meeting, as shown below, AY CDC Chairman Howard Zemsky (who heads the parent Empire State Development, which oversees/shepherds the project), said, "Consistent with the policy of our parent corporation, we welcome public comments on the items on the following agenda. After each item is presented, we will allow comments.... All comments should be limited to two minutes, and will only address the items under consideration. The final item is titled Public Comment... an opportunity for members of the public to provide comments on non-agenda matters."

The swerve

That's not what happened. After AY CDC President Marion Phillips made his report, which included an assessment of project progress and the state's failure to produce a "digital solution" to collect public complaints and concerns about the project, resident Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, his voice not picked up by the microphone, asked if there was opportunity to offer public comment on the President's report.

"The public comment will all occur at the one time," responded Phillips.

The impact

With all comments limited to just two minutes, that meant a shorter overall amount of elapsed time for public comments, and less opportunity for board members to follow up on the comments. In essence it limited discussion and transparency.

Later, when Veconi spoke during the single Public Comment period, he observed, "Just finally, it’s been my experience at these meetings that the public actually has an opportunity to comment on agenda items as they happen, not all bunched up together at the end of the meeting after the directors have already moved on to other things. In the past, it's been a helpful component of the meetings andI hope that it's something to which we can return."

Veconi's tone was cordial. It's stunning that no one on the board endorsed that common-sense observation.

And it's stunning that nobody at the meeting--including myself--interrupted earlier to remind Phillips and Zemsky that the comment policy stated at the beginning of the meeting should have held.