Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blight Makes Right

In a companion editorial in today's NY post, Tom Eliot exposes the climate of collusion that often is generated when land use decisions are being made in NYC. In this case it is the relationship between the consultant AKRF, Columbia, and the state's economic development agency, ESDC. As we have ourselves pointed out, AKRF is no disinterested consultant since, as CU's land use advisor, it has a vested interest in finding that the area the university wants to expand into is "blighted." So, how can the AKRF folks be working simultaneously for the state?

A local judge wondered the same thing; "While acting for Columbia, AKRF has an interest of its own in the outcome of [ESDC's] action, as AKRF, presumably, seeks to succeed in securing an outcome that its client, Columbia, would favor." But ESDC's appeal of that ruling won't be heard until December, so everything's going ahead for now."

That doesn't take away from the obvious implications that the state has impaneled a hanging jury in this matter, and when people's property is in the balance we should be able to do better than this. The conflicts of interest here, calls into question the legitimacy of the entire expansion plan, something that elected officials should be able to recognize if they can don the cloak of impartiality.

What this should mean is that there are a myriad set of reasons for saying the Columbia plan is badly in need of compromise and serious revision. Nick Sprayregen has offered his own possible olive branch. How long will the university dither, and leave themselves at the mercy of consultants-of all stripes-who may not be able to advise them properly?