Monday, July 21, 2008

"He Who Pays the Piper, Calls the Tune"

The sleight-of-hand consulting game that's going on with ESDC and Columbia U. gets more interesting all the time. As the Observer's Eliot Brown pointed out last week : "It seems the second blight study commissioned for Columbia University's planned West Harlem expansion did not come at extra cost to the state, as the Empire State Development Corporation's spokesman confirmed today that Columbia picked up the report's $217,000 tab."

How shocking! Nah, not really. This is getting so incestuous that we're going to need a good blood test for the latest blighted offspring. Can we get any more clear evidence that this is all a sophisticated, but not very subtle, game of collusion?

As Senator Bill Perkins said this is a "cooked process," with the results being half-baked. Will the courts be fooled by the bait and switch. As Brown highlighted: "The state's major development agency, ESDC, yesterday declared the 17-acre expansion footprint as blighted, a necessary step before using eminent domain. Prior to yesterday, it was unclear whether a blight study the state commissioned would have run into legal obstacles, as a state appellate court earlier in the week was critical of the state's use of contractor AKRF to complete the study." (emphasis added)

So this new gambit is designed to cover up the old collusion? With the same data base? Here's how Slick Schick views the switcheroo: "But yesterday, ESDC's president, Avi Schick, announced the agency had done a second blight study—an "audit," according to the press release—with a separate consultant, seemingly mooting the concerns regarding AKRF (though we haven't yet seen the second study)."

This is getting to be like the Augean Stables, with the clean-up becoming a Herculean task. Here's hoping that Perkins starts to focus on this charade; with an accompaniment perhaps from the intrepid Richard Brodsky.