Friday, July 18, 2008

Out of Blight, Out of Mind

There's more this morning on the ESDC three card monte consulting game that ended with the determination that the area that Columbia wants to expand into is blighted. As the NY Sun reports: "Even as lawyers for private landowners are vowing to fight the state's anticipated use of eminent domain to seize property needed for Columbia University's proposed $6.28 billion expansion, the plan won approval from the Empire State Development Corp.'s board of directors yesterday."

And as the Sun further points out, the agency has brought in a second firm to "audit" the findings of the ESDC house organ, AKRF. The results, along the line of, "one lies, and the other swears to it," were predictable: "Those opposed to the project have also raised concerns about the ESDC's hiring of an environmental planning and engineering firm, AKRF, to conduct the blight study, because the firm has done work for Columbia. At yesterday's meeting, the board disclosed that it had employed a second environmental planning firm, Earth Tech Inc., to conduct another report, which mirrored AKRF's in its findings."

The NY Times weighs in on the consulting sham: "Opponents of the expansion, however, have said for months that the study’s findings were a foregone conclusion because the consulting firm that performed the blight analysis on behalf of the state — Allee King Rosen & Fleming Inc. — had previously conducted Columbia University’s environmental impact study for the expansion.
On Thursday, the state agency said that the consulting firm’s analysis had been audited by a second firm, Earth Tech Inc."

Ah, but who will audit the auditors here? What is remarkable to us, is how Bronx-like the whole affair is. With the exception of Senator Perkins, area electeds were in lock-step with the CU plan-and have a remarkable case of lockjaw when it comes to the displacement of thousands of residents: "But on Thursday, many city and state lawmakers were aligned against Mr. Sprayregen. Along with the press release announcing the development agency’s approval of the expansion plan were statements of approval from Gov. David A. Paterson, Representative Charles B. Rangel, Deputy Mayor Robert C. Lieber and state Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright."

Perhaps, when we read reports of some of these very same officials living in rent stabilized apartments, and the case of Mr. Rangel, multiple such units, it isn't so surprising to find a less than zealous defense of the housing needs of their constituents. When it comes to development, there's a toady on every block in Harlem.

We'll be interested to see just how helpful these very same cute cheerleaders will be should a viable housing plan be proffered in the near future. Columbia would best be served, along with the residents of West Harlem, is a viable affordable housing development were devised out of the chaos. CU may, in fact, be more receptive than its lackeys: "Columbia said on Thursday that it was willing to restart negotiations with the holdout businesses before eminent domain proceedings began."

Where's the leadership in Harlem? Apparently, with the exception of Bill Perkins, you just need to follow the money.

Thanks to Liz for the link!