Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When blight ain't right

From the NY Observer:

State Senator Bill Perkins is apparently not happy about the state's choice of consultants.

One consultant, specifically: AKRF, the New York–based firm that has established itself as the unchallenged king of environmental review in the city and state, dominating the field of government contracts.

The source of angst for Mr. Perkins is Columbia University's proposed 17-acre expansion into West Harlem and the state development agency's selection of AKRF to do a blight study. The blight study is a necessary step for eminent domain in the project, though the state's selection of AKRF has taken significant heat from the courts, which recently dealt the school a tremendous blow by blocking the use of eminent domain for the expansion. Among other factors, the use of AKRF was cited as a concern given that Columbia also used the firm to do its environmental review (the state intends to appeal the ruling).

A sampling of the testimony:

Mr. Perkins [on AKRF]: Have they ever come back with a determination that was, from your point of view, not blighted?

Anita Laremont, Empire State Development Corporation counsel: No.

Mr. Perkins: Have they ever given you a determination that you could prove was not blighted?

Ms. Laremont: No.

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

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