Thursday, January 19, 2006


Observer: ESDC had lawyer recommended by Forest City Ratner

The New York Observer, in a post today on the blog The Real Estate headlined Life in a Small Town, noted that Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, had brushed off questions of a conflict of interest because the agency is using a lawyer who formerly worked for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. "I don't know whether we are using the same lawyer,” he told the Daily News.

However, reported the Observer:
It turns out, according to a document The Real Estate obtained through a Freedom of Information request, that Forest City actually recommended the law firm to the E.S.D.C. A letter, dated Feb. 18, 2004, states that “[Forest City] has requested that [E.S.D.C] authorize and/or oversee the following services to be performed with the project” including “legal services to be provided by Sive, Paget & Riesel in connection with the environmental analysis of the project.”

While it is standard for developers to pay for the legal and consulting costs that the state incurs from the project, and the state works with the consultants, the Observer set out the issue:
The question is, do developers regularly get to select—or even recommend--the consultants? And should they?

ESDC did not explain whether the developer usually gets to play that role, and lawyer David Paget did not return the Observer's messages. The issue is murky: Paget had worked for the ESDC several times before, which means that Forest City Ratner's recommendation was likely not the sole reason to consider him.

While the community groups suing to block Forest City Ratner's demolition plans did not get a temporary injunction today, the case will come return to court on Februar 14, which, the Observer said, "would be almost a week before Forest City said it would be able to begin work anyway."

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