Marisa Lago was named presidnet and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) about one month ago. Of course the ESDC is the unelected, unaccountable state development corporation "overseeing" Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Ms. Lago gave her first commetns since she assumed the job earlier this week, the NY Sun reports:
ESDC Chief Emphasizes Unity
State Development Corp. has been without a downstate president for seven
months, but its new president and CEO, Marisa Lago, is not yet ready to say
when the executive charged with overseeing New York City's economic development
projects will be appointed.
Ms. Lago is working with the ESDC's chairman, Robert Wilmers, to find a downstate
president to help coordinate financing and construction for a number of development
projects, including Forest City Ratner's plans for 16 skyscrapers; an 18,000-seat
basketball arena for the Nets; thousands of apartments at a site at the corner
of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; the redevelopment of Penn Station, and the
proposed expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Ms. Lago declined to comment on the future of the Atlantic Yards Project and
the redevelopment of Penn Station, both of which have been stalled. She said
the timing of her appointment, which coincides with Wall Street's woes, made
the ESDC's work that much more important.
"Sure, one can say it is great to be in flush times, there are more dollars. But on the other hand, the need for strategic economic development is actually keenest in a down economy," she said.
It is refreshing to hear that the ESDC has someone at the helm who understands
that "strategic economic development" is a necessity in this very shaky "down
The Atlantic Yards plan, proposed in 2003 in an entirely different economy,
is in no way strategic in the economy we are in now, and will be in for years
to come. Whatever Atlantic Yards is today (and nobody
seems to know what it is, not even NYC
Comptroller Bill Thompson) it is not strategic.
Strategic economic development would include the principle at the foundation
of the UNITY Plan—the community's plan
for the Vanderbilt Rail Yards—which is to divide the 8-acre rail yards
into multiple, smaller and more manageable parcels to attract multiple developers
through a legitimate RFP to pay more to the MTA than Ratner is willing to. The
multiplicity of developers would finally detach the sound and strategic development
of the yards from the vice grip Ratner has had on it for nearly 5 years thus
radically reducing the overall
risk. No longer would the development of the yards be dependent on Ratner's
fiscal health and his desperate need to move the Nets team for which he overpaid.
Strategic economic development would not include fantasies about the health
of the housing market, pr jargon and empty promises about "affordable housing"
and jobs; strategic economic development would most certainly not include a
taxpayer-subsidized, billion dollar basketball arena plagued by financing troubles,
escalating construction costs, eminent domain opposition and litigation.
In actuality that kind of head-in-the-sand approach is pure folly.
It's not 2003 any more. Ms. Lago is correct.
points to the obvious which we missed:
Did Ms. Lago mean unity, or UNITY, as in the community-created UNITY
Plan for the Vanderbilt Railyard? If it's the latter, we couldn't agree