Norman Oder breaks the news that the Empire State Development Corporation will soon announce, for the first time, the state's project manager for the Atlantic Yards project.
The announcement will name Arana Hankin as the project manager and first "head" of the project for ESDC. Oder tries to find information on Ms. Hankin beyond her loyalty to Governor Paterson. Though there is a thin record of her work, Oder does find some pertinent facts.
Good luck Ms. Hankin, you'll need it to oversee this debacle.
From the Atlantic Yards Report:
Oder updated his story from yesterday with this encounter between community groups and Ms. Hankin in 2008:
Exclusive: Paterson loyalist with thin résumé to be ESDC's first official Atlantic Yards project manager; why wasn't position advertised?
The news of the appointment is based on sources believed reliable; the rest of the article is based on public sources. The ESDC confirmed that an announcement about a new project manager is coming this week, though no name was mentioned
After years with no individual formally overseeing Atlantic Yards, the government agency in charge of the project, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), will soon name a project manager.
However, that new staffer--at least according to the minimal publicly available evidence--lacks experience facing up to developers like Forest City Ratner and scrutinizing complex development projects, much less engaging the public.
And that may be the point, given that the ESDC has dutifully found blight on the project site, overstated expected economic benefits, and insisted in court that the official ten-year timetable is reasonable.
Getting a loyalist in place
This week, the ESDC is expected to name 33-year-old Arana Hankin, who has a relatively thin résumé but close connections to Governor David Paterson--a staunch, if misinformed, Atlantic Yards supporter--to this new, unadvertised position.
(Though the ESDC wouldn't say so, it looks like a volunteer, attorney, Susan Rahm, served as project manager during a two-year stint that ended last year.)
Is the appointment of Hankin (right in photo, at 11/24/09 meeting of the board of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation), nearly five years after the agency began evaluating the project, an effort to impose order on Atlantic Yards?
That may be the ESDC's posture. Equally important, however, may be the governor's desire to place a loyalist in an ongoing position after his administration ends this year.
(Didn't Paterson impose a hiring freeze? Maybe there will be vacancies at the ESDC if some staffers take a state incentive program to retire. But shouldn't a position like this new one be announced and advertised, as was the ombudsman job?)
Though Hankin's been a Paterson aide in two stints, the only press account of her government service I could find--as described further below--suggests her willingness to pursue her boss's agenda, pressing the ESDC to move forward in funding a questionable project led by Elsie McCabe, wife of then-New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson...
...It turns out that Hankin has intersected with Atlantic Yards, though not in a way that gave assurance to project critics and opponents.
After David Paterson became governor in early 2008, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and other groups pressed to meet with him, Terry Urban, former CBN co-chair, told me.
Paterson promised that Tim Gilchrist, who was in charge of economic development for his office, would attend that August 2008 meeting. "[Architect] Marshall Brown flew in from Chicago to present the UNITY plan, and several representatives from the larger community groups were there to show the extent of support for it, and to put a reasonable face on our suggestions for changing the proposed project, and demonstrate our willingness to work with the new leadership," Urban recounted.
"Gilchrist was a no-show. Ms. Hankin, as a Paterson aide, explained that she worked in the city office, and so chaired the meeting in his absence," Urban stated. "With the low-level staff on hand, she listened politely, and said she'd re-schedule with Gilchrist. She never did. Unfortunately for us, it was a competent stonewalling maneuver, merely another of many to which we were accustomed."