State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who used to hammer away at Mr. Gargano in public hearings on Javits during the Pataki era, calls Mr. Foye “an enormous improvement.” But Mr. Brodsky, chairman of the committee that oversees ESDC and other public authorities, still thinks that Mr. Foye should be thinking more boldly.
“Javits and the Empire Zone program are two examples of things where he has been remarkably cautious and where facts can push them further and faster than he has done,” Mr. Brodsky said. “I think the decision to stick to the [Javits] footprint has more to do with politics than with building a first-class facility.”
Mr. Gargano, for his part, says that he thinks well of Mr. Foye, whom he knew from their common experience in the Pataki administration. Unlike Mr. Gargano, who oversaw economic development for the entire state, Mr. Foye has a counterpart in charge of upstate.
“Pat’s superiors in the governor’s office have a right to evaluate each of these projects, but I would hope they would know how much work and effort went into these projects,” Mr. Gargano said in a telephone interview from the east end of Long Island, where he is semi-retired. “There shouldn’t be any more delays than necessary because the more delays there are, the more expensive things become.”
Perhaps nothing speaks more succinctly of the difference between these two men than the fact that people would call Mr. Gargano “Chairman Gargano,” or even “Ambassador Gargano,” since he had once represented the United States in Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Foye insists that even reporters address him as “Pat.”
THE ONE PROJECT THAT HAS NOT received the Foye treatment is the one that a sizable percentage of New Yorkers would like to see seriously gut-renovated: Atlantic Yards. Mr. Foye has previously explained to reporters that he has not taken as hands-on an approach with the Brooklyn complex as he has with Javits and Moynihan because it is further along, and because it is more of a development by Forest City Ratner Companies than by the state.
The project’s critics counter, however, that state and city taxpayers are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in direct grants and tax benefits. In addition, Empire State Development is trying to invoke eminent domain to take people’s property and will actually own the entire 22-acre footprint, leasing the parcels to Forest City for a few dollars, according to the General Project Plan approved in December.
Mr. Foye has proposed some oversight, especially after a parapet atop one building collapsed while asbestos workers were doing preparatory demolition work in April. However, of several oversight measures proposed in May, Mr. Foye acknowledges that only two have been undertaken so far. Empire State Development has met with public officials once in a group and seven other times with individual officials or community groups, according to the agency. Also, it has met twice with an “interagency working group.”
“They have been responsive to a certain degree, more responsive than the previous administration. That’s for sure,” said City Council Member Letitia James, an Atlantic Yards opponent. “They give the appearance that they want to address [our] concerns but there has been no follow-up.”
Mr. Foye said it is a “short-term priority” to determine whether to request formal bids for an “owner’s rep,” a firm that would represent the state on construction matters. As for an ombudsman to hear community complaints about the construction, he expects to hire one by the end of September.
Given the expected time frame for the Javits design and the Moynihan Station deal, it looks like the next three months will be busy ones for Empire State Development.
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