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Penn Station Megaproject Suit Seeks Documents State Withheld as ‘Trade Secrets’

(THE CITY) GABRIEL POBLETE, SEP 9, 2022

Manhattan lawyer alleges state has been shielding role played by property owner Vornado, which has valuable holdings affected by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Midtown development plan.

The New York State agency pushing a controversial redevelopment of the Penn Station area is refusing to release records that could reveal financial details behind the massive project — claiming that its communications with property owners are trade secrets.

lawsuit filed last week in Manhattan state Supreme Court by an attorney active in city development battles demands that Empire State Development (ESD) release records related to the state’s negotiations with the developer Vornado, the largest property owner affected.

“Vornado was there every step of the way — and not just as an observer,” lawyer Charles Weinstock said to THE CITY. Weinstock is representing himself as plaintiff in this case. 

His complaint alleges “ESD has been particularly zealous in concealing the central role played by Vornado Realty Trust,” whose principals were big donors to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Weinstock also claims in court papers that “the documents ESD has produced thus far establish the continuous involvement of Vornado in the project’s development” showing “collusion between a state agency and the private company that would be the project’s primary beneficiary.”

The attorney is seeking a court order after ESD denied three record requests — and appeals — he made under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. In emailed responses, the agency cited exemptions applying to trade secrets, pending contracts, interagency materials and technology security as reasons to keep financial documents under wraps.

Source: The City