Skip to main content

Payback? Yassky asks City Council to give BUILD $3M to fulfill Ratner's CBA

It looks a lot like payback. Council Member David Yassky, the only white candidate (of four Democrats) in a heated campaign to win the open seat in the black majority 11th Congressional District, on May 7 announced the support of several community activists, including three signatories to the controversial Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA. (None of the three, who are black, were identified in Yassky’s press release as associated with the organizations that signed the CBA.) Within ten days, Yassky filed a City Council Priorities Request asking taxpayers to send $3 million for job training to Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), the most controversial of the CBA signatories, which is headed by James Caldwell, one of those supporters at Yassky’s press conference. (Photo from DavidYassky.com)

The proposal was quickly derided by fellow Council Member Letitia James, who called Yassky's move "pandering," and Bill Batson, chair of Community Board 8's Atlantic Yards Committee, who questioned Yassky's embrace of an untested organization.

The funding request, which includes a pre-apprenticeship program, a first source hiring program, an MBA intern initiative, and a technical assistance service for small businesses, was revealed at a CB8 meeting Thursday night by BUILD chief operating officer Marie Louis, a CB8 member. She asked board members to lobby Council Speaker Christine Quinn in support. (Click for a larger version.)

A Yassky spokesman was unwilling to discuss the request, but it appears to substitute for funds once expected of Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards project, neither of which are named in the document. BUILD indicated in an Internal Revenue Service filing that it anticipated $5 million from the developer over two years. Once that document came to light, BUILD officials denied that the developer had supplied money, but later acknowledged receiving $138,000. [Update 6/12/06: A reader points me to the Community Benefits Agreement (p. 15), which states, regarding job training: The Project Developer and BUILD will work to seek and secure public and/or private funding for this program. Emphasis added.]

Asking for help

Commented Batson, “I’m quite shocked that a project that has no Community Board input and no city oversight is now requesting the Community Board to support the requesting of additional city money to a project that’s already oversubsidized.” While the document from Yassky’s office describing the “Community Benefits Catalyst Initiative” doesn’t mention the developer or the the Atlantic Yards project, the initiative's title seems a clear reference to the CBA.

The document claims, “BUILD has both the expertise and capacity to see this project through successfully.” However, BUILD has no actual experience in job development, and the New York Observer reported last December that representatives of other agencies doing such work were perplexed at BUILD’s inclusion in the CBA.

“Yassky’s association with BUILD is troubling,” said Batson, also a candidate for the open seat in the 57th Assembly District, which, like the 11th Congressional District, would include the Atlantic Yards footprint. “Hasn’t he looked at their track record? They don’t have one."

Besides symbolic help, BUILD may offer Yassky some political connections; its office last year was a hub of political work, and there has been overlap between BUILD staffers and an organization called Community Leadership for Accountable Politics.

AY posture

Regarding the Atlantic Yards project, Yassky has straddled the fence, sometimes vague enough to confuse reporters. Last September he called for the project to be scaled down significantly and also said in March that, “unless there’s a serious and concrete plan” regarding traffic, “I think the project has to be resisted on that ground alone.”

Of Yassky's rivals, Chris Owens, son of the retiring Rep. Major Owens, opposes the Atlantic Yards project, while Carl Andrews and Yvette Clarke have expressed support. As for the racial calculus, consultant Hank Sheinkopf told the Daily News, "White voters need to feel that blacks will not be upset if they vote for Yassky."

Any chance in Council?

James, whose district includes the Atlantic Yards footprint, criticized Yassky for seeking city funds for a community rather than a citywide issue. “I can think of about 50 other citywide projects where this $3 million could be better spent,” she said, noting that Speaker Quinn had asked Council members to submit initiatives for citywide issues.” Each Council member was allowed four such requests, and hers included support for the Red Cross, afterschool programs, fire marshal, and public housing.

Observed James, an opponent of the Atlantic Yards project, “He’s obviously pandering to a certain constituency and to maintain the support of a certain organization.” Still, she noted that Yassky has not actively lobbyied for the BUILD initiative and seems more concerned about health care funding for small businesses. The budget must be passed by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Asking Yassky

After learning secondhand of Louis's presentation, I called Yassky spokesman Evan Thies for comment and was told, “We won’t be discussing any of our items.” He would not confirm or deny whether the funding request had been submitted, nor discuss the rationale for the request. “It’s an internal discussion between the council member and the speaker,” he said.

Later, after I got a copy of the document excerpted above, I called Thies back and gave him an opportunity to comment further. He declined.

Council members and advocates have been discussing the budget requests. A 6/8/06 New York Times article headlined New Council Speaker Has Chance to Rein In Freewheeling Budget Process, cited spending priorities submitted by council members, noting that now each new item must gain endorsement from at least ten council members from at least three boroughs--an effort to stave off frivolous requests. Among the initiatives cited in the article was, in fact, Yassky's $10 million request to help subsidize the health care expenses of small employers.

Brooklyn's curious CBA

So how much has Forest City Ratner pledged to BUILD? When asked at the CB8 meeting, Louis was unable to supply that information. Nor would Forest City Ratner Joe DePlasco, when asked yesterday by the New York Observer, specify how much CBA signatories have received.

It’s an odd sequence. If the city wants to fund job training, it has existing vehicles to do so. In this case, BUILD, a new organization, offered public support to Forest City Ratner's project, then got paid by the developer. Now that Forest City Ratner apparently will not--or would not like to--fully support the initiatives in the CBA, BUILD seeks public support.

No matter the funding source, the process runs afoul of the standard set in pioneering CBAs in Los Angeles, where signatories don’t accept funds from the developer and don’t benefit directly. As James commented, “It’s not a CBA. It’s an IBA: Individual Benefits Agreement.”

Comments

  1. ...was revealed at a CB8 meeting Thursday night by BUILD chief operating officer Marie Louis

    Chief Operating Officer?!?

    I'm sure there are quite a few "operators" in the BUILD organization, but that's a novel application of that title.

    Sincerely,

    Dope on the Slope
    Senior Vice President of Comments

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…