Skip to main content

City Council member items and the work of the CBA

The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was set up, advocates said, to provide worker training for locals and to support minority-owned businesses.

Those may be worthy goals, though CBAs are coming in for criticism, in part because the benefits they provide might better come from a more accountable and transparent source: government.

City Council funds job training

The budget passed this year by the New York City Council includes several items touching on issues raised in the CBA and the City Council, which has not been the most transparent agency in the past, more clearly spells out who's funding what.

The budget includes $1.5 million for the MWBE Leadership Association--an organization I couldn't find on the web--to provide "entrepreneurial training on the process and procedures for doing business with the City and/or on the major public works projects."

It also will provide $150,000 for Non-Traditional Employment for Women (which has supported Atlantic Yards), which provides "training and access to jobs in New York City's construction, utilities and facilities maintenance and repair trades" for "disadvantaged, mainly minority women."

The budget provides $3,284,000 for the Consortium for Worker Education (CWE) to work with "community based organizations to provide job training to union workers to improve their employment skills and also provide citizenship classes, ESL, GED, computer literacy and work readiness preparation to immigrant, minority and long-term unemployed workers."

There's no funding for BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) , as City Council Member David Yassky last year sought as he ran for Congress. Indeed, as Bonnie Potter of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition told the New York Observer in 2005, BUILD was an odd choice to handle private or government job-training funds, given its lack of a track record.

The politics of member items

Some other interesting earmarks come directly from specific Council members. Gotham Gazette recently found that newer members of the council got far less funding than some veterans (full list) for their individual initiatives.

Another factor, Council Member Tony Avella told Gotham Gazette, is loyalty to Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The black-oriented Our Time Press, in the July 1 issue, published a chart suggesting that minority Council members in Brooklyn who voted for the renaming of a street in honor of the late activist Sonny Carson--which Quinn opposed because of Carson's self-described anti-white stance--got less funding. (Letitia James, by the way, abstained.)

The numbers are stark, with Council Members David I. Weprin, Leroy G. Comrie, Jr., Lewis A. Fidler, and Peter F. Vallone, Jr. getting more then ten times as much money to dole out as Avella, Hiram Monserrate, Alan J. Gerson, Darlene Mealy, and Mathieu Eugene.

More funding

Women members of the council, plus a few men, provided another $25,000 to Non-Traditional Employment for Women to add two classes to meet the citywide demand for construction and utility workers.

The budget includes $75,000 for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an Atlantic Yards CBA signatory, to provide income tax preparation assistance and homebuyers seminars. Among the six sponsors were Council Members James and Bill de Blasio.

Ten members, including de Blasio and James, provided $55,000 to the Pratt Center for Community Development for community planning and development assistance to communities throughout the city.

The 17-member Brooklyn delegation provided $132,000 to the Prospect Park Alliance to fund youth and educational programs, Playground Associates, and other programs.

The delegation also directed a hefty $555,250 to the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council for legal services for poor and working class residents, and youth programs. The council is the home base for Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic leader.

The Brooklyn delegation directed $40,000 to the HOPE Program to help New Yorkers with criminal records get living wage jobs, and to supply job retention services.

Nine Council members, including Yassky and de Blasio, directed $362,607 to the Doe Fund, to support support Ready Willing & Able, the fund's "holistic residential work and job skills training program which helps homeless individuals achieve lives of self-sufficiency."

Other smaller grants go to arts groups, tenant associations, and community groups. Yassky, for example, directed $10,000 to the Boerum Hill Association and $5000 to the Metrotech Business Improvement District.

Monitoring development

Yassky also directed $10,000 to Neighbors Allied For Good Growth, a Williamsburg-based group aiming to monitor the rezoning and its effects. (In the Atlantic Yards context, would that go to BrooklynSpeaks or Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn--or some yet-to-emerge group?)

One of the most intriguing: James and her colleague Al Vann directed $23,500 to Brooklyn Community Board 8 to support a zoning study and an urban planner. That sum could only pay for a part-time consultant, but it's a sign of the deep deficits in expertise faced by many community boards.


Popular posts from this blog

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…