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In seventh slick brochure, Forest City Ratner touts "historic" CBA

The seventh in Forest City Ratner's series of slick fliers touting the Atlantic Yards project now focuses on the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, suggesting a continued effort to marshal support in black Brooklyn.

At a community meeting Saturday on the UNITY plan, City Council Member Letitia James suggested that the flier was being distributed in Central Brooklyn, which has a large African-American population. Forest City Ratner also has been pushing statistics about its contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses, which has reached nearly $19 million. (Several are from outside Brooklyn.)

This flier focuses on the signatories of the CBA, all of whom are black. Several of the previous brochures focused more broadly on the project, with (partial) images of buildings and open space, and pictured a multiracial cast of Brooklynites.

CBA legitimacy

CBA watchdogs and city officials have looked askance at the CBA and critics in Brooklyn point out that the signatories, most of which were formed for the purpose of "negotiating" the CBA, apparently are funded or stand to benefit from deals with the developer. (Here are some details, plus an Observer piece on some unconvincing denials. Here's some criticism from a CBA watchdog, Good Jobs NY.)

Some of the CBA groups do coordination or advisory work, the cumulative support for which is surely much less than the $400,000 the developer paid former New York Senator Al D'Amato to lobby in Washington against eminent domain reform, a story revealed by the New York Observer but not touted in any brochure.

Fledgling groups change names

Some two-and-a-half years after the CBA was signed on June 27, 2005, three of the eight signatories have changed their names. Two changes I've previously reported: The First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee has become Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE). The All-Faith Council of Brooklyn has become Faith In Action, Inc. The flier brings the news that the Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium has become Brooklyn Voices for Children, Inc.

Those three, along with the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance and Public Housing Communities (PHC), apparently were formed expressly for this project, while Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) was fledgling at best. Two other signatories--the housing group ACORN and the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC)--had established track records.

Two of the groups, BEE and PHC, both list addresses at 466 Bergen Street. However, the storefront doesn't show the names of those groups.

Cover image

Note the scroll lists the names of the original signatories and that, in subsequent pages, representatives of several of the signatories pose individually in front of the scroll. (Click on all images to enlarge.)

Agreement summary, housing

The first spread summarizes the agreement and asserts, "A keynote of this landmark agreement... is to ensure the participation of those traditionally excluded from the benefits of such development."

That's not necessarily true regarding all the beneficiaries. For example, FCR has hired (press release) the nation's oldest minority-owned construction firm to oversee the $182 million reconfiguration of the Vanderbilt Yard. McKissack & McKissack, a family owned business for more than 100 years, has completed 6000 projects and, according to its web site, "has contracted more than $50 billion in construction over the past decade." (Then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey didn't know (!) whether the company was chosen via a bidding process.)

McKissack & McKissack is also working on the Columbia University expansion, and Cheryl McKissack Felder testified at a community board hearing in favor of it. She's also contributed $1000 to the campaign coffers of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

The summary of the housing agreement repeats the plan to build 2250 subsidized rentals and 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units. Unmentioned is that there's a huge delay in affordable housing financing, and Forest City Ratner hasn't even applied for the bonds it needs. The timetable for affordable housing, especially the full complement promised, is vague. (ACORN would manage the lottery.)

Environment & job training

Note that the environmental assurances for which BEE is responsible are fulfilled if Forest City Ratner follows the state-mandated process.

Minority contracting, education

What is Brooklyn Voices for Children doing? "BVC is establishing a planning and development program for primary education, higher education, career exploration for youth, as well as health education and wellness initiatives for children, youth, and families."

Community facilities, public housing

Among the activities of the DBNA include the establishing of a Community Health and Wellness Center, an office of Arena Related Programs, and "a Project Gallery, documenting and celebrating the creation of the CBA and Brooklyn's rich history." The suggestion is that the CBA is an important part of Brooklyn's rich history.

PHC is "working with FCRC to ensure that public housing residents have priority in all aspects of the CBA."

Clergy and clips

What's Faith In Action (FIA) supposed to do? Provide "an ongoing listing of free and affordable vocational and education resources... to assist clergy in preparing their parishioners for present and future CBA opportunities."

FIA and PHC seem to have similar missions, but FIA has a different slogan, "Relative resources for changing times," which might also apply to the family-controlled Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner.

Note that the clippings excerpted on the final page mainly concern the hiring of McKissack & McKissack. At the bottom right, I've highlighted a photo from an 8/23/06 press conference in which New Jersey Nets players Vince Carter and Jason Kidd joined Bruce Ratner, local elected officials, and some CBA signatories to announce support for the project; Kidd is no longer a Net.


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