Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Barclays/Nets alliance poses questions, seeks "positive perception of landmark partnerships"

It seems unlikely that anything other than a symbolic groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena could be held this fall, as promised, given that the arena block will not have been cleared nor will the state and developer control all the properties within it, as lawsuits are pending. Moreover, bonds for the arena can't be sold until those lawsuits are cleared, and that most likely wouldn't be until 2009, in a best-case scenario.

Still, officials from Barclays Capital, Forest City Ratner, and the (as of now) New Jersey Nets are forging ahead with a "Barclays/Nets Community Alliance," aiming to "leverage the Nets with FCRC and BARCLAYS to create a positive perception of landmark partnerships"--in other words, giving away $1 million with the twin goals of helping the disadvantaged communities and, not coincidentally, reaping some public relations rewards.

The announcement also raises questions about timing, length of commitment, and the morphing of a previously announced project.

A year late?

The alliance was announced 11/16/07, with approving quotes from the Rev. Al Sharpton, Assemblyman Darryl Towns, and State Senator Eric Adams, and others. (Other black leaders were more critical, citing Barclays' much-debated, not-necessarily-worse-than peers ties to the slave trade, which caused some uproar last year but has quieted down considerably. )

The first grant, of $150,000, was announced as going to Out2Play, Inc, a non-profit dedicated to building and refurbishing playgrounds throughout the city public school system.

No other alliance grants have been announced since then, as far as I know, though the Nets have teamed up with the American Dairy Association to refurbish two basketball courts in Manhattan.

A five-year effort?

How long will it last? While the press release last year stated that the alliance "will invest one million dollars per year in local non-profits," another press release, dated this May (right), stated that "Barclays and Nets/FCRC together will invest $5 million in a nonprofit organization aimed at assisting Brooklyn's youth."

That suggests an effort that might end in five years. That might be just long enough to build the planned arena.

A revised alliance?

The alliance was announced some ten months after the Barclays Center naming rights deal was announced.

The latter, when announced in January 2007, was to spawn an organization with a slightly different name, the Nets-Barclays Sports Alliance, aimed "to promote athletics, education and personal development among young people in Brooklyn," aiming to "repair and renovate basketball courts and other sports facilities throughout the borough, as well as sponsor amateur athletic tournaments and clinics for Brooklyn’s youth."(The Post reported a figure of $2.5 million.)

Given that the Sports Alliance hasn't been mentioned since, it certainly seems like it's been supplanted by the Community Alliance, given that the latter is also involved in refurbishing playgrounds. But that's a question Forest City Ratner and Barclays should clarify.

Timing issues

The images in this article come from a Request for Funding Guidelines handed out to some 50 community groups last week at a conference hosted by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

Apparently the document was prepared last year, rather than this year. It states that the alliance was created in 2007 "to assist community-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations in Brooklyn and surrounding communities in need through outreach programs, which shall promote education, health, community development and amateur athletics."

That's a fairly broad mandate and could encompass organizations that are part of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Also, though the cover page states that the Request for Funding Guidelines and associated documents would be linked from the web sites of the sponsoring organizations, I couldn't find such links.

As noted, the project does seem behind, given that the sequence of selection, award notification, and award start all were to be accomplished between November 1, 2007 and December 1, 2007.

$1 million available

The guidelines state that a total budget of $1 million available, with a maximum award of $200,000. The total includes $500,000 from Barclays, $250,000 from the Nets, and $250,000 from Forest City Ratner.

Given the $305 million in public aid secured (so far) from the developer, and Barclays' (pledged) $400 million in naming rights, these contributions seem certainly within their budgets.

3 comments:

  1. I always found it difficult to decide which was the most egregious, despicable and intellectually feeble offering of the critics--playing the terrorist card over the arena (OHMIGOD, a public building in New York will have a lot of glass!!) or accusing a British bank of a 300-year-old crime, without proof. Pretty even, I guess.

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  2. Bobbo,

    You know what is egregious? Your repeated efforts to turn serious issues into cartoons of themselves.

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  3. Bobbo should sign his name Bob Windrem.

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