Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hunley-Adossa, FCR beneficiary as head of dubious CBA signatory, will challenge Tish James for 35th District Council seat

Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa, a veteran community volunteer, chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, director of a CBA signatory group with a dubious mission, and leader of pro-AY rallies, will challenge incumbent Council Member Letitia James, the project’s leading political opponent, for the 35th District seat.

At right, she's on the megaphone helping run the "Build It Now" counter-protest last May.

(Photo by Jonathan Barkey)

Fundraiser, platform

Hunley-Adossa has not yet formed an official campaign committee, but has begun circulating invitations for a fundraising event March 19 at Two Steps Down on DeKalb Avenue. One of two sponsors of the fundraiser is Charlene Nimmons, who heads another fledgling CBA signatory, Public Housing Communities (PHC); the other is Hunley-Adossa's daughter Saadia.

Hunley-Adossa, asked about her platform, qualifications, and whether Atlantic Yards was an issue, responded briefly by email, "My broad range of experiences and desire to improve the condition of our community qualify me to run for city council."

"I am running for City Council to be a part of the new forward thinking leadership movement. I am standing on the three (EEEs) that are impacting us today, economy, education and environment," she stated. "With regard to any other information, that will be announced later."

James first took office in a 2003 special election after the killing of James E. Davis, then handily won re-election in 2005. The district includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and part of Crown Heights. (Map from Gotham Gazette)

Pending questions

Surely Atlantic Yards will be an issue, as the September primary election approaches. And Hunley-Adossa should have to answer some questions:
--how much does the developer contribute to fund the fledgling community organization Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), the CBA signatory Hunley-Adossa leads?
--what environmental expertise does Hunley-Adossa have to run BEE, which aims to address green issues?
--why has BEE distributed more money in compensation to Hunley-Adossa than it has spent on program services?
--why does half the BEE board consist of Hunley-Adossa family members?

Jim Stuckey, then Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards point man, said in an April 2007 affidavit (PDF) that the "intended beneficiaries of the CBA" are "the least privileged residents of Brooklyn."

That may be so in part, but the record suggests that, in funding several CBA "partners", Forest City Ratner has harvested community support. (Note that, in other CBAs around the country, the signatories don't take money from developers.)

BEE history

Hunley-Adossa, who founded a security company and is president of the 88th Precinct Community & Youth Council, serves as executive director of BEE. The group began as the First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee (FATHC), representing two Mitchell-Lama towers in Fort Greene, at 170 South Portland Avenue and 161 South Elliott Place.

The towers (pictured) opened in 1976, located just north of a section of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall. They were early construction in the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). Five of the six BEE board members live in the two buildings; the other board member is a Hunley-Adossa relative.

The name change from FATHC to BEE indicates an attempt to both represent Brooklyn, rather than two buildings, and to address issues beyond housing.

The BEE web site features as a motif Brooklyn brownstones, not Forest City Ratner's planned towers.

The BEE web site states:
The FATHC was formed to bring the community’s voice to the decision-making table for future Brooklyn developments like never before. The Atlantic Yards Project is one of many projects that the developer, Forest City Ratner has completed in the Fort Green Clinton Hill community.

Actually, it hasn’t been completed. It hasn't really begun.

An earlier version of the group’s history suggested that, when, [i]n 1992, a group of friends were eager to tackle the combined problems of Brooklyn... they decided to form a new organization, with a new and unique approach: Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, Inc.

However, the name BEE didn't emerge until the end of 2005, as the group's web site attests.

BEE leadership

BEE officers are mostly family members and neighbors in Hunley-Adossa's building, according to a 2007 Form 990 (PDF) report to the Internal Revenue Service. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Hunley-Adossa, a business major in college, is probably best-known (and praised) for her Precinct Council role. Sometimes that praise, as in a column by Errol Louis of the Daily News, has ignored her dual role as CBA signatory.

Saadia Adossa is Hunley-Adossa's daughter; she is Deputy Director, Community Relations at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. The officer listed as "Sabaria Pittma" (actually: Pittman) was formerly known as Sabaria Adossa and is a relative by marriage.

Norma Maupins is a real estate agent and former marketer for the National Basketball Association. Renee Wigfall works in the management office of First Atlantic Terminal, Hunley-Adossa's building, at least according to this 2008 legal document.

BEE's CBA responsibilities

The FATHC was assigned to monitor the environmental component of the CBA, signed in June 2005, but, as I've written, it has essentially a Potemkin responsibility, since the CBA gives the group nothing to do, stating:
Therefore, the Developer shall be in compliance with this Agreement by following the state mandated process.

And, as noted, the CBA has not supplied reports to the public as promised.

BEE’s ambitions

Previously, BEE announced an almost absurdly long list of issues to be involved in, including security and safety issues, traffic, schools, housing, community development, and small business development.

Now, BEE states:
Our mission is to improve the quality of our community by partnering with local businesses, community leaders and neighbors to work together to create a clean and safe place to live and work for future generations.

So that means a web site with a clip front and center of then-candidate Barack Obama speaking about energy policy.

Its web site features a clip of Oakland-based activist Van Jones speaking about green-collar jobs. Interestingly enough, a New York activist with a similar profile, Majora Carter, recently signed a letter opposing the use of federal stimulus money for the Atlantic Yards project.

Partners

While BEE aims to do environmental work, Hunley-Adossa, according to the bio on the BEE web site, has no specific training in green issues.

The only BEE partners listed are CBA signatories, and those partners have nothing to do with green issues. They include ACORN, BUILD, and PHC.

Faith in Action, a CBA signatory group led by the pastor of a small church in Clinton Hill, a group that has not, as far as I know, held any public events, is described with some impressive but implausible credits:
Faith in Action volunteers shop, cook, drive or just check in on the millions of Americans with long-term health needs.

Negotiating partner?

Hunley-Adossa testified at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement that CBA groups were “mak{ing] ourselves a united force to be reckoned with by Forest City Ratner.” However, other evidence suggests she is carrying the developer’s water.

In December 2006, she offered the "community" quote in an ESDC press release announcing the project's approval. In February 2007, she penned (or, perhaps, put her name to) an op-ed in the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Downtown Star praising Atlantic Yards.

In April 2007, she criticized a lawsuit challenging the project's environmental review and complained that elected officials had expressed concerns to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), "the new guy," rather than going to the CBA, the "collective body." (She neglected to acknowledge that the ESDC is the state agency tasked with project oversight.)

Last June, she announced a block party, which was quickly canceled, on a block in the AY footprint that is to be demapped.

Pushing hard before "Brooklyn Day"

Perhaps most prominently, she both organized and MCed Forest City Ratner’s “Brooklyn Day” rally last June.

In doing so, she pushed hard.

Her bio on the BEE web site touts her work with the HELP (Helping Encourage Leadership Potential) Program, which assists youth who “have engaged in socially deviant behavior.”
Before Brooklyn Day, however, things verged on coercive, as Hunley-Adossa wrote in a call for participation:
All HELP 2 participants and parents are to call Dee upon receipt... this is a day that we want our members to participate and volunteer their services.

At the rally, she regularly took direction from Forest City Ratner employees--at right, she's conferring with FCR’s Brigitte LaBonte, Bruce Bender, and Scott Cantone.

(Photo by Adrian Kinloch)

Funding

It’s unclear where BEE gets its funding; there's been little if any public fundraising until recently, when the organization added a tab to its web site.
For one program, sending kids to summer camp, Forest City Ratner came to the rescue in 2008, partnering with BEE to provide $10,000 to Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge Inc. (SCOPE), which enabled 20 kids to go to camp for two weeks.

According to a 2007 Form 990 report to the Internal Revenue Service, BEE gained $173,000 in contributions and distributed $37,878 in program services and $61,473 on management and other general expenses. That included $51,447 in compensation for Hunley-Adossa. (No 2008 Form 990 is available yet.)

And what is BEE's stated goal? "To promote a safe environment in Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, NY" and "Teach the community about living green."

There's no specific mention in the Form 990 of the reason for BEE's being: Atlantic Yards.

More questions

Today, I asked Hunley-Adossa various questions about BEE funding, governance, and whether she'd resign for her campaign.

She confirmed one question, regarding Sabaria Pittman, declared that I had the information I wanted regarding funding (not so, since I asked what percentage of the money comes from FCR and asked about 2008 BEE spending), and concluded, "All further information on how I proceed in the future will be announced at a later date."

So it should be a lively campaign.

3 comments:

  1. Great story, Norman. But is she a Democrat, who would have to challenge Tish in a primary, or is she a Republican?

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  2. I noted that the primary was in September, so my assumption was and is that she's a Democrat. It's a thoroughly Democratic district and Hunley-Adossa has ties to other Democrats. (For example, her daughter works for the District Attorney of Kings County, who's a Democrat.)

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  3. I don't always agree with Tish James but I do think she is doing a great job and that this person doesn't have a chance in heck

    ReplyDelete