Friday, August 21, 2009

NYC pays to lobby itself--not just in Queens but in Brooklyn, too

Some lobbying for Atlantic Yards isn't much different--in degree and in kind--from that criticized in a major New York Times story today. And the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, while not mentioned in the story, also hires lobbyists, apparently in violation of state law.

The Times article has the delicious headline New York Paid to Lobby Itself, Group Claims. The Times reports how the city formed the nonprofit Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, which "eventually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public and private money, and spent much of it to help push through [sic] the plan through the City Council."

The problem: "state law says local development corporations are not permitted to 'influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise.'"

Half the group’s funding came from the Economic Development Corporation, which is also barred from lobbying, and the rest came from the Mets and other corporate sponsors.

What about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership?

In Brooklyn, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has taken on a somewhat similar role regarding Atlantic Yards:
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) is a not-for-profit local development corporation incorporated in the summer of 2006 in an effort to coordinate economic development activities in Downtown Brooklyn and ensure implementation of public and private development projects in the area. The DBP works in close partnership with the City of New York to:

expedite design and construction of public capital projects
facilitate the development of commercial and residential real estate projects
create strategies for corporate recruitment and the reuse of undercapitalized properties
advance the development of cultural venues and public space within the BAM Cultural District
coordinate transportation planning initiatives
spearhead an area-wide branding and marketing campaign
improve area business conditions and quality of life.

The DBP incorporates the functions of four existing not-for-profit organizations providing economic development services within Downtown Brooklyn (Downtown Brooklyn Council, BAM Local Development Corporation, MetroTech Business Improvement District and Fulton Mall Improvement Association) and has an annual operating budget of approximately $8 million.

(Emphasis added)

Ok, so the DBP is also a local development corporation. 

Its operating budget, according to a May 2008 post on the Pratt blog The Eminent Domain, includes funding from the city, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), corporations, property owners/developers (including the Atlantic Yards Development Corp.), and academic institutions.

DBP lobbying

Does the DBP lobby? Yes it does, according to the city's lobbyist search web site. (Click to enlarge graphic below.)

It's unclear if DBP lobbyists have specifically discussed Atlantic Yards. 

But its president, Joe Chan, and board members testified in favor of the Atlantic Yards project in June at Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board meetings and again in July at an ESDC hearing.

That may not be legislation, but the approval votes taken by the MTA in June and the ESDC (upcoming) seem to me as differing little in impact from the City Council vote on Willets Point cited in today's Times.

The Times may have to publish a sequel. 


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