Monday, March 08, 2010

"AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors"? Check the evidence--and a non-independent compliance report from compromised Darryl Greene

According to an article this week by the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt, AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors.

However, the evidence is sketchy, and hardly supports that conclusion.

Moreover, the much-touted Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was supposed to generate an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM), but that has never been announced.

The only report to surface has come not from an ICM but by Forest City Ratner's own consultant on M/WBE (Minority/Women Business Enterprise) issues, the Darman Group, run by Darryl Greene, who's recently been in the news for his questionable role in the Aqueduct video casino contract.

The Darman Group was supposed to help the CBA Executive Committee hire an ICM. The most recent evidence suggests that, instead, the Darman Group has performed that function.

Another questionable headline

In fact, the headline on Witt's article in at least one print edition was different: Signers: CBA must be enforced.

That conclusion isn't supported, either, since no party other than the developer is quoted directly:
All the parties to the Community Benefits Agreement say they expect the agreement to be honored.

...FCR spokesperson Joe DePlasco said the company remains 100 percent committed to the CBA.
What about affordable housing?

Of course, Witt and the Courier-Life chain have not reported on the Development Agreement, which offers many loopholes regarding the provision of affordable housing.

While the headline does contain a deck stating "Unanswered questions remain regarding affordable housing," those unanswered questions whether New York ACORN's successor organization, New York Communities for Change, will be a signatory to the CBA.

Minority and Brooklyn contracting

Without any context, Witt reports:
In regard to minority- and women-owned contractors, DePlasco said over $51 million worth of contracts have already been awarded to contractors for work on the site thus far.

About 80 percent of the total prime contracts awarded to date have gone to M/WBE firms and 49.3% of the total contract dollars to M/WBE firms, he said.

DePlasco said there have been a total of $52 million of purchases to date and the MBE award was about $22 million or 42.1 percent of total purchases.

Additionally, 43 percent of the 68 contracts awarded to MWBE firms have gone to Brooklyn based firms, he said.
(Emphasis added)

The use of the word "already" suggests that the pace has been swift, and the total large. That's questionable.

Dollars for Brooklyn firms

Those numbers are imprecise, because we don't know the contract dollars going to Brooklyn-based firms. We have to estimate.

If $51 million worth of contracts have been awarded, with 49.3% to M/WBE firms, that's $25.1 million to those firms. Add the $22 million and the total is $47.1 million.

Then things get tricky. The Courier-Life reports that 43% of the M/WBE contracts have gone to Brooklyn-based firms. That could represent 43% of contract dollars, or a greater or lesser figure.

It's probably less. Consider that one of the most touted contracts, for work on the temporary rail yard, went to "A. Russo Wrecking, a Long-Island based, woman-owned firm."

(Do firms like A. Russo Wrecking, established in 1952, and much-in-demand architect Ismael Leyva, also touted for his role fulfilling the CBA, really represent systematic changes in the way of doing business or, as stated by FCR in Atlantic Yards litigation, examples of "commitments to the local communities"? Do the Brooklyn-based CBA signatories, which "have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of the community's most vulnerable--children and senior citizens," according to a press release from last October, have anything to do with such contracting?)

Also, according to a report two years ago (see below), 75% of contracts were awarded to M/WBE firms, but that represented less than 42% of the dollars.

Still, let's stick with 43% for now. Apply that percentage to $47.1 million and the total is $20.3 million. That's not insubstantial for those contractors and their workers, but it hardly represents a boom, given that work at the site has been ongoing for several years.

Where are the reports?

While the CBA requires an ICM to "provide a report to the [CBA] Executive Committee and the DBOAC [actually: DBAOC, or Downtown Brooklyn Advisory and Oversight Committee], as defined below, on the status of the implementation of all initiatives," no such ICM has ever been announced.

Three years ago, a press release issued by a Forest City Ratner-paid public relations firm was headlined "ATLANTIC YARDS CBA COALITION SEEKS INDEPENDENT COMPLIANCE MONITOR: 'Watchdog' To Ensure Community Benefits for Local Community and Residents."

The RFP for the ICM was to be handled by Greene's firm, The Darman Group.

But the only reports to be issued have come from The Darman Group itself. The report posted below indicates that a previous report had been issued. But neither it nor successor (if any) reports have been made public.

Pending questions

Will there ever be an ICM?

Can Forest City Ratner's own consultant serve in this role?

Will there ever be any new reports?

Will the reports offer specifics?
Report on the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement to the Downtown Brooklyn Advisory & Oversight Com... RFP for Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Independent Compliance Monitor

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