Friday, January 14, 2011

Forest City Ratner Foundation in 2009: fewer gifts, with WTC Memorial again the largest, but a first gift to ACORN and much less for Brooklyn Museum

The most notable aspect of the latest annual report from the shadowy Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation, regarding donations over the fiscal year ending 1/31/10, is not the absence of contributions to some charities previously supported, such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Polytechnic University, both of which got $100,000 in 2008.

Nor is it the disproportionate gift to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, $750,000 of $1,035,000 in total giving; after all, in 2008, the foundation got $1,000,000 out of $1,554,500. (Click on graphic to enlarge.)

Nor is it the decision to give $50,000 each to Marty Markowitz's two summer concert series--the Seaside and Martin Luther King series-rather than, as in 2007 and 2008, directing $100,000 to the latter series only.

The ACORN gift

Rather, the most notable aspect is the $100,000 directed to the ACORN Institute in April 2009.

Forest City Ratner in August 2008 agreed to give ACORN $1.5 million, in the form of a $1 million loan to ACORN and a $300,000 grant to the ACORN Institute, and then $100,000 grants to the institute in August 2009 and August 2010. (Click on graphic to enlarge.)

Thus FCR has helped stabilize an organization reeling from the revelations that not only did the brother of ACORN’s founder embezzle nearly $1 million in 2000 but also, as the New York Times reported 9/10/08, that the news was “concealed by senior executives until a whistle-blower told a foundation leader about it in May.”

The April 2009 grant to the institute is off-schedule, so it was either an additional gift to ACORN or an accelerated version of the contribution due in August 2009. (This was all before the prostitute/pimp "sting" that enveloped ACORN beginning in September 2009, led to far more controversy, and ultimately prompted ACORN's bankruptcy.)

If it was an accelerated version of the promised contribution, then Forest City Ratner was shifting its corporate obligations to its foundation--which, as I've argued, acts as a strategic arm of the developer, with no web site, stated policies, or requests for contributions.

Brooklyn Museum giving declines

In 2009, the foundation gave $40,000 to the Brooklyn Museum, down from $100,000 in 2005 and 2006, $110,000 in 2007 and $165,000 in 2008. It should be noted that Bruce Ratner was honored by the museum in an April 2008 gala.

Perhaps the contributions have been tailing off because no more award awaits Ratner or, perhaps, individuals associated with the developer have picked up the slack on their own.

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