Sunday, February 06, 2011

A press release from Council Member James regarding Gilmartin's "disparaging" of cleaning ladies in comments on EB-5 visa program

Below, a press release regarding what I consider to be a sideshow in the ongoing story of Forest City Ratner's effort to raise cheap capital from foreign millionaires under the EB-5 program.
Council Member Letitia James Responds To Disparaging Comments About Working-Class Women from Forest City Ratner Vice President

New York, NY— At a recent New York Commercial Real Estate Women event MaryAnne Gilmartin, Vice President of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), addressed the effect foreign investment has had on the project’s development. Specifically, she commented on the EB-5 visa, which is a federal visa that is awarded to foreign individuals who invest anywhere from $500,000 to $1M to business based in the United States (a minimum of $500,000 in areas designated “high risk”).

Ms. Gilmartin expressed uneasiness with the program, but conceded that this kind of financing may be the only way to move forward with Atlantic Yards development. She was quoted by the New York Observer as stating, “This is not your cleaning lady's green card program.”

“The fact that Ms. Gilmartin understands the troubling implication that foreign individuals (with enough money to fund high-cost development) could simply purchase green cards is reassuring. However, it is highly disappointing that Ms. Gilmartin felt comfortable disparaging ‘cleaning ladies’ as a working-class group— especially in a room full of commercial real estate experts who are very familiar with the economic and social issues raised by big development in urban areas,” said Council Member Letitia James. “Women who clean homes are doing so to provide a better life for themselves and their families, so that their children can afford the luxury real estate others take for granted. These comments disrespect the dignity of working-class people, who Forest City Ratner and the Atlantic Yards project have displaced to create their version of an ‘urban oasis’. One that apparently doesn’t include cleaning ladies.”

Because of the high-costs associated with the EB-5 visa, some consider the program one that encourages foreign investors to “buy” green cards. Applicants to the program have ballooned from 1,031 in 2009, to 1,995 in 2010. This is almost four times the number of applicants than in 2006. In addition to FCR, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has followed suit in adopting the program, hoping to finance $125M in development funding.

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