Sunday, April 17, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership aims to take over MetroTech BID funding; yes, Forest City Ratner's involved

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and once (and perhaps still) under investigation for improper lobbying, is in a tussle over funding with one of its components--and, yes, Forest City Ratner is entangled in it.

In an article April 14 headlined Brooklyn BID takeover moves forward, Crain's Insider reported:
Allies of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have managed, for now, to beat back a proposal aimed at blocking its ability to usurp funding from the MetroTech BID, which it oversees.

The BID held an emergency meeting yesterday that was attended by board members, Bloomberg administration staff, and lawyers for some of downtown's largest developers. The sole item on the agenda: revising the BID's conflict-of-interest policy.

...“This is not just about MetroTech,” said BID President Victoria Aviles. “This is about all the BIDs in New York City and how umbrella organizations can take them over.”

Despite her efforts, opponents managed to stall the vote after lawyers for Forest City Ratner and Muss Development criticized the proposed conflict-of-interest proposal for being vague. Following an onslaught of hoots and hollers, members voted to form a committee that will review the policy.
The DBP has seen its city funding decline, while BIDs are funded by extra tax assessments. The DBP manages three BIDs: the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID.

The MetroTech BID board next meets May 5.

The back story

In a 7/11/10 article headlined A partnership slows in Downtown B'klyn: Stalled merger exposes political divisions, Crain's reported:
The seed money it was getting from the city, a robust $2 million only two years ago, has plunged to a mere $250,000, forcing it to shed personnel and accelerate a long-envisioned takeover of three local business-improvement districts and their reliable revenue streams. But the longtime head of one BID has balked, and local politicians have put the merger on hold.

The partnership must pull off the ambitious reorganization if it is to survive as anything but a shell. The BIDs would account for $5 million of the organization's proposed $7.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began this month. Member contributions would total just $340,000.

Meanwhile, some Brooklyn City Council members—who view the organization as an arm of the Bloomberg administration, characterized by big salaries and nebulous accomplishments—want it disbanded.
The leader of the MetroTech BID, Michael Weiss, seeing the potential loss of his job in the reorganization, has "rounded up political support to stall it," Crain's said.

Crain's reported:
[DBP President] Mr. [Joe] Chan declined to comment, but his spokesman, Lee Silberstein, paints a bright picture of the partnership's accomplishments and future. “On balance, this is playing out as it was supposed to,” he says, noting that the partnership enjoys strong support from the downtown Brooklyn business community, including titans like developer Bruce Ratner, banker Alan Fishman and former KeySpan chief Robert Catell.
Ratner to the rescue?

Crain's reported:
But Councilwoman Letitia James says Mr. Chan miscalculated in his handling of Mr. Weiss's BID. “Joe's usurpation of MetroTech was not wise, was not smart politically. He did not do his homework and is now suffering the consequences,” she says.

Mr. Ratner tried to broker a compromise by offering Mr. Weiss a job paying more than the $165,000 he is making, but Mr. Weiss declined.

“Right now, we're at a standstill,” says Ms. James. “We're trying to work something out.”

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