Skip to main content

At Bertha Lewis's new organization, The Black Institute, some Atlantic Yards (and ACORN) connections

Former ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis, who headed the New York branch of ACORN and later national ACORN, has focused her activism not on ACORN's local successor, New York Communities for Change, but instead founded and heads The Black Institute, a new think tank that aims "to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue and impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora)."

Lewis is featured in this month's Essence magazine as among the 28 most influential black women and "perhaps the most influential community organizer of our time."

Both the organization's board of directors and advisory board include people with a track record of Atlantic Yards support. Yes, such a big project does intersect with a large number of people.

However, given those connections, as well as Forest City Ratner's temporary bailout of ACORN--the developer was the organization's biggest creditor--I wouldn't bet Lewis's new organization will criticize Atlantic Yards.

Board of directors

The seven-member board of directors includes two people with Atlantic Yards connections.

One is James Heyliger – President, Association of Minority Enterprises of New York (AMENY). He testified at a 9/14/05 Metropolitan Transportation Authority meeting, urging that the MTA reach a deal with Forest City Ratner to develop the Vanderbilt Yard, saying, as the Observer reported:
“If we look at the World Trade Center, where African-American firms have zero money out of that project, no labor, no contracts. That’s a disgrace. Here we have an opportunity where for once in the city of New York, the minority and disadvantaged community can participate in an equity position as well as get jobs.”
Another board member is Melvin Lowe – Principal, Melvin Lowe Group, a lobbyist who worked for New York Senate Democrats and, as I wrote in July 2010, has lobbied for Forest City Ratner on its Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, apparently previously worked on Atlantic Yards, and worked on Tracy Boyland's unsuccessful 2006 challenge to state Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

Also on the board is labor lawyer Arthur Schwartz, former counsel to ACORN. (Schwartz is also Board President of Advocates for Justice, a public interest legal foundation, headed by activist (and Atlantic Yards opponent) Chris Owens, whose goal is "to fight for the rights of the poor and the rights of working people, to fight for racial justice and equal rights, and to assist those who organize the poor and working people, and who advance the fight for equality.")

Advisory board

The Black Institute's nine-member advisory board includes two people with Atlantic Yards connections.

One is former Assemblyman Roger Green, who represented the area including the Atlantic Yards footprint and promoted the Community Benefits Agreement. He's now Executive Director, DuBois-Bunche Center for Public Policy at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Green's also VP, Corporate Strategies, for Brookman Construction, a minority-owned business enterprise headed by Joe Coello, a signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, whose Brooklyn Voices for Children was, as of March 2008, "establishing a planning and development program for primary education, higher education, career exploration for youth, as well as health education and wellness initiatives for children, youth, and families."

The other is Cheryl McKissack, President of McKissack & McKissack, the Philadelphia-based, minority owned firm that is a staple on major construction projects. Forest City Ratner hired McKissack to oversee the railyard reconfiguration, in 2005 estimated at $182 million. Then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey famously told the Brooklyn Eagle in October 2005 that he didn’t know whether McKissack was chosen by a bidding process

Also on the advisory board are David Jones – President & CEO, Community Service Society of New York and lobbyist Bill Lynch – President, Bill Lynch & Associates.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.