Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forest City Ratner's latest dubious claim about the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA: "As the project progresses, especially, with residential, a monitor will be hired"

After I raised the issue in City Limits, and Council Member Letitia James followed up a public meeting and a press conference, we have a new pledge from developer Forest City Ratner regarding an Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement.

Responding to a comment solicited by Our Time Press (almost certainly from the notorious Stephen Witt), FCR now says it  hire such a monitor--but sometime later.

The reporter didn't bother to look at the actual document, which required a monitor years ago.

But Witt doesn't try to hold Forest City Ratner accountable. Nor does the rest of the press when it comes to the CBA.

(The New York Observer ran a front-page article this week on problems with the Columbia University CBA. No contact info for the person in charge of the Columbia CBA? Ditto in Brooklyn. No web site for the CBA? Ditto. It's just that there's a Congressional candidate, Vince Morgan, who's decided to make an issue of it in Manhattan.)

The article

The article, in full, from the 11/24/11 issue:
Compliance monitor for Atlantic Yards CBA

Developer Forest  City Ratner Companies (FCR) last week responded to concerns that a compliance monitor in regards to the Atlantic Yards has yet to be hired.

The compliance monitor, as required as per the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to ensure adherence by signatories of the CBA.

“The CBA and FCRC are committed to bringing on an independent monitor. To date, however, work has been confined to the arena,” said FCRC spokesperson Joe DePlasco. “As the project progresses, especially, with residential, a monitor will be hired. As for the arena we provide regular updates to the state and to others on MWBE and other construction related activities.”
That's a slightly more polished--but no less empty--answer than the one given earlier in the month by FCR executive Jane Marshall: that it's up to the CBA Executive Committee, which hadn't met in four months.

wrote at length on 11/29/10, describing how the CBA went into effect shortly after it was signed 6/27/05 (despite FCR's evasions), that implementation was supposed to begin upon signing of the agreement, and how quarterly status reports were supposed to be delivered to the Independent Compliance Monitor.

What the document says

The CBA states:
Independent Compliance Monitor. As soon as reasonably practicable after formation of the Executive Committee, the Executive Committee shall publish a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) to qualified, independent persons or entities with experience in overseeing compliance with similar arrangements or who have other experience deemed by the Executive Committee to be sufficiently relevant. The terms of employment and evaluation shall be determined by the Executive Committee. Such Independent Compliance Monitor (“ICM”) shall be selected and hired by the Executive Committee, at an annual payment of up to $100,000 to be paid by the Project Developer, and shall be responsible for oversight of the Project Developer’s, Arena Developer’s and Coalition members’ obligations under this Agreement, investigation of any complaints brought against the Developers or a Coalition member regarding implementation of this Agreement and review of the Developers reports required under Article X (the “Developer Reports”). After review of the Developer Reports, the ICM shall provide a report to the Executive Committee and the DBOAC [sic], as defined below, on the status of the implementation of all initiatives.
The ICM, not Forest City or its contractor The Darman Group, was supposed to provide a report to the Executive Committee and the Downtown Brooklyn Advisory and Oversight Committee, or DBAOC.

Moreover, the ICM was supposed to help monitor the bidding process during the construction period. Not the "construction period after the arena," as DePlasco seems to suggest.

According to the CBA, Forest City Ratner was supposed to put $100,000 down for an ICM when the document was signed.

The benefit to Forest City

Not only does the developer save an "annual payment of up to $100,000," as required by the CBA to fund the ICM, but Forest City also escapes significant scrutiny.

So there was no ICM to report that Forest City Ratner took five years to establish the job training program, which the CBA said should have begun immediately:
Commencing upon execution of this Agreement, Developers and BUILD [Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development] shall initiate and coordinate a job training program....
Nor was there an ICM to report on the progress of that training program, including:
Number of Community residents presently enrolled in the Pre Apprentice Training initiative; Community Boards in which they reside and percentage of Minority (by category) and women workers; household income; number who successfully completed such initiative, and number who obtained jobs at the Project Site; successful participants length of current employment at the Project Site; percentage of successful participants as to number of total apprentices at Project Site”
Now it's taken a lawsuit to allege the inadequacies and deceptions in that training program.

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