Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Manhattan BP Stringer criticizes Columbia CBA implementation for lacking public notice, formal process, protocols for selection. Such transparency is not only missing from Atlantic Yards CBA, it was never expected.

The mainstream press and public officials are interested in critiquing the Columbia University Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), linked to the university's West Harlem expansion, even as the Atlantic Yards CBA is vulnerable to more criticism.

In a 10/30/11 exclusive headlined Harlem group sitting on Columbia-aid cash, the New York Post reported:
Columbia University gave a West Harlem group $3.5 million, and all the community got for its money were some consultants and a temporary job program for teens.

The money is part of a $76 million pot of cash Columbia has pledged to the community to ease the burden of its controversial $6.3 billion expansion in the Manhattanville neighborhood. 
But organizational problems continue to plague the group in charge of doling out the money.

The West Harlem Local Development Corp. was set up in 2006, but the group still has no executive director, no Web site and no means for the community to apply for the money.

“In these desperate economic times, it is crucial these funds be disbursed for the benefit of Harlem residents,” said Vincent Morgan, a Harlem resident and former congressional candidate.
The Post quoted Donald Notice, chairman of West Harlem LDC’s board, as saying all would be well in a month, and that group spent $302,000 last summer on a jobs programs for 200 teens and about $400,000 on consultants.

Here's much longer coverage from DNAinfo.com and the Columbia Spectator.

I took a look and found that a web site bearing the name West Harlem LDC is just a link farm. Here's the Columbia CBA (thanks to the Columbia Spectator).

Manhattan BP comments

In a statement yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said:
I continue to be greatly concerned that the West Harlem Local Development Corporation (LDC) has not moved quickly enough to transition to its successor entity, the West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC). As I stated in February 23 and March 5, 2010 letters to the LDC board of directors, important work remains to be done in creating the WHDC’s governance structure and establishing it as a legal entity. Today, the situation remains largely unchanged.

I am especially dismayed that LDC’s executive committee continues to disburse funds. I pointed out in my letter last year that they have done so without a formal application process, without public notices, without protocols for selection, without advice from a community advisory committee and without adequate, transparent discussion by the LDC as a whole. These fundamental issues have yet to be addressed.

Given these concerns, it is essential that the LDC devote itself fully to the transition process, and halt any further disbursement of funds. Anything less runs the risk of violating the public trust and jeopardizing the work we have all done to strengthen and revitalize the West Harlem community.
AY is less transparent

With the Atlantic Yards CBA, there's no formal application process, no public notice, no protocols for selection, no a community advisory committee, and no "adequate, transparent discussion."

The CBA hasn't even created an entity with a budget. Forest City doles out money to the CBA signatories as it sees fit--along with the few specific provisions regarding job training, provided by CBA signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development).

Borough President Marty Markowitz has rather saluted CBA signatories. "What I can say today, to the residents that are here, thank you for keeping the faith. Thank you for keeping the faith," he said at the 9/26/11 Jay-Z media event. "I know the taunts that you receive, and that's saying it nicely. I know. You kept the faith and you realized what this would be for the future of Brooklyn and New York. And I congratulate each and every one of you."

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