Monday, September 24, 2012

Culture of Cheating: the hollowness of the Atlantic Yards CBA, as chair (and lead speaker of events) runs organization that does nothing about construction impacts (despite obligations)

The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), more than seven years in, may be a "work in progress," as CBA Coalition Chair Delia Hunley-Adossa acknowledged at the Barclays Center ribbon-cutting event Sept. 21, but she pointed to recent results, such as helping get locals hired for the arena and beginning the process of distributing free arena tickets.

Still, it was a glaring irony that Hunley-Adossa spoke at this event, given that her organization, the obliquely named Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, is supposed to address environmental issues regarding project construction, and has done precisely nothing in the face of repeated, glaring, documented (photos, video) violations of construction protocols.

In other words, the document, which on paper is supposed to provide community safeguards, instead was turned into a vehicle to generate community support, with Hunley-Adossa, who distinguished herself MCing project rallies,  the most obvious exemplar. It's another example of the Culture of Cheating.

I had written that the CBA gives BEE nothing to do, stating, "Therefore, the Developer shall be in compliance with this Agreement by following the state mandated [environmental] process."

That's not quite true since BEE's precursor, the CBA signatory, was to establish a "Committee on Environmental Assurance to address short- and long-term environmental issues that may affect the surrounding community," as noted by a consultant's recent report on the numerous failures to safeguard the community.

That committee has never been announced. Nor has the promised Independent Compliance Monitor to oversee CBA implementation been hired. Nor has BEE done anything about project impacts (though it apparently has run The Basketball, Reading Literacy and Health Program). Hunley-Adossa has no listed qualifications to run an organization concerned with the environment.

At the ribbon-cutting

"Seven years ago, we signed a historic Community Benefits Agreement with eight community groups, and we're proud to call them our partners," declared Bruce Ratne, the host. "Job placement, affordable housing, arena access for the community are some of the many goals which we've worked together on." He didn't mention the environment.

"I'm a lifelong resident of Brooklyn," Hunley-Adossa began, as if her neighborhood credential sufficed for the role she's supposed to play. "I am the executive director of the Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, Inc., the environmental component of the CBA. I am so proud to be here today, I'm really, really stoked. Because it's a historic day... for all of my business partners."

As I noted, it was interesting to hear her call the nonprofit groups "business partners" and how she glossed over what exactly BEE does.

She cited CBA coalition members: Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance; Bertha Lewis, "housing representative;" Charlene Nimmons, Public Housing Communities; James Caldwell, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development; Joseph Coello, Brooklyn Voices for Children; the Rev. Lydia Sloley, Faith in Action; and Elnora Bernard, NY State Association of Minority Contractors.

"That agreement committed Forest City Ratner to work with the community, to make sure that the Barclays Center and all of Atlantic Yards brought true, lasting, tangible benefits to all," Hunley-Adossa said, glossing over the tangible impacts late-night construction and idling trucks have had on the surrounding community.

Then, in what seemed to be a nod to criticism , she said, "We're still a work in progress, but we're on the right track and today I am confidently saying that they are delivering."



Hunley-Adossa cited the effort made by Caldwell, Nimmons, and CBA to help recruit local and public housing residents for jobs at the arena. "At the outset, the CBA partners, led by" Daughtry, "pushed to ensure that all of our community" would have access to events at the arena. She cited a program that will give local nonprofits free access to every event at the arena.

Ratner "has kept his commitment ot make sure that so many community members... would be able to come" to the arena. "We welcome our Brooklyn Nets, and we support them forever." That's loyalty

"This is only the beginning of an end, a precursor of things to come... With Bertha Lewis, Forest City made an unparalleled commitment to affordable housing," Hunley-Adossa said, calling the day a day to "acknowledge promises made, promises kept, and promises still to come."

She congratulated several Forest City Ratner executives, "and also, I just want to say, the community at large deserves a great round of applause."

Which community, exactly?

At the groundbreaking

At the March 2010 groundbreaking, Hunley-Adossa was introduced by Borough President Marty Markowitz: "Our next speaker is one of the most hard-working community activists in Brooklyn. She not only runs her own business, she's also chair of the CBA executive committee and president of the 88th Precinct Community Council and executive director of the Brooklyn Endeavor Experience."

"It's truly an exciting day for Brooklyn," Hunley-Adossa said, leading off, speaking in a deliberate fashion. "I am really elated to be in your presence. Today, not only do we unite in support of the Atlantic Yards, but also we enjoy the groundbreaking of Barclays Center, and that's pretty awesome."

The crowd clapped. "Give it up, Brooklyn," she said, encouragingly.

"I'm thrilled to be here with you and to share in this historic moment. First, I'd like to acknowledge and thank my Community Benefits Agreement partners. I want to begin with Miss Bertha Lewis of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now."

Lewis took a bow.

"Mr. James Caldwell." He got up and doffed his cap. "Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development."

"The Honorable Reverend Lydia Sloley," Hunley-Adossa said of a CBA signatory who, as far as I know, had never spoken at a public meeting beyond the CBA. "Faith in Action."

"The Honorable Reverend Herbert Daughtry. Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance. Mr. Joseph Coello. Brooklyn Voices for Children. One of my partners, Miss Melvina Harris, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience. My two daughters, Saadia, and my other one, Malacia. Elnora Bernard. New York State Association for Minority Contractors. And Miss Charlene Nimmons"--Hunley Adossa's campaign treasurer in her 2009 run for City Council challenging Letitia James--"Public Housing Communities."

"And the community, for their belief in the Atlantic Yards project. Although it meant supporting a project that didn't always receive popular votes"--actually, it received no votes--"to us, the communities who've supported it, it meant doing what is right for Brooklyn, and we're very proud to be a part of that."



Then Hunley-Adossa displayed her faith: "It is our belief, and will remain, that this project will be instrumental in creating a resurgence in Brooklyn, through the creation of jobs, affordable housing, and community benefits. On behalf of the CBA and the executive committee, I would like to thank Forest City Ratner for your vision of changing the paradigm of how developers and community relations work together on large-scale projects. We look forward to working with Forest City Ratner and our community partners throughout the next phases of this project."

"Once again, thank you, and congratulations, Brooklyn!" she declared, lifting both fists in triumph.

The rhetoric was similarly enthusiastic, and essentially hollow, some two-and-a-half years later.

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