Thursday, August 29, 2013

Forest City Enterprises' first Corporate Social Responsibility Report gets Atlantic Yards wrong, ignores Ridge Hill, omits data on campaign contributions, displacement, government assistance

Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, on Aug. 27 released Built on Purpose, its first Corporate Social Responsibility Report. According to the press release:
Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that the company has released its first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report. Titled "Built on Purpose," the report received an Application Level B in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3.1 Guidelines. GRI is the leading global framework for CSR reporting.
Such technical gobbledygook doesn't tell us anything, but the report, according to the press release, "highlights Forest City's many significant accomplishments, including:
  • More than 30 LEED-certified buildings completed or planned
  • Associate contributions totaling more than $630,000 to the United Way in 2012
  • $6 million in energy efficiency savings since 2011
  • Over six megawatts of renewable power capacity installed
What's missing: click to enlarge
The document (full report) highlights Forest City Ratner's contributions after Superstorm Sandy, as well.

What's missing

The report offers one page on Atlantic Yards, with information that is oddly stale and misleading, as I'll describe below.

More importantly, there are certain aspects of the Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines that Forest City chooses to ignore, and they touch on some of the most sensitive aspects of a corporation that relies on public-private partnerships:
  • Total value of financial and in-kind contributions to political parties, politicians, and related institutions by country.
  • Operations with significant potential or actual negative and positive impacts on local communities.
  • Prevention and mitigation measures implemented in operations with significant potential or actual negative impacts on local communities.
  • Number of persons voluntarily and involuntarily displaced and/or resettled by development, broken down by project.
  • Significant financial assistance received from government. 
What's missing: click to enlarge
Does this have to do with "Application Level B"? Can't tell. But it's a major gap.

What about corruption?

Also note "no reported incidents of corruption during the [2012] reporting period." Well, in 2012, there happened to be a big corruption trial regarding Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers.

The company was not charged, but its ethics were questionable.

As I reported, Forest City's agreement to pay a fixer after he got a City Council Member to change her vote, however legal, sounded close to a violation of parent Forest City Enterprises' Code of Legal and Ethical Conduct, which warns against any “bribe, kickback or other improper payment.” (Both the fixer and the ex-lawmaker were convicted of corruption.)

Regarding Atlantic Yards

The page (below) regarding the Atlantic Yards project begins:
The $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards project is one of the most important public/private development initiatives in New York City today. This groundbreaking 27-acre, mixed-use project will create a vibrant, sustainable, 24/7 destination featuring a new home for the Brooklyn Nets, office space, housing, open space and substantial community benefits. Situated in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, the project’s 17 buildings will span more than seven city blocks. The Barclays Center, a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose, 18,000-seat sports and entertainment venue brings the Nets and major professional sports back to Brooklyn. To help meet the City’s need for housing, Atlantic Yards will create more than 6,400 mixed-income residential units; 2,250 of the rental units will be designated for low- and middle-income families. The plan also includes 247,000 square feet of retail and eight acres of public open space.
Um, the site is 22 acres, not 27. The arena begins at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn and backs into Prospect Heights, with the rest of the project (except for Site 5) clearly in Prospect Heights. Atlantic Yards won't "create" anything on its own.

The document states:
In the coming year, Forest City will proceed with site preparation including the demolition of existing structures, the construction of a temporary storage yard for the MTA/Long Island Railroad, and the relocation and upgrading of public and private utilities.
Hello, the arena's open. Doesn't anyone in the Cleveland office update the file?

The document states:
History and Culture:
Forest City signed a historic, legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement [CBA] to ensure significant, on-going participation in the project by community stakeholders.
Local Economic Benefits:
An economic engine for Brooklyn, New York City and the State, Atlantic Yards will generate over $5.6 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years.
The project will also create thousands of new jobs: 15,000 union construction jobs, up to 6,400 permanent office jobs, as well as arena, retail and residential jobs.
Philanthropy: click to enlarge
The CBA has been significantly discredited, given the developer's failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor, the moribund nature of several signatories, and the closing of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development).

The "economic engine" is based on a report Forest City paid for, which is based on a configuration that doesn't exist.

The projection of office jobs is based on a now-abandoned configuration of the project. The projection of construction jobs is based on a now-abandoned plan, preceding the modular plan.

About philanthropy

The document states:
Forest City’s commitment to investing in our communities is reflected both by our volunteerism and by our philanthropic contributions. We are known for our generosity.
We invest philanthropically because we care about the success of our communities. This demonstrates to our communities that we know we are linked together in a shared future. We see returns in our social license to operate, acceptance within our core market areas, and the success of our development projects.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR 2012 PHILANTHROPIC CONTRIBUTIONS
  • To support our commitment to diversity and inclusion, Forest City gave approximately 8% of overall charitable giving to support organizations targeting multicultural needs.
  • Super Storm Sandy caused unprecedented flooding and damage to the east coast of the United States. Forest City associates donated their time, talent and treasure to help their colleagues, neighborhoods and cities fight back from devastation of the storm. When you add in Forest City’s matching corporate donation, along with donations from our Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) associates in New York, our total giving to the American Red Cross was more than $55,000.
  • In New York, associates donated $7,380 to four different local charities involved in relief efforts with Forest City matching donations dollar for dollar.
  • FCRC, along with Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, donated $100,000 each to the Brooklyn Recovery Fund.
That does seem generous, but... without any information regarding the company's spending on lobbying, p.r., and campaign contributions,  we really don't get to see the full picture of the developer's public presence.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Since they didn't list a total amount of donations, only a pie chart showing how it was distributed over different sectors, you're left thinking that the "highlighted" donations may be some of the biggest. And if that's the case, that is pretty darn stingy.

    ReplyDelete