Friday, July 11, 2014

From the BUILD lawsuit files, a tidbit about how outside consultants helped solicit Atlantic Yards support (and a tussle over the "modern blueprint")

The lawsuit involving Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) being heard today also offers insight about how developer Forest City Ratner got the project passed: hiring lots of outside consultants.

Randall Touré, who was Director of Community Affairs for Assemblyman Roger Green before he moved to Forest City in January 2004, said in a deposition:
Like I said, it was not even my role to seek the supporters. I was part of a team of folks brought together to see how we can get supporters. It was all sorts of consultants and all sorts of folks that were involved to solicit support. They put out a newspaper [the Brooklyn Standard 'publication'], they put out buttons and badges and, you know, jobs, housing and hoops. All those type of things to get supporters.
Who, he was asked, was part of this group?
The lead on the group was [Forest City executives] Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, and -- the leads on that effort. And it was just a whole bunch of people in Forest City. Jim Stuckey played a role, since he was in charge of the project. And there were a bunch of consultants whose name I can't recall. There was a whole bunch of consultants brought in to do this work. There really -- at that time, there really wasn't a lot of internal Forest City people involved besides Jim Stuckey, who basically consulted with Bruce Bender. And it was primarily Bruce Bender's responsibility, and Scott Cantone's.
Well, Stuckey ran the project, and Bender and Cantone were in charge of external affairs until they left around the time of the Yonkers corruption trial.

It's not surprising that Forest City hired outside consultants--presumably p.r. firms and lobbyists and specialists in things like buttons and brochures--to build on in-house expertise. And it might be argued that the CBA itself was an extension of this strategy.

It was all part of a political campaign that required tougher scrutiny.

About that "modern blueprint"

Instead we got what I called the strained New York Times effort, in a front-page Oct. 14, 2005 article by rising reporter Nicholas Confessore, to claim:
But from whatever viewpoint, the project's seemingly inexorable movement suggests that Mr. Ratner is creating a new and finely detailed modern blueprint for how to nourish - and then harvest - public and community backing for a hugely ambitious development that is expected to provide more than nine million square feet of apartments, offices, stores and hotel rooms, as well as the arena, in the middle of a populous, cantankerous and often sharply divided city.
(Emphasis added)

I suggested that the aftermath, as described in the legal file, was more sobering, and challenged Confessore on Twitter. An exchange:

I'd hope Confessore had some smidgen of chagrin here.

Yes, the phrase described a "slick, well-financed plan," but the plan was inherently tainted because, among other things, the parties lied: during Confessore's reporting, Forest City and BUILD "revised that account," admitting BUILD had been paid despite previous denials.

Shouldn't that have altered the assessment of a "modern blueprint"? How can a plan be successful if it's built on lies?

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