Skip to main content

The Atlantic Yards CDC, conflict-of-interest, and the not-so-affordable "model" building

Remember how the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) was set up "to improve oversight and monitoring of the project," with the appointed board "responsible for monitoring the delivery of public commitments related to the project by making recommendations to the ESD [Empire State Development] Board of Directors"?

And remember how I (and others) raised the issue of a blatant conflict-of-interest, given that two appointees, Bertha Lewis and Sharon Daughtry, are connected to groups that signed the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with developer Forest City Ratner, and have been funded by Forest City?

Well, we have an answer, and its not pretty. A document released after the AY CDC meeting last month answered--sort of--the question about conflict of interest:
a. Conflict of Interest
All Board members are required to comply with Section 74 of the Public Officers Law which governs conflicts of interests. Board members have been instructed to recuse themselves from any votes which may create a conflict of interest for them based on their outside activities, employment or business interests.
(Emphasis added)

That's hardly convincing. The work of the board goes well beyond voting, as it encompasses what topics are given attention, or not. Lewis, former head of ACORN and now leader of The Black Institute, is one of the few people on the board with expertise in housing issues.

Last week, she hailed a "100% affordable" building with most units way too expensive for her longtime constituency, as I wrote. She called "Pacific Park buildings... a model for how to build housing and communities that reflect the diversity, in every way, of our City."

She didn't comment on how the configuration--skewing to middle-income subsidized units--differs from the housing plan for Atlantic Yards she signed as head of New York ACORN. Nor how the configuration differs significantly from Mayor Bill de Blasio's overall plan for subsidized housing.

It's not surprising that a developer-prepared press release would include such cheerleading quotes--or even a completely misleading one from the head of ESD, the state authority that's supposed to shepherd and oversee the project.

But it's dismaying to think that such a comment comes close to oversight.

What's the boundary?

When I first asked about the conflict back in February, ESD attorney Robin Stout told me, "Purely as a hypothetical, if one of the elected officials decided to appoint someone from Forest City Ratner or [new partner] Greenland to the board, I'm not sure that that would constitute a conflict."

Stout pointed me to the Public Officers Law (excerpt), which includes boards of any public authority corporation, encompassing AY CDC:
No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.
... An officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should not by his conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties.
This passage--Section 74 of the Public Officers Law, as noted above--continues to raise a red flag.

Remember, as the December 15 groundbreaking for the 535 Carlton tower loomed last year, the AY CDC did not exist, though it was supposed to meet by then. At the last moment, the ESD stated the CDC had been established, but would not meet until January 30. (Actually didn't meet until February.)

"The January meeting allows local elected officials sufficient time to identify their appointments to the AY CDC," the state said, "as well as sufficient time for appointees to complete their ethics and background checks." 

What exactly were they checking?

Comments

  1. Anonymous11:10 PM

    Generally great website, 99% incredible, but we are suggesting a correction, or please offer a footnote and some supporting material for this unconfirmed claim: "(Bertha)Lewis, former head of ACORN and now leader of The Black Institute, is one of the few people on the board with expertise in housing issues."
    What constitutes "expertise in housing issues" ?please,citations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. http://www.politico.com/arena/bio/bertha_lewis.html

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…