Remember this January 2008 affidavit from Forest City Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun, which claimed that, "pursuant to an innovative [CBA], the FCRC affiliates that sponsor the project are contractually bound to provide a wide array of far-reaching benefits to the historically most disadvantaged segments of Brooklyn’s communities.”
big promises, dashed hope, a bitter lawsuit, and a murky settlement.
I've described some of what we know about the CBA, but we may learn more soon.
Last Friday, Michael West of Devotion NYC, the fledgling organization pushing for community accountability (and a job-related contract for an affiliate, which is self-serving) met with Forest City External Affairs executive Ashley Cotton, reporting that she "confidently communicated a number of stats regarding employment, construction contracting, post-construction contracting, business development and more."
"The figures sounded overwhelmingly positive upon first listen," he wrote. "She agreed to send us [a written record]! This is a huge for the community. It means that for the first time, the work F.C.R.C. has done will be public!"
Forest City never hired the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the 2005 Community Benefits Agreement, which was supposed to report back on not only the developer's performance but also that of Forest City's partners.
That's a fundamental shadow over their claims. And now that Forest City is the junior parter of Greenland Forest City Partners, Ashley Cotton is the spokesperson for a joint venture controlled by a Chinese corporation that came in after the CBA was used to accomplish Forest City's political goals.
- the actual affordability of apartments at 461 Dean (aka B2), which are less affordable than claimed
- the plan to pile new density on Site 5, which was denied before they were confirmed
- the nonunion shop at steel supplier Banker Steel, claimed to be union at a Council hearing
- the interest rate on an EB-5 loan for the Nassau Coliseum
- the schedule for closing Atlantic Avenue
- the problems, including mold and misalignment, with the B2 modular tower
|Planned configuration in B3 and B14, the two new all-affordable towers|
That's far different than what was promised in the CBA and the associated Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding signed by ACORN.
Specifically, the highest-income affordable cohort, or "band," was supposed to represent 20% of the affordable units. Instead, in the next two "100% affordable towers," representing about 600 units, it's 50%.
|From the CBA|
However, Empire State Development reported a total of 15.4% to certified MWBE firms, which meant Forest City had counted companies that had not registered or were too large/prosperous to qualify under state rules.
What's the "community"?
Columnist Errol Louis (now of NY1) wrote in Our Time Press in December 2005, "At this stage of the game the question should be how and when the dollars will begin flowing into central Brooklyn."
But it's hardly systemic change if a woman-owned major company from Long Island is hired, as I've written, for regular demolition work.
This remains an unresolved issue regarding CBAs. At a hearing in 2010, Christopher Collins, former counsel to the Council's Land Use Committee, observed: "Who’s the community? Is it the elected officials? Is it the civic association? Is it the Community Board? Who gets to decide who’s on the community team? There’s no guidance that really tells us that.”
The letter, but not the spirit, of the rules
New York State rules are similar--"Persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Central or South American descent of either Native American or Latin American origin, regardless of race"--but disallow those with net worth exceeding $3.5 million (after certain deductions).
"Last in line" for the program
Consider this 12/3/15 essay by David Mark Greaves, editor/publisher, of Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Our Time Press, View From Here: Gentrification, W/MBE and Wrongly-used Black Spending Power, which called for a focus on African-Americans:
And now moving that needle is a gargantuan task, only complicated by the newly-minted American espousal of ethnic and gender fairness which prevents favoring one group over another. That Asians and women receive 94% of the M/WBE payouts is no reason to favor Hispanics and African-Americans. When the truth of the matter is that it was the land stolen from the indigenous people and the labor stolen from the Africans that were used to build the foundation of this country. To be last in line for a program, whose intent should be to correct that original sin, is galling.He was writing about city contracts, but surely similar concerns apply to state-overseen public-private partnerships. Let's see the "overwhelmingly positive" figures.
...So today, African-Americans and Hispanics are last in line for the 4% that is not given to what are euphemistically called non-MBE vendors; i.e., the white men and the W/MBE women who receive 96.9% of the city’s business.
The way the city spends its money deserves a “Black Lives Matter” movement of its own.