Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership tries to do what’s best for the entire community (claims $300K/year leader); some counter-evidence

The Real Deal Yesterday published Notorious B.I.D.s: Just how much influence do developers wield?, subtitled "Downtown Alliance, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have evolved into power brokers."

We learn that Tucker Reed, departing president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, earned $300,000 a year in the last year records are available (2014), and is probably earning more) and "at least 50 of the organization’s 73 board of directors are affiliated with the industry, and 30 of them are developers."

But if, as the Real Deal aptly says, "they wear many prominent hats [but] face little government oversight," why not some tougher coverage.

Instead we get:
Like the Alliance, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, formed in 2006, has a well-established narrative for its dominion: Demand is high for office space while supply is woefully low.
Wait a sec. What about the 2004 rezoning for office that didn't quite work? What about the new incentives the DBP wants? I wrote about this in City Limits last March, concluding by warning that "business boosters don't necessarily make honest brokers."

A bit of skepticism

The Real Deal article contains a brief quote from me:
“By treating the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership as the leading or exclusive voice on issues in the area around Downtown Brooklyn, that ensures that the voices of landowners and developers get prioritized, with less attention to contrasting views and more representative voices,” said Norman Oder, a Brooklyn journalist who runs the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park report. He noted that Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin serves as co-chair of the Partnership’s board.
But the closing word goes to the man himself:
Despite the developer-heavy makeup of the board, Reed insisted the Partnership tries to do what’s best for the entire community.
“I often kind of think of the space that we occupy as the well-informed, uncomfortable position,” he said. “Meaning that we probably know, better than anyone — maybe some community groups and maybe the elected officials have as good a finger pulse on it as we do — what the players are, what the gaps in the marketplace are, what the gaps in public services are, because that’s what we do. We focus on it 24/7, right? That’s our job.”
He added, “That’s difficult to navigate, of course. There’s a fine line you have to walk. You want to do what’s best for the neighborhood and you also want to keep people as happy as possible.”
My additional comments

I posted additional comments to elaborate on my contention. They were part of the email I sent to the Real Deal, which chose not to use them. Of course they can't print everything, but I had some specific examples.

For example, when developer Greenland Forest City Partners floated a purported plan to build an "iconic office building" at the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park plot known as Site 5, the only outside voice quoted in Crain's was Reed, described as "already" supporting the tower.

Of course he'd support it. As I wrote, he essentially works for Forest City Ratner.

As we now know, Reed and the DBP were supporting a plan that, according to a document presented a month earlier to the Department of City Planning, contained four scenarios, only one of which would include an iconic office tower (i.e., the taller of the two towers at the site), and in fact one in which there'd be zero office space.

Surely Reed knew there were multiple options. But it wasn't his job to serve the public, but rather to serve his bosses.

Also, the DBP had no trouble shilling for the DNC 2016 to come to the Barclays Center (which, I think is now clear, would have been logistically untenable and/or a disaster for nearby neighborhoods).

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