WNYC on arena opening: ACORN's Lewis claims CBA was legitimate (but where's the compliance monitor?)
The most interesting part of the article concerns the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which prompts Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to call it unenforceable, and Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks to point out the inherent conflicted role of signatories, which rely on Forest City Ratner for support.
Why can't neutral experts on CBAs make this point as well?
As of 2005, Forest City Ratner provided more than $100,000 to BUILD to begin to develop community outreach. The developer also committed at least $50,000 in funding to DBNA.Hold on--these groups have received hundreds of thousands of dollars--surely over $1 million for BUILD, which in the most recent year got $340,000--from Forest City.
One group that signed the CBA defended its role in securing amenities for the surrounding area. ACORN secured a promise from the developer that 50 percent of the residential units created in the Atlantic Yards project would be dedicated to affordable housing units.And those members supported the CBA without being told what "affordable" meant. Unmentioned is that Forest City bailed out ACORN with a $1.5 million grant/loan and that Lewis without question supported a configuration on the first promised tower that disproportionately assigned subsidized two-bedroom units to middle-income households.
“People want to say the Community Benefits Agreement doesn’t represent the entire community because they’re speaking for themselves,” said ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis.
The group is in bankruptcy proceedings, but Lewis insists that ACORN is still alive. She said the whole process of signing the agreement was very open, and that the signatories to the CBA represented thousands of people throughout the borough.
“When we signed the CBA, ACORN had 30,000 members,” added Lewis.
Also unmentioned was the definitive testimony in May 2005 from Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York:
As a sponsored project of Good Jobs First, which provided support for the CBAs negotiated in California and continues to act as a clearinghouse for information on CBAs, we feel it is important to draw the Council’s attention to several major differences between CBAs as they have been used in other parts of the country and the series of negotiations that FCRC is calling a CBA. Perhaps the most striking is that elsewhere CBAs are negotiated by one broad coalition of groups that would otherwise oppose a project, a coalition that includes labor and community organizations representing a variety of interests. The coalition hammers out its points of unity in advance and then each member holds out on settling on its particular issue until the issues of the other members are addressed. This way, the bargaining power of each group is used for the benefit of the coalition as a whole. In the BAY case, several groups, all of which have publicly supported the project already, have each engaged in what seem to be separate negotiations on particular issues.Where's the meditation room?
The document even called for a meditation room to be built inside the arena.The arena's opening tonight, so perhaps they will find it by then.
“I can’t tell you exactly where it is, but there is a meditation room [in the arena], that will be open during events, a non-denominational quiet space for people to get away from the arena,” said Ashley Cotton, executive vice president of External Affairs for Forest City Ratner Companies.
The article does point out that Forest City has not hired the Independent Compliance Monitor it promised way back in October 2005, but does not challenge Forest City or any CBA signatory, but instead closes with some false balance, quoting a kid unlikely to afford too many arena tickets:
Still, at the Wyckoff Gardens New York City Housing Authority Developments in Brooklyn, less than a mile from the Barclays Center, many residents just want the arena to open already.
“I can’t wait,” said 14-year-old Nassir Ali.
“I think it’s going to be great, because we finally got a stadium next to us, and we can just go there and watch basketball,” he said.