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Atlantic Yards/Nets/DBNA Community Foundation emerges, with $100K+ of awards for community groups; board revealed; questions/qualms

Borough President Adams bestows proclamation, via DBNA
This is late, but let's look at the inaugural round of donations--more than $100,000--to community groups in underserved areas of Brooklyn, by the Atlantic Yards/Nets/DBNA Community Foundation. The money surely does good, but also represents part of the developer's community strategy.

The donations were announced in a ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall on 7/30/15, with Borough President Eric Adams bestowing a proclamation.

The DBNA is the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, largely (if not exclusively) funded by Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park original developer Forest City Ratner, and long a vigorous cheerleader for the project.

Since the Barclays Center opened, the DBNA has distributed free tickets to arena events via community groups, promised in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Last year, it was to finally begin a CBA-promised program in which community groups got lower-cost access to arena spaces. (I've not seen confirmation that went forward.)

The DBNA, founded after the Atlantic Yards project was announced, also might be seen as an extension of the Rev. Daughtry's House of the Lord church and his family. Board members of the foundation are listed as "c/o" the church. His daughter Sharon Daughtry runs the DBNA. Another daughter, Leah Daughtry, was tapped to work on the community events. Grandson Lorenzo Daughtry Chambers runs the Invictus Youth Initiative (which offers arena tickets as prizes for youth achievement).

Questions, and qualms

The foundation reflects a promise from the CBA that has mostly been fulfilled, albeit a few years late. The recipient groups, which work in areas like youth development, prisoner re-entry, and health support, significantly in Central Brooklyn, expressed great appreciation for the $5,000 grants.

Sharon Daughtry, with the Rev. Herbert Daughtry next to her
 & Forest City Ratner's Elizabeth Canela at far left (DBNA FB)
Still, the program leaves me with some questions and qualms.

First, it comes with relatively little transparency.
There's no information on the DBNA web site about who oversees the foundation--dominated by the developer and Nets, as I explain below.

Nor do we learn why the foundation's mission has changed, in part, from that stated in the CBA, which was to support sports programs in disadvantaged communities.

We don't know exactly how the foundation is funded, for how long, and how many grants will be given out.

The grants, in Forest City's view, are surely a complement to lobbying or campaign contributions--an expenditure aimed to win friends in certain constituencies, just as elected officials like to distribute grants/earmarks to neighborhood organizations.

They allow Forest City to selectively appear a good corporate citizen, while ignoring other issues. For example, despite promises in the CBA, Forest City failed to hire (for a similar six-figure sum) the required Independent Compliance Monitor, and the Rev. Daughtry gave them a pass.

So larger issues like the workers who get too few hours for benefits, or the failure to provide job training that led to new careers, get less attention.

In this case, Adams both adds an imprimatur, and also gets some benefit from his association with the effort. It makes him less likely to be a watchdog over the project, such as joining the call for more benefits and responsiveness from the arena operator.

From DBNA newsletter, Oct. 2015
Sharon Daughtry also was named to the board of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), which was set up to monitor the project, though she proudly calls herself a partner of the developer, setting up what surely seems a conflict.  (She only attended one of five board meetings this year.)

On video

A DBNA video (below) about the ceremony starts out with an interview with the Rev. Daughtry, who, as clergy are wont to do, makes a corporate calculation sound lofty.

"I think that is so fundamental, to the human family... is the fundamental question, what do I give to the universe? How do I make the human family better? So i said if I were ever in a position to accumulate any kind of resources," the Rev. Daughtry said, he'd use "God's approach, starting with the most disadvantaged."

Later, he expressed gratefulness to Forest City executives Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin and staff "for a marvelous, marvelous, marvelous demonstration of commitment, skills, and creativity, and most of all, of love."

The awardees include Arab-American Family Support CenterBridging Access to CareBrooklyn Art IncubatorBrooklyn Perinatal NetworkChildren of Promise, Inc.Digital Girl, Inc.Families United, Inc.Imagine Me Leadership Charter SchoolImani HouseLove Fellowship Tabernacle
Noel Pointer FoundationNot Just HoopsP.S. 11 PTAResearch Foundation/CUNY-NYC College of TechnologyWhat About the ChildrenOur Communities, Our Children.

DBNA Polestar Awardee: Chillin' on da Corner & Beyond Series.

DBNA Capacity Building Grant Program awardees are Hall of GameNeighborhood Work Play Kids TheatreOne Hundred Seniors, Inc., Re-entry Rocks, Strategically Positioning Lives in Technology (SPLiT).

The ceremony was previewed in the black-oriented Amsterdam News. I'm not sure how many other news outlets were sent the press release.

Who's on the board?

There's no information on the DBNA web site about the foundation's board, but an initial Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2014--a year in which no funds were distributed--reveals that information (see bottom).

Board members include four people (including DBNA founder the Rev. Daughtry) associated with the church (which houses the DBNA), three executives from the Brooklyn Nets, and four executives from Forest City Ratner.

It's hardly surprising that the foundation is controlled by its funders. (Note that Forest City was then a minority owner of the Nets, but now the team is owned completely by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.)

Actually, according to the Community Benefits Agreement, as I wrote, the foundation is supposed to be funded by "the Arena." Given that the Forest City and Nets board members are also connected to the Barclays Center, it's possible that the foundation funding does come from "the Arena." But there's no information about that.

After Prokhorov bought Forest City's share of the team and majority share of the arena (operating company), he pledged that all previous commitments will continue, but they were unspecified.