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Did the Community Benefits Agreement survive the Greenland deal? Yes, but only two organizational contracts

I was recently asked if the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) continued under the new ownership of Atlantic Yards, the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture.

The answer is yes, formally, but in practice--as I've written--most of the groups and activities are moribund. Obligations to only two specific groups remain, mainly Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, and those have been transferred, in significant part if not in full, to the new arena operating company.

In June 2015, I wrote about "Assignment and Assumption Agreement" signed 6/30/14 between Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Company (AYDC) and the new Atlantic Yards Venture jointly owned by Forest City (30%) and the new majority owner, Greenland Group (70%). But I did so regarding architecture, not the CBA.

The agreement (bottom) includes various city, state, and private contracts. Notably on page 11, item #32, it indicates that the 6/27/05 Community Benefits Agreement has been transferred to the new joint venture.

It does not, interestingly enough, note that several of the signatories changed their names years ago--All-Faith Council of Brooklyn to Faith in Action; Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium to Brooklyn Voices for Children; First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee to Brooklyn Endeavor Experience--or that ACORN is defunct. That suggests the CBA was never updated/amended.

However, most of those eight CBA signatories are inactive. Only two are mentioned in the Forest City/Greenland agreement as extending contracts with the developer.


Clearly, the most active signatory is the DBNA, which regularly distributes free tickets to Barclays Center events, and also operates a foundation that distributes funds to non-profit groups. (The program for low-cost use of the arena, however, has not gotten off the ground.)

There are three documents regarding Daughtry and/or the DBNA. Upon the late 2015 announcement of the arena operating company to a company owned by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, which was after the document cited here, the parties said:
It will also continue to implement the portions of the Community Benefits Agreement and other community programs applicable to Barclays Center that were established as part of the development.
Regarding the DBNA, the nonprofit database Guidestar cites IRS Form 990s through 2015, posted as of 2016, which indicates an ongoing organization. (Presumably the latest Form 990 will appear soon.)

Caldwell and BUILD

Separately, the 6/30/14 document signed by Greenland indicates a consulting agreement with James E. Caldwell, the former head of the now-defunct Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), which according to the document was extended 5/1/14. After BUILD closed and was sued by trainees who said they were promised union construction jobs, Forest City's lawyers agreed to defend Caldwell.

The case was settled in late 2015, and we don't know if the agreement with Caldwell was renewed after that.

Public Housing Communities

The document indicates a Budget Renewal Contract 1/1/13 with Public Housing Communities, an organization aimed to represent the interest of public housing tenants. Charlene Nimmons of PHC co-authored a 4/1/17 New York Daily News op-ed criticizing mandatory construction apprenticeships as hampering diversity.

Here's some previous coverage of PHC, including its questionable financial reporting. Regarding PHC, the nonprofit database Guidestar cites IRS Form 990 reports only for 2007 and 2008, presumably the years when it had the most significant funding.

Previous commitments for funding partners

In July 2009, as I wrote, Forest City was asked at a public meeting about funding of its CBA partners.

“Forest City has funding obligations and commitments to each of the organizations, and they’re reviewed on an annual basis,” stated executive (and now CEO) MaryAnne Gilmartin. “We’re happy to provide an accounting, generally, of that, but I don’t have that information with me. Again, it depends on what they’re doing, presently, and what the expectations they’re going to be doing in the going-forward year, and it’s done on a very regular basis, in close consultation with each of the CBA members.”

They never provided an accounting. After all, given that the CBA--unlike CBAs in some other cities--does not involve any public agencies, the parties are not obligated to disclose it. As the 2014 document indicates, most were not still being pad by then.

As I wrote in June 2006, the Atlantic Yards CBA departed significantly from best practices. In model CBAs, signatories agree to support the project but don't themselves benefit. “As a matter of principle, groups in our network don’t take money from developers. We want to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest,” said John Goldstein, National Program Director of The Partnership for Working Families. “We have advocated in CBAs that developers give to the communities they’re developing in."

The relevant clauses

Clauses relative to specific CBA signatories include three under the section Contracts:
32. Community Benefits Agreement (the "CBA"), dated June 27, 2005, by and among Assignor, Arena LLC, All-Faith Council of Brooklyn (AFCB), Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium (DBEC), First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee (FATHC), New York State Association of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC), and Public Housing Communities (PHC).
33. Letter Agreement dated May 10, 2013 from Assignor to Rev. Herbert Daughtry of Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, as amended by that First Amendment to the Funding Letter Agreement dated August 29, 2013
34. Letter Agreement with Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance c/o House of Lord Church, relating to the CBA, dated December 11, 2013.
Also, clauses under the section Consulting Agreements:
1. Public Housing Communities Budget Renewal Contract dated as of January 1, 2013 by and between Assignor and Public Housing Communities.
11. Letter Agreement between Assignor and James E. Caldwell, dated January 15, 2013, as extended pursuant to that Letter Agreement dated May 1, 2014.
Also, a clause under Miscellaneous Contracts:
1. Agreement between Assignor and Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, dated April 4, 2014.