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Executive Gilmartin gets continued kudos from local nonprofits, including "Robert F. Kennedy" award

It's a time-old tactic, mixing generosity, civic-mindedness, and surely strategy.

Consider: a real-estate executive who's built some impressive buildings but also generated controversy through failure to fulfill promises or less-than-gentle business tactics can burnish his or her reputation thanks to the halo from local nonprofits that raise funds from the honoree and/or their friends/colleagues.

We saw that when Bruce Ratner (then Executive Chairman) and MaryAnne Gilmartin (CEO) of Forest City Ratner (later Forest City New York) were honored in 2014, when the Municipal Art Society awarded them the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal.


And we saw it this past June when Gilmartin, now at L&L MAG, was honored by the DUMBO-based arts organization, St. Ann's Warehouse

The organization's announcement said, in part:
It’s Gala time again at St. Ann’s Warehouse! We hope you will join us on June 12th, 2018, where we will be honoring a few spectacular women for their stunning brilliance and positive impact: MaryAnne Gilmartin, accomplished developer and founder and CEO of L&L MAG, who believes buildings can be robust and beautiful...
Sure, they can, but the story is of course much more complicated.

A "Robert F. Kennedy" award

In October 2017, Gilmartin--still at Forest City--was honored at annual gala of the venerable Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation's flagship community development corporation, with a long history of vital work, with the "Robert F. Kennedy Award for Humanitarian Services."

It's unclear what that exactly means--it wasn't explained in any public document, and the organization didn't respond to a query. The Brooklyn Reader stated that "[t]he gala will honor several organizations and individuals who have made valuable contributions to Brooklyn and its residents."

Surely that included financial help: one of Gilmartin's colleagues (and that colleague's sister) was on the host committee. And whatever Gilmartin's personal generosity, it's hard to see her public profile as matching that of Kennedy, a public servant.
Sure, it's worthy to help nonprofits, at least if they're not tasked mainly to support a real-estate project--see the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (or CBA)--and described internally by a Forest City executive as "THEY WORK FOR US."

But Gilmartin's record also includes a failure to deliver union construction jobs to people living in Bedford-Stuyvesant who signed up for the much-awaited Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program through CBA signatory BUILD. It involves making threats to an architect.

It involves maneuvering to save real-estate investors perhaps $50 million in taxes over time, money that might instead be used for affordable housing. It means delivering below-market housing that's not so affordable.

For this year's event, the Kennedy went to attorney Joseph Lynch, who works in the private sector but previously worked for Restoration on housing issues, both before and after he earned his law degree.

Also honored was legendary community planner Ron Shiffman of the Pratt Center for Community Development, who in the 1960s helped establish Restoration. (Among other things, Shiffman served on the board of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.)

What $1.5 million can do

Last year's event, reported The Brooklyn Eagle last November, "raised $1.5 million to support critical programs and services that foster economic self-sufficiency, enhance family stability and growth, promote the arts and culture and transform Brooklyn neighborhoods into safe, vibrant places to live, work and visit."

Surely BedStuy Restoration can use the money, and does good work. (This year's event raised $800,000.)

But also consider the $1.1 million in taxes that owners at the 550 Vanderbilt condo building will be saving annually--just to start.

Interestingly, the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park were supposed to spend at least $100,000 a year to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor to report back on how the promises of the CBA were fulfilled.

Partial New York Public Radio board listing
If they had been, well, we wouldn't have needed a lawsuit to expose the failure of the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program.

That tab, by now, might have exceeded $1.5 million. But galas get better publicity.

And one more thing

Also note (as in the screenshot above right) that Gilmartin is now one of five Vice Chairs of New York Public Radio board, parent of WNYC. She's been on the board since late 2014.

I'm not saying that board members of non-profit news organizations are immune to coverage, but I'd bet that WNYC radio won't be first off the block to run anything tough on Gilmartin.

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