Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Where is the Community in "CBA"?

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Where is the Community in "CBA"?

After reading the MetroNY article below NoLandGrab commented today:

The Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatories (some of whom represent groups formed for the express purpose of the CBA and supporting the project, and are financed by Forest City Ratner) have a hot-line to developer Bruce Ratner. That didn't stop them from throwing a fit when politicians showed up at last weekend's rally to express concerns about the demolition of buildings like the Ward Bakery to make way for giant parking lots.

(MetroNY doesn't have the article online, so it appears in full on NoLandGrab)

Groups sit down with pols over Atlantic Yards
By Amy Zimmer

When eight groups signed onto Forest City Ratner's Community Benefits Agreement two years ago, they were designated the gatekeepers of the $4 billion project's affordable housing and employment initiatives.

They were to serve as a bridge between the neighborhood and developer, but as local elected officials continue to raise concerns over the project – and are calling on the Spitzer administration to make changes -- the CBA organizations are feeling shoved aside.

Eight local politicians sent a letter requesting a sit-down with the Empire State Development Corporation the state agency overseeing the project, to discuss community concerns. Yesterday, CBA members held a closed-door meeting with some of those pols.

"We said, you've dismissed the collective body – which is the CBA," said Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Community Benefits Agreement Executive Committee, "We let them know they didn't reach out to use so we reached out to them."...

Dismissing the collective body?"
Collective body" sounds like another word–"community." And nobody has been more left out of the so-called Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement" then, well...the collective body, aka the community.

As a matter of fact the stakeholders in West Harlem have gone out of their way to avoid the Atlantic Yards "CBA" model.

According to a New York Observer article in February:...

WHEN THE COMMUNITY BOARD STARTED TO FORM an entity that would negotiate on West Harlem's behalf, one thing was certain: Harlem didn't think much of the community-benefits agreement for Atlantic Yards, in which developer Forest City Ratner negotiated directly with nonprofits that would end up making money from the agreement.

"Ratner and the city got together with one big, national not-for-profit and a set of local sycophants and put something together which doesn't seem to have satisfied too many people, except for those who are benefiting directly from it," Mr. Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of Community Board 9, said.... On the Observer's real estate blog Mr. Reyes-Montblanc had more to say:

"We are avoiding the Brooklyn model," he said. "We are wanting to do something else. We are wanting to develop a wide coalition of organizations and people that will be properly represented, perhaps through a local development corporation, but it's not going to be ACORN negotiating for the community or any similar type of thing." (emphasis added)

The MetroNY article continues:

...Hunley-Adossa understood the concerns that protesters raised at a rally earlier this week, opposing the demolition of two city blocks' worth of buildings for a parking lot. "I worked on that during the environmental review," she said." A lot of people were worried they would lose their on-site parking [during the construction] and were concerned about traffic flow." The lot was a way to accommodate the community.

"We told them, ‘Our concern is you never came to us. You jumped and went straight to the ESDC, to the new guy," she said after the meeting. "Had you come to us, you would have known we are addressing these issues."...

Full article

"You never came to us." That sounds familiar. That is exactly what occurred with this "CBA." Ratner never came to community. He went to a few groups who supported his project from day one and created a series of private contracts–thus creating the myths of the "Legally Binding, Landmark Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement."

The idea that the community asked for decades of "interim surface parking" for 1,500 cars is to suggest something that is literally beyond belief. Furthermore the politicians expressing concerns about "Atlantic Yards" are accountable to all of their constituents, not just the 8 groups who signed the "CBA." Had those groups actually signed the "CBA" not just with Ratner, but also with city and state government, this all would be an entirely different story. But that didn't happen.It is important to note a few things.

The "CBA" group is represented by a PR firm hired by Forest City Ratner, and it looks like that firm is doing its job. Also, the "CBA" group has never held a public meeting to inform the broad community of their efforts, their agreement or the work they are doing, nor have they provided a forum for the broad community to communicate with those 8 "CBA" groups.

In other words, the "CBA" group has dismissed the "collective body," and worse yet, attacked a big segment of it for standing up for its rights.

Posted: 4.20.07

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