Sunday, September 04, 2005


The Brooklyn Papers takes a look at BUILD's new offices

The story of the group Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development's (BUILD) move into a Forest City Ratner-owned building on Pacific Street did make it into my report, "High Rises and Low Standards," but now The Brooklyn Papers has added a few important details: (BUILD), a community-based group formed specifically to elicit local jobs from Ratner’s project, has been granted rent-free space right next door to the only property owner on the block who has refused to sell to Ratner, Daniel Goldstein, a condo owner whose group Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has been the most vocal opponent of the project.
[BUILD's Marie] Louis said the free use of the facilities were part of what BUILD had negotiated in a so-called community benefits agreement (CBA) with the developer.
Meanwhile, Goldstein said he fears the move is an intimidation tactic by the developer.
“If Ratner’s trying to do something that he thinks would unify this neighborhood, and this community, by placing the group that strongly supports him next to the leaders of the opposition, what exactly is going on? Is he trying to instigate trouble?” wondered Goldstein.

The Brooklyn Papers again did the responsible thing--unlike some media outlets, including the New York Times--and got some perspective on what makes a legitimate CBA: Greg LeRoy is executive director of Good Jobs First, a non-profit policy group in Washington, D.C. that has advocated for community benefits agreements and supported the development of CBAs in Los Angeles development projects. He said negotiations for CBAs tend to be conducted with the agreement that no party involved will receive favors from another negotiating party.
“As a general statement of principals, anytime you have negotiations in which there are competing self-interests, and one side grants a favor to the other, or grants a favor to the member of another set of parties, that’s a red flag,” said LeRoy. “This is because the question of, ‘Is there a quid pro quo?’ inevitably arises. “Obviously, being as impartial and objective in the negotiations is something people strive for,” he said and wondered if the other individuals and organizations involved in the CBA negotiations were notified of BUILD’s reward."

Oh, and here's the kicker: the Brooklyn Papers asked, but Neither Forest City Ratner nor Cheryl Duncan Public Relations, the firm hired by Ratner to represent the CBA, would release contact or background information about the organizations that comprise the signatories to the document.

So much for transparency in this process. Yet again, a local newspaper has laid out a story for the dailies, including the New York Times, to follow.

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