Sunday, October 23, 2005


Courier-Life on BUILD's denials, possible expansion of project

Two articles in this week's Courier-Life chain add intriguing details regarding BUILD's political activities and the possible move of some affordable housing designated for Atlantic Yards east into Crown Heights.

An article headlined Ratner Funneled Money to Downtown Alliance, Too points out, as reported earlier by the Times, that Forest City Ratner gave $50,000 to the Rev. Herbert Daughtry's Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance for the creation and construction of a health care center and inter-generational facility.

More importantly, the article pursues evidence that BUILD has hired workers to both distribute the Brooklyn Standard and do campaign work:
According to the Daily News story, at least one of these workers was also paid at the BUILD headquarters after handing out campaign literature on behalf of Eric Blackwell, who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Letitia James in the 35th City Council district.
James, who has serious reservations about the project, refused comment.
Although BUILD is barred as a non-profit organization from engaging in political campaigns, several of their key executives formed a political action group called Community Leadership for Accountable Politics (CLAP).
BUILD’s Chief Financial Officer, Jasmin Miller, is president of CLAP and refused comment on the allegation.

The article ends with a quote from the Republican opponent of incumbent City Council Member Letitia James, an ardent opponent of the Atlantic Yards project:
But Anthony Herbert, who is challenging James in the upcoming November election, defended BUILD, saying they are still a young organization learning the non-profit ropes.
“It’s just a bunch of ‘hating’ going on. This organization, for the most part, is made up of people from the community,” said Herbert.
“Their bottom line is we want to help the community. No one else has stepped up to do it, so I support them 100 percent. They deserved to be paid with the amount of time and energy they put in,” he added.

Young organization, maybe. But its officers seem to have a background in politics, as noted above, and in stonewalling, as seen above and here.

The second article, headlined Ratner to Reduce Density By Expanding Project?, cited Roger Green's suggestion that the planners "could reduce density by siting affordable housing on this site and other blocks and lots located to the east of the Atlantic Yards project."
Green noted that in both the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and CBA (Community Benefits Agreement) involving the project, there was discussion to find affordable housing at alternative sites.
Specifically, Green noted an area between Grand and Dean Streets and Washington and Bedford Avenues that need development.

However, the MOU mention of alternative sites does not concern the 2,250 rental units (of 4,500) that are part of the 50-50 plan for low- and middle-income "affordable" housing. Rather, as my report points out, the MOU states: Developer and ACORN will work on a program to develop affordable for-sale units, which are intended to be in the range of 600 to 1000 units,over the course of ten (10) years and can be on or off site. It is currently contemplated that a majority of the affordable for-sale units will be sold to families in the upper affordable income tiers.
The upper-affordable income tiers include families earning more than $100,000 a year.

Later, the Courier-Life article mentioned this issue: FCRC is looking at other properties in the borough to develop a home ownership program for low- and middle-income residents. Among these properties is St. Mary’s Hospital at 170 Buffalo Avenue, which recently went bankrupt and closed.

FCR again provided an evasive answer regarding the reason the project grew:
FCRC Executive Vice President James Stuckey responded that while the company is looking at developing other off-site affordable housing units, it doesn’t see altering one for the other.
...Stuckey further explained that the commercial space for the Atlantic Yards proposal was reduced because of the need for more housing. If the company moved the affordable housing elsewhere, critics would charge they are not living up to their agreement.

The commercial space was reduced because of the need for more housing? The commercial space was reduced so Forest City Ratner could add 2,800 market-rate condos, not any additional affordable housing.

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