Please note our new postal address when sending
contributions to the legal fund:
121 5th Avenue, PMB #150
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and
there are 51 community organizations formally
aligned in opposition to the Ratner plan.
DDDB is a volunteer-run organization. We have over 5,000
subscribers to our email newsletter, and 7,000 petition
signers. Over 800 volunteers have registered with DDDB
to form our various teams, task-forces and committees
and we have over 150 block captains. We have a 20 person
volunteer legal team of local lawyers supplementing our
We are funded entirely by individual donations from the community at large
and through various fundraising events we and supporters have organized.
We have the financial support of well over 3,500 individual
PUBLIC HEARING on Atlantic Yards
Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
Wednesday, April 30
5:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Long Island University
Room HS 107 75 DeKalb Avenue
This Wednesday, April 30th starting at 5:30 the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is holding a court-ordered public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS).
That's the Atlantic Yards project (not) being built by the Chinese government*, Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and their minority partner Forest City Ratner. *After Mikhail Prokhorov bailed Ratner out in 2009 the great subsidy—and green cards for cash—abuser has found a new savior - the Chinese government. The Greenland Group, a Chinese government-owned development firm has a joint venture agreement to buy a 70% controlling interest in the project from Ratner pending Treasury Department approval. The agreement would put Greenland in decision-making control of the project and the firm may eventually buy out Ratner's remaining 30% stake.)
If you thought that there was no oversight or accountability before a foreign government took control of the project, well...let's just say it's likely to get worse:
How, exactly, will accountability and oversight come to be with the controlling developer on the other side of the world when there wasn't any with the developer based in Metrotech?!
Who, exactly, will Greenland be accountable to; more to the point, who in our government will hold the Chinese government accountable moving forward?
When the community has issues with the project over the coming decades, who can we turn to: Beijing???
Why is this hearing being held?
Because ESDC and Ratner lied to misled the court about key project documents. DDDB and other groups sued over this and won a court ordered supplemental review of the bulk of the project because it became clear that the developer's 10-year construction period was going to be at least 25 years, leading to a variety of new and unique impacts on the community. Had ESDC and Ratner not misled the court there is a good chance the project would not have been able to move forward at all back in 2010. (The back story to the long case history is here.)
Remember: Forest City Ratner and a basketball team's worth of elected officials (including the new Mayor) promised that the publicly funded, eminent domain fueled Atlantic Yards project would bring 2,250 units of "affordable housing," 10,000 jobs, publicly accessible open space, and would remove alleged "blight." They promised all these pies in the sky would arrive within ten years.
But four years after they broke ground what do we have? We have an arena enjoyed by ticketholders, a huge demolished hole in the neighborhood, ongoing real construction blight, rising rents and five stories (of 32) of the first of 16 towers that are to be built. Not a single housing unit, "affordable" or not, has been built and that first delayed tower is going to take at least a year longer than announced at its groundbreaking. (See last week's NY Times article.)
Why should you attend this hearing?
We encourage you to come to the hearing and give oral testimony expressing your thoughts about the project. While we have ten years worth of reasons to doubt that the ESDC will give a darn about what the community has to say, it is important to come and let ESDC, Forest City Ratner, and the media in attendance know what you think of the project, its failures and its impacts on the community:
If you think oversight and accountability are the least the community and taxpayers deserve, come to the hearing and say so.
If you want to say, "we told you so," come to the hearing and say so.
And If you think the project would never had seen the light of day if it originated as the Chinese government's NYC taxpayer-funded plan to demolish a neighborhood and let it sit mostly vacant for decades while a Russian oligarch's vanity team plays a handful of playoff games where people used to live and work...then come to the hearing and say so.
Feel free to bring homemade Russian and Chinese flags and any other appropriate props.
(PLEASE BE WARNED: there is likely to be an abundance of dogs and ponies in attendance.)
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
5:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Long Island University
Room HS 107
75 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Written comments on the DSEIS will be accepted through Monday, May 12, 2014. Written comments should be delivered to ESD at 633 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10017, Attention: Derek Lynch, or may be submitted by e-mail to email@example.com. All email submissions will receive an email response confirming receipt from Mr. Lynch within two business days.
A Message from Empire State Development (ESD) regarding the April 30th public hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement:
On March 28, 2014, the Board of
Directors for the New York State Urban Development
Corporation, doing business as Empire State Development
("ESD"), accepted the Draft Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement ("the DSEIS"), adopted an amendment to the
Modified General Project Plan ("the Proposed Amendment"),
and authorized a Public Hearing in connection with the
Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project.
The DSEIS is being prepared in compliance with a Court Order
requiring ESD to examine the environmental impacts of a
potential delay in the completion of Phase II of the Project
ESD will be holding a Public
Hearing, open to all persons, on Wednesday April 30,
2014 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Long Island
University, 75 DeKalb Avenue, Room HS107, Brooklyn, New
York. The public hearing will allow all interested
persons an opportunity to provide comments on the DSEIS and
Proposed Amendment under SEQRA and the UDC Act,
respectively. Protocols for the hearing are provided
below for your review. Written comments on the
DSEIS will be accepted through Monday, May 12, 2014, and
written comments on the Proposed Amendment will be
accepted through Friday, May 30, 2014. Written
comments should be delivered to ESD at 633 Third Avenue, New
York, New York 10017, Attention: Derek Lynch, or may be
submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All email
submissions will receive an email response confirming
receipt from Mr. Lynch within two business days.
The DSEIS and Proposed Amendment
are provided at the link below. Additionally, both
documents are on file at our office (633 Third Avenue, New
York, New York 10017) and are available for inspection
during business hours. Digital copies of the DSEIS and
Proposed Amendment are available on a disc by mail or by
email without charge, as requested. Please contact
ESD's Derek Lynch at (212) 803-3736 or email@example.com for
more information. Also, please refer to the Public
Hearing Notice, linked below, for further details on where
paper copies have been made available for public review in
The following are materials in
connection with the Public Hearing on the DSEIS and Proposed
Amendment that you may find useful:
...It's probably too late to reconsider the first apartment towers. But it's not too late to hold Mr. Ratner, the city and the state to their word about creating jobs and building the promised number and type of subsidized apartments for low- and moderate-income Brooklyn families. Then the remainder of the project, which promises next to nothing for the public realm, ought to be sent back to the drawing board, so that, should it go forward, it could still include density (density is good) but also much smarter streets, different scales of development and diverse public services...
Seattle is grappling with its own arena controversy so their NBC news affiliate KING TV ran a short piece looking at the Barclays Center controversy as a "lesson" for Seattleites. The story ended with this:
Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough president, conceded that Barclays Center was a controversial project.
"It certainly will be written in the days to come as the most contentious developments in America's history, not just New York history.
(emphasis added, and corrected for imprecise video transcription)
Isn't this the same Markowitz who pitched potential Chinese lenders/green card seekers by saying:
"Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."
Indeed, it is the same Markowitz. Only the BEEP knows why he'd lie to China but come clean to Seattle.
Update: Norman Oder has added a little more context and this video mashing Markowitz's two statements together:
Amid the general praise for the Barclays Center after the Nets' home exhibition debut last night--more on that in another post--one arena feature was surely unknown to the sports media.
It was once a big deal. Now the Barclays Center meditation room--with wheelchair storage, no signage inside or out, holes in the ceiling, cinderblock walls, and a decidedly uncontemplative interior-- looks like an afterthought.
I didn't see anyone using it. Or, to be charitable after a visit to the arena little more than two weeks after it opened, maybe, like some other parts of the arena, it's still being finished.
At least, unlike nearly every other element of the Barclays Center, there's no branding attached.
No chapel, but meditation room
As some might recall, the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, who runs a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partner organization supported by Forest City Ratner, originally wanted a chapel.
A religious space wouldn't fly, so instead emerged the meditation room or, as Daughtry called it in his dramatic 8/23/06 testimony at the hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, an atrium.
"It will provide a place for our young, a place for the seniors, a place for the youth to come together in an atrium designed by us," he crowed, to the excitement of many followers in the audience.
The Brooklyn Paper, well after its sale to Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group, puffed the story big in April 2010, as indicated at right:
“To our knowledge, the meditation room at Barclays Center will be the first meditation room to be included in a new NBA arena,” said the [architects'] spokeswoman, Sara Cziok.
However, in August of that year I pointed out that the room would actually be about 150 square feet. That likely was, at least in part, a consequence of the redesign and shrinking of the arena to save money.
A visit, with video
At the arena last night, no signage indicated either the location of or the entrance to the meditation room, which is likely why it was empty when I and a few others took a look.
But an arena staffer directed me to it, tucked back from the arena corridor on the main floor, next to a first aid room of roughly the same size. (A Forest City Ratner executive, in a WNYC piece broadcast on the day of the arena opening 9/28/12, couldn't identify the location.)
It doesn't look "designed by us" or, particularly, by anybody.
Neighborhood corner with Freddy's Bar (now gone): According to architectural critic Justin Davidson the neighbrohood had "no character"
Maybe we should just rename New York Magazine, “Manhattan Magazine” . . That might help to remind us that Brooklyn, for all its importance, still doesn’t get the kind of informed, mindful coverage it deserves. (While we are at it, also to remind us where things stand, we can rename the New York Post and the Brooklyn Papers “Rupert’s Real Estate Rags.” Murdock, at least-- a relief, sold and no longer still owns New York Magazine which languished under him.) . . .
. . . Justin Davidson, New York Magazine’s architectural critic appeared on WYNC’s Leonard Lopate show yesterday, probably because he has written prominently run stories recently about the new Ratner/Prokhorov-owned arena in Brooklyn, the so-called “Barclays” (as in LIBOR scandal) Center and Manhattan’s 26-acre Hudson Yards mega-project.
Lopate was asking him about how the Bloomberg administration’s development approach had “transformed” city neighborhoods. At the beginning of that interview Davidson, right off the bat, winds up dissing Brooklyn as he displays a Manhattancentric illiteracy of the value of its neighborhoods.
Lopate: Are we doing a good job tailoring developments to match the existing character of neighborhoods? For example, the Barclays Center has caused great controversy: It’s been getting good reviews but many remain unhappy about its design and the way its site fits with its neighborhood.
Davidson: So, neighborhood character is one of those intangible things and perhaps the most difficult thing to preserve, because even preserving the buidings in a neighborhood doesn’t do anything to preserve the character. Preservation is about `stuff,’ it’s about bricks and the physicality of the neighborhood, but preserving the architectural legacy of say Greenwich Village over the last, say, half century, hasn’t done anything to slow, in fact you could argue it’s accelerated the change of what happens there, who lives there, the economics of it are, and the character itself. So, preserving what it looks like, almost by definition, changes what it feels like.
Now, as far as the Barclays Center is concerned I’d say that the context there is that particular block at the triangular intersection, the angular intersection of two large trafficked avenues is very distinct from the character from the blocks immediately adjacent, the residential blocks. So when you say it’s changed the character, you really have to look at `What character?’ very precisely. I would say that there was no character right on that site, and that’s a good place to have a really bold muscular building that does intrude, that does change things.
Lopate: Although design people were upset by the larger project, the whole Atlantic Yards project. Do you think that’s likely to be built in the future? Because it’s on hold at the moment but I don’t see anybody planning anything in that area.
Davidson: Well, uh: The whole of the Atlantic Yards project has to unfold according to a site plan that was pretty much set in motion . . It flows from the Gehry design for that whole area.
Lopate: Except that he’s been excluded from much of that.
Davidson: He has but he’s still the site planner and that plan is still in force. And it’s based on that a lot of the . . uhm . . public monies and the incentives were put into place. So legally, they have to follow that plan. Now, eventually they may be able to change it, but for the moment that plan is in force. So I think that will probably play out over many years. The immediate. . uhm. . future of that site is that you’re going to have the arena that’s free-standing, and I think that what will happen is that the three towers on that triangular plot, right around the arena, will get built. Uhm, that leaves the whole rest of the yards site and, of course, you know . . Eventually it’ll have to get built. I mean a site that open just can’t stay open forever in New York City.
Click to listen below:
Before the “Barclays” Center there was “no character” at that site?
The plan for Atlantic Yards mega-project “flows from” a “Gehry design” that developer/subsidy collector Forest City Ratner is “legally” obligated to follow?
Davidson is carelessly promulgating misinformation that’s in service to the Ratner narrative. He does so notwithstanding a level of scrutiny he gave to Manhattan’s comparable, but overall smaller, Hudson Yards only a week ago which level of scrutiny is entirely inconsistent with such ignorant assessments.
In describing the “Barclays” site as previously having “no character” Davidson describes it as a single block that was at the triangular intersection of two large trafficked avenues. That’s what it is now: It's not just a “block” but a newly created superblock created out of what were previously three blocks. Previously, it wasn’t just between two avenues: Previously, Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street flowed through that now superblock block to define those three individual, separate blocks.
One of the newly renovated residential building
torn down to clear the way for the arena.
Another newly renovated residentail building
And if Davidson is to consider his own point that preserving a neighborhood means paying attention to “the economics of it” and “the character” of a neighborhood (presumably with respect to its interwoveness with the rest of the city), then he should note that what was cleared away at the “Barclays” site just to make way for arena included, but was not limited to, Freddy’s, a neighborhood bar and music venue, and two large newly renovated co-op buildings. Freddy’s was an anchor and a gathering place generating neighborhood connection. The two co-ops were also more important than just what they were themselves: They set the tone and example for development that was taking off in the neighborhood, something the Ratner organization elected to wipe out because it was competing with its own properties which Ratner wasn’t developing at the time.
In talking about the “Barclays” site Davidson keeps focusing on the triangularity of the plot. That is probably a clue to the fact that he has spent most of his time appraising the arena from the triangular plaza to which the “bold muscular building” presents itself. It may be true that across Atlantic Avenue from that plaza you have the two Ratner shopping center malls and that these may be viewed as having “no character.” But across Fulton Avenue from that plaza is a community garden now dwarfed in scale by Ratner’s newly created superblock and the illuminated pyrotechnics of its 24/7 advertising oculus.
Go around back of the arena and you will see the abject, brutal characterlessness the arena presents to the neighborhood where Freddy’s bar and new residences once stood.
Police barricades in back of arena to create
neighborhood character: Where Freddy's used to be
Neighborhood "character" courtsey of the back of arena
In praising the character that the “Barclays” Center is bringing to the neighborhood, Davidson is praising a top-down corporatizing of a previously locally energetic Brooklyn. It is being done with government assistance that makes everyone else pay for this takeover by the corporations.You must read Davidson’s recent article on Hudson Yards as a check against his stunningly casual acceptance of the Atlantic Yards situation. In that article Davidson conveys many misgivings with respect to the sole ownership of Hudson Yards by the Related Companies, misgivings that should also apply to the plan for the larger Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly in spades with many more misgivings added on top. But he doesn’t make the connections. . Woe is us. Woe to Brooklyn. (See: Friday, October 12, 2012, Justin Davidson’s New York Magazine Review Of Hudson Yards Echos Concerns Raised By NNY, But Does So Without Mentioning Obvious Atlantic Yards Parallels.)
The first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee (QoLC). This committee, born of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, will feature direct participation by representatives from community groups in close proximity to, and therefore most likely to be affected by, Barclays Center operations. This committee will also feature participation by elected officials (or their representatives), Empire State Development, and FCRC
The meeting be held on Tuesday, October 16th at 6:30pm
in the Community Room of Brooklyn's Borough Hall at 209 Joralemon Street.
Signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), and/or the organizations they now run, are getting access to Barclays Center suites, and at least in one case, have been auctioning them off to raise money.
Bertha Lewis, head of the now-disbanded ACORN, now heads the Black Institute, which offers this "Adopt-A-Dreamer" opportunity for tonight's show:
President & Founder Bertha Lewis
Cordially invites you to support The Black Institute's
"Adopt a Dreamer" Program by joining us for a Jay-Z concert at
Brooklyn's Barclay Center. Don't miss this opportunity for you and your
guests to enjoy this landmark event from the comfort of a luxury suite.
October 4, 2012 Barclay Center, Suite Level
7:00pm$2,500 per ticket
$25,000 for entire suite
Suite amenities include access to suite level VIP lounges,
tickets to concert, plush leather seating, mini wet bar and kitchen -
perfect for food prep and bar set-up.
Updated with Daily News article
Erin Durkin of the Daily News got the story first, reporting (in an article not online) yesterday that each of the Community Benefits Agreement signatories got access to a Barclays Center suite for each of the Jay-Z concerts.
This is part of a pledge to set aside a suite for each arena event for community access--only this time, they go as rewards to the signatories. As Durkin noted:
Many of the affordable housing and jobs benefits spelled out in the agreement have not yet come to fruition.
But the nonprofit groups, all of which received funding from Ratner in the past, have remained loyal.
Bring some sort of plastic sheeting to sit on the damp astroturf. Chairs not allowed. See you there.
Occupy TV: Barclays Center Candlelight Vigil Highlights from the moving speeches at last night's candlelight vigil at Barclays Center where clergy, elected officials and community organizations emembered the people and families displaced by the Atlantic Yards project’s use of eminent domain, as well as recognized those at risk of displacement today, and families still in need of affordable housing.
Atlantic Yards – It's A Crime!
Community Organizations Join to Call for a
New Plan at Atlantic Yards
Brooklyn Was Promised Much More Than an Arena
BROOKLYN, NY— On the day of the opening of Barclays Center, a coalition of community organizations today joined in a protest of Atlantic Yards' failure to deliver on the promises of local jobs and affordable housing used to win approval for the $5 billion project, and called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York to present a new plan for the site that prioritizes public benefits over the development of luxury housing.
BrooklynSpeaks, Brown Community Development Corporation, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) and the Fifth Avenue Committee were joined by numerous civic groups and block associations in demanding that the State:
Conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), as ordered by the State Supreme Court, that is a timely, transparent, truly impartial study of alternatives to the current Atlantic Yards plan, and which includes meaningful measures to mitigate the project's negative impacts.
Adopt a new plan that prioritizes the creation of housing affordable to working families in Brooklyn.
At the time of Atlantic Yards' approval in 2006, in return for an estimated $2.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies, access to the power of eminent domain, the purchase of public land below its market value, and an override of the City's zoning regulations as well as a bypass of the its democratic land use review process, Forest City Ratner Companies committed to provide within ten years 2,250 units of affordable housing, 10,000 permanent jobs, 8 acres of open space, and a thriving mixed-use 15-tower development.
But less than three years later, the State agreed to modify the project terms. In a move courts have ruled violated State law, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) attempted to conceal an extension of the project schedule from 10 to 25 years—an extension which pushed the vast majority of promised jobs and housing into the distant future.
Now, two and a half years after the arena groundbreaking, the gap between promise and reality is stark:
As the result of eminent domain project demolition and construction has caused the loss of 171 affordable apartments from the Atlantic Yards footprint.
Not a single unit of affordable housing is under construction. Groundbreaking for the first residential tower has been repeatedly delayed, with current plans calling for only 9 apartments for families earning the median income for Brooklyn.
The average income of families who previously lived in those 171 affordable apartments was less than $15,000 annually, much less than the annual income necessary for any family to qualify for the future 'affordable housing' at Atlantic Yards.
Plans for the office building that was to provide space for the bulk of the permanent jobs have been shelved. According to FCRC, the arena will provide only 1,900 part time and non-living wage jobs, and 105 full-time jobs.
A one-acre "interim plaza" in front of the arena is likely to be the only open space available for at least a decade, and perhaps much longer.
The rest of the site, roughly 18 acres, remains a blighted wasteland of vacant land, and a surface parking lot.
"After delaying construction of the project's first residential building for two years, Forest City is now taking advantage of scarce government affordable housing subsidies to primarily build studio and one-bedroom apartments for more affluent tenants," said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. "It's not what Brooklyn was promised and certainly does not meet the critical need for housing affordable to Brooklyn's working class families."
"Taxpaying residents of Brooklyn have once again lost the opportunity for a return on their investment," said Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church. "One reason we see continued budget cuts impacting all New Yorkers is because the City and the State routinely give money, tax breaks and other incentives to developers like Forest City Ratner and fail to hold them accountable for their promises. Although many are happy to see a professional basketball team come to Brooklyn, projects such as Atlantic Yards dramatically lessen the trust that the rest of us have in government."
Individuals who have attempted to participate in so-called job training programs offered through the project appeared with the sponsoring organizations to express outrage over the outcome so far. "We were promised work on the arena as well as union cards in exchange for 15 weeks of unpaid 'apprenticeships'. But we didn't get the work or the cards. Several of us gave up jobs or turned down other offers based on these promises made repeatedly by Ratner and BUILD representatives. We are suing not only to be compensated for the jobs we lost, but also to prevent future developers from dividing our communities by race and economics, only to enrich themselves", said Kathleen Noriega, an electrician working as a home attendant, one of seven plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Bruce Ratner and BUILD seeking unpaid wages under Federal and state labor laws.
"Forest City Ratner has pulled a bait and switch on Brooklyn, with the Mayor and past and present Governors as accomplices. They were never going to build the proposed and approved project. We cannot let one developer hold so much important land, seized by eminent domain and demolished, hostage for the coming generation," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokeswoman Candace Carponter. "In addition to the demands stated by the other sponsors, DDDB's position is that the remainder of the site must be taken away from Forest City, bid out to multiple developers to build according to guidelines developed by the communities that would be directly impacted. This will minimize risk of failure and delay, create businesses and jobs much more quickly, and expedite housing truly affordable to lower income Brooklynites and families. If we do not change course now, Brooklyn will suffer festering developer's blight for decades."
"Forest City continues to blame litigation for project delays, but the real reason affordable housing is held up is because the ESDC agreed to let the developer have 25 years to deliver it—and in doing so, violated State law," said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, which, along with other BrooklynSpeaks organizations and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, won a court decision ordering the project plan to be revisited. "ESDC now has an obligation to explore alternatives to the current plan, and should bring in other developers if Forest City can't live up to its commitments in the ten years promised."
"The broken promises of the Atlantic Yards are part of a larger pattern of big developers rigging the system to profit at our expense," said Alvin Bartolomey of Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE), a member-led organization of low-income people of color organizing against displacement caused by Downtown Brooklyn's luxury development boom.
"FUREE members deal with poverty, housing insecurity and unemployment every day. We need our elected officials to join with the community to fight for fair development that benefits everyone, especially those most in need. That means giving us a real seat at the table and maximizing affordable housing, and good jobs with benefits."
About BrooklynSpeaks: BrooklynSpeaks is an initiative, launched in September 2006, consisting of civic associations, community-based organizations and advocacy groups concerned about the future of development at the Atlantic Yards site.
For more info: www.brooklynspeaks.net
About Brown Community Development Corporation: Brown Community Development Corporation is an organization based in Central Brooklyn of congregants and local leaders committed to Social and Economic Justice. Through community organizing and service delivery we work towards a community that has the ability to eliminate inequities in education, housing, wellness and economic opportunities. In faith, with action and through service.
About Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a 501c3 non-profit, leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them. DDDB has led the opposition to Atlantic Yards and advocated for a community based development plan at the Atlantic Yards site since its founding in 2004.
More info at: dddb.net
About FUREE: Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) is a Brooklyn-based multiracial organization made up and led mostly by women of color. We organize low-income families to build power to change the system so that all people's work is valued and all of us have the right and economic means to decide and live out our own destinies.
More info at furee.org
About Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc.(FAC): Fifth Avenue Committee is a 34 year old award winning community organization in South Brooklyn that advances economic and social justice by building vibrant, diverse communities where residents have genuine opportunities to achieve their goals, as well as the power to shape the community's future. To achieve our mission, FAC develops and manages affordable housing and community facilities, creates economic opportunities and ensures access to economic stability, organizes residents and workers, offers student-centered adult education, and combats displacement cause by gentrification.
More info at www.fifthave.org
As Barclays Center Opens,
Series of Events Highlights
Atlantic Yards and Demands for Change ------------------------------------------------------------------- Join us for these numerous events centered around
the Barclays Center opening weekend...
Who: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Brown Community Development Corporation, BrooklynSpeaks, Fifth Avenue Committee, Park Defense Fund Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Green Party of Brooklyn, Brooklyn for Peace, Park Slope Neighbors, East Pacific Block Association, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, South Portland Block Association, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Fort Greene for Peace, Brooklyn Clergy, Letitia James, Velmanette Montgomery, Reverend Clinton Miller, Reverend David Dyson, Rumur Inc, Tracy Collins and more.
Please join us at whichever events you are able to attend: > FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 (arena opening day)
11AM: At the MTA Entrance in the Daily News Sponsored Plaza in Front of Barclays Center Hear from individuals impacted by the project including former project supporters, former supporters who are now plaintiffs in federal lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and B.U.I.L.D, and find out from planning experts what needs to happen at the project site going forward. NOTE: In the event of rain, the press conference will be indoors at 669 Atlantic Avenue, corner of S. Portland Avenue
12PM - 4PM: Popup actions all around the Barclays Center
5PM: Virtual rally—tweet #BarclaysCenter and @AYCrimeScene for housing and jobs now.
> SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 4PM Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) March for Housing, Jobs and Justice March to Barclays Center
This march to Barclays Center concludes FUREE's 10th Annual Convention @ 80 Willoughby St. 12PM-4PM.
March starts at 4pm at the corner of Bridge Street and Willoughby St Join FUREE and local residents for a march through communities under attack from greedy developers and their friends in government. The march will conclude with a human microphone at the Barclays Center.
6-8 PM: Photographer Tracy Collins’ exhibit, ATLANTIC YARDS: DECONSTRUCTED, opening reception at the Soapbox Gallery (636 Dean Street, 1.5 blocks from the arena site, MAP). The exhibit traces the “on the ground” impacts of the development over the past 9 years through photography, video and other media.
See this story doesn't quite fit the mainstream media narrative of yay Jay Z, yay rust, jobs and housing who cares. This one is about Ratner's main "community partner," the entirely Ratner-funded Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, and financial shenanigans reported by its now former CFO to the NY State Attorney General's office.
The job-training organization Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), a controversial but intensely loyal source of community support for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, is on shaky ground, its former Chief Financial Officer has charged in a complaint (bottom) to the New York State Attorney General.
BUILD, which formed as Atlantic Yards was unveiled and has relied on Forest City for free office space/utilities and most of its funding, has seen its budget run low, even as it owes more than $115,000 in back payroll taxes, according to the complaint.
Moreover, the letter charges that CEO James Caldwell has spent money irresponsibly, including for Brooklyn Nets tickets ($8700), rent for five individuals, a car payment, clothing for a subordinate, and for the 77th Precinct Community Council, which he heads. Larger sums were allegedly misallocated to items seemingly part of BUILD's mission--like MetroCards for trainees, part of $38,201 for transportation--but not authorized by its funders.
BUILD's former CFO Lance Woodward, fired August 1 in what he contends was a wrongful act, has urged the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, which oversees non-profit organizations, to investigate. He asks for Caldwell be removed from BUILD, a new board established, and restitution of misallocated funds.
His letter, backed by voluminous appendices, charges Caldwell with misallocating and misappropriating more than $120,000 from 1/1/11 to 8/31/12, using BUILD checks and its credit card.
There's clearly deep tension between the two men, though they were once quite close. Some have described Woodward as "like a son" to Caldwell, who helped the younger man get his footing after he was once homeless.
The dismissal letter Caldwell provided Woodward cited insubordination, failure to perform duties, and lack of proper supervisory performance--none of which, according to Woodward, were the subject of written or verbal warnings.
Caldwell's response: a "disgruntled employee"
After contacting Caldwell last week, I two days ago provided him with a copy of Woodward's seven-page letter. Yesterday, I posed some general and specific questions, including about BUILD's financial stability. Caldwell sent a general response, via Chief Operating Officer Daisy James:
We are of course dismayed that a disgruntled employee, who was dismissed for performance, after we made great efforts to assist him and provide him with employment, would surreptitiously take documents and other materials from our office during and post-employment and provide them to a blogger.
We've worked very hard for nearly a decade now trying to help the most impoverished of our neighbors develop jobs skills and obtain jobs. We've done this in one of the most difficult economic environments in our City's history.
We will of course review carefully the document you provided, along with counsel, and will respond directly to the Attorney General's office. We are not going to have a conversation about Mr. Woodward's allegations, or why we believe he would do this, via the media or your blog.
"I truly believe I had a fiduciary responsibility," Woodward said, regarding his provision of information to the Attorney General, including information gathered from BUILD financial accounts--passwords left unchanged--in the month after his dismissal.
It's unclear how much the allegedly misappropriated spending--if the complaint is accurate--was aimed to benefit Caldwell directly or to serve as an old-fashioned neighborhood benefactor. The letter cites spending on gifts and charitable support for neighborhood organizations.
Other spending deemed misallocated, such as on graduation ceremonies for those in BUILD's customer service training program, seems mission-oriented although, according to Woodward, not permitted under the spending guidelines established by funders.
BUILD's main funder has been Forest City Ratner, via its Atlantic Yards Development Corporation (AYDC), which in the fiscal year that expired 3/31/12 contributed $340,000, plus free rent and utilities likely worth more than $40,000 a year. The Consortium for Worker Education (CWE) and other job-training groups have also bolstered BUILD's budget; last year, CWE gave $65,000.
Woodward said he attempted to raise the issues of off-budget spending and the need to pay taxes with Caldwell but was rebuffed. Beyond the issue of fiduciary responsibility, he may sue for wrongful discharge.
While BUILD does have a repayment schedule with the IRS, reducing the debt may not be easy. According to Woodward, neither Forest City nor CWE promptly renewed their most recent rounds of funding, which expired at the end of March and of June, respectively. A CWE representative said yesterday that "we are currently in negotiations with BUILD." (I queried Forest City last night and will add their response if I get it.) ...
Woodward and some fellow former employees, believers in the organization's mission to help serve Brooklyn's vast number of unemployed, have expressed dismay about BUILD only in its most recent incarnation.
But BUILD, formed around the time Atlantic Yards was formally announced, has faced broader criticism before. Co-founder Darnell Canada left BUILD in March 2004, just a few months after the launch, stating, "I am resigning out of the need to distance myself from those in the organization who see this organization as financial self gain, [rather] than for the needs of the Brooklyn community." Canada, who died in May 2011, never offered further clarification.
BUILD, whose officers and staff, including Caldwell and Woodward, had been volunteering their time for about a year and a half, began to receive support for Forest City Ratner in August 2005, two months after they signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). The CBA, though billed by Forest City as "historic" because it was the first in New York, differed from benchmark CBAs in Los Angeles because the groups in Brooklyn were all supporters of the project from the start.
Though Caldwell and former Chief Operating Officer Marie Louis accurately denied earlier charges that BUILD was funded by Forest City, by September 2005, such denials were dishonest. A 10/14/05 New York Times article revealing the payments nevertheless proclaimed the CBA as representing a "modern blueprint" for harvesting public support.
(BUILD also erroneously claimed it expected $5 million in support from Forest City, a sequence played up in the documentary Battle for Brooklyn.)
The organization was rocked by a lawsuit filed last November by seven participants in a coveted pre--apprenticeship training program who said they were promised jobs and union cards and required to go through unsafe, unpaid training. That lawsuit, which names Caldwell individually, BUILD, and Forest City among the plaintiffs, remains pending. In that case, Forest City's lawyers also represent BUILD.
Still, Caldwell and Louis recruited many people, especially from their base in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, to toil as volunteers and then work for relatively law pay. BUILD, though new to the employment services field, has in its current office regularly busy with walk-in visitors seeking jobs and getting basic help with such things as job search and resume preparation.
BUILD has not met its charge under the CBA to prepare people for high-paying jobs at Atlantic Yards, but it had--as of May--placed 460 people in lower-skilled jobs, including at Forest City's malls. It put several cohorts of 25 people through unpaid Customer Service Training, and played a role in recruiting people for the 1900 part-time jobs at the Barclays Center, though it's not clear how crucial that role was: the city's Workforce1 service took charge.
All the while, BUILD, which didn't so much negotiate as embrace the CBA, provided people to rally for Atlantic Yards. Caldwell, who according to 2010 IRS filings earned $64,000, has enthusiastically supported Forest City's plans, whether or not they have much to do with BUILD's mission. ...
Incredible Yormarkian synergy! Going forward the competition is going to be tough, what with the new Daily News Plaza (next to Mount Mort Zuckerman, that already degrading sod gnome hill in the plaza, presumably) in front of the arena.
Daniel Goldstein spent years battling the Atlantic Yard Development project in Brooklyn, which saw Forest City Ratner---the development partner with the New York Times Company for its headquarters-- skirt the democratic process and every jobs and affordable housing commitment it made to the community. The rigged approval process for the mammoth project was upheld by New York's highest court, and the Barclay Center soon opens---without any accompanying affordable housing units. The Times has apparently not forgiven Goldstein for opposing Ratner, for it ran a huge September 25 story on a neighbor's opposition to Goldstein's adding an extension on his single family home. Unlike Atlantic Yards, which required massive rezoning and a gift of public land to the developer, Goldstein's project complies with existing zoning---but that did not stop the Times from analogizing opposition to his extension with Goldstein's protests against Atlantic Yards.
If you do not know the sordid history of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development project, the background and details can be found here. Ideally, the incredible film, "Battle for Brooklyn" on the struggle to prevent the project will be on DVD so all can see the principled courage of Daniel Goldstein, the founder of the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
Goldstein lost his activist struggle and related lawsuit, and because his home was taken by eminent domain, he was compensated to move. He relocated to Brooklyn's South Park Slope neighborhood, likely seeking to live in peace after devoting his life to defeat a project that symbolizes---as much as any Robert Moses outrage---how New York City development interests avoid democratic control and ignore community concerns.
But after the NY Times learned that Goldstein is building an extension on his house, the paper concluded that the critic of Atlantic Yards has set off "a real estate battle of his own." Does this new battle involve thousands marching in the streets in protest, as occurred with Atlantic Yards? Is Goldstein following Ratner's lead and seeking massive zoning variances and public subsidies for his "development"?
The obvious answer to both question is no.
In fact, a single neighbor is opposing Goldstein's "project." The Times reports that a "petition was circulated" and complaints were made to the Building Department, but only a single opponent is quoted and deep into the story we learn that "many people on the block have no problem with Goldstein's extension."
Sounds like a classic case of next- door- neighbor nimbyism. Yet the Times attempted to compare this neighbor's opposition to the thousands of community residents who joined with Goldstein in a multi-year struggle to stop the decimation of a residential community. The Times was so committed to falsely and maliciously portraying Goldstein as a hypocrite toward development that it highlighted its story on the front page of the national edition.
I'm sure Bruce Ratner and his buddies at the NY Times Corp. are having a good laugh over the story, but neither can ignore the fundamental truth: None of Forest City Ratner's promises about jobs and affordable housing at Atlantic Yards have been implemented, and attacking Goldstein only remind readers of this record.
669 Atlantic Avenue, Corner of Atlantic and South Portland. [Map]
The Times' Corrections Desk, Headed by Greg Brock, Denies Reality When It Comes to Atlantic Yards
The New York Times Company, which partnered with Forest City Ratner to use eminent domain to build its new headquarters, has a problem. They are, overall, soft on their former development partner, editorially in favor of their development partner, and they have a "corrections editor" who refuses to correct clear errors of fact—errors which consistently shine a better light on the developer than the facts would and that impugn project opponents.
Our co-founder and press spokesman Daniel Goldstein, like Norman Oder below, has had mystifying communication with Senior Editor in charge of Corrections, Greg Brock, when simply seeking corrections to errors of fact. At least Oder got an explanation, albeit a completely out of whack one, for Brock's denial of reality. With Mr. Goldstein he simply says, to date, that his assessment of the complaint is that the paper was not in error. Based on what? He hasn't said.
Thankfully Mr. Oder has publicly brought up this gatekeeper's gross inadequacies with the paper's Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, and we repubublish it here in full, because when the "Paper of Record" let's errors stand they become fact to the rest of the world, and that is unacceptable and dangerous. And if they are doing it with Atlantic Yards, imagine what they do with the bigger, more complicated stories:
On Saturday, Sept. 22, I attempted to get the New York Times to correct three clear, easily checkable errors in the upcoming Sept. 23 cover story in the Metropolitan section by Liz Robbins about the new Brooklyn arena, headlined In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays.
I wrote to, among other people, Senior Editor in charge of Corrections Greg Brock, last month lauded by your predecessor as leading a "powerful engine of accountability."
My experience with Mr. Brock, unfortunately, has gone in the exact opposite direction: a tendency to downplay, disavow, and evade errors, coupled with a reflexive nastiness that is unworthy of that position.
The upshot: the uncorrected errors led to a less skeptical view of the controversial Atlantic Yards project than the facts would suggest.
Please take a look at this verbatim correspondence, augmented only by graphics and slight punctuation changes.
My letter: citing three errors
[The material in quotation marks is from the Times.]
1) "An independent compliance monitor was supposed to determine if the company hit its targets. If not, it would pay $500,000 to be used by the lead signatory, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, or Build, a job-training group that, financed by Forest City, operates out of MetroTech. The monitor has yet to be hired."
The Community Benefits Agreement, on p. 9, makes reference to the compliance monitor. The $500,000 penalty, referenced on p. 14, refers only to the obligations to fund pre-apprentice training. In other words, if other targets are not met, the developer does not face a penalty. (And, of course, there's no monitor yet.)
2) "Forest City never clearly announced the number of jobs it would deliver."
Actually, in the developer's initial p.r. packet, it announced more than 10,000 office jobs and 15,000 construction jobs. P. 5 here.
That promise was echoed in promotional fliers, such as this one from 2004.
3) "In June 2005, it signed a 'Community Benefits Agreement' with eight nonprofit organizations, establishing obligations of housing and hiring, and vowing to create amenities like a health care center, a meditation room, a school and eight acres of open space. The deal, lacking city authority, had inherent conflicts; three of the signatories got financing from Forest City."
Please note: none of the organizations, as far as I know, had financing from Forest City by the time of the deal. However, Forest City in 2009 acknowledged (video) "funding obligations and commitments to each of the organizations."
Dear Mr. Oder:
Years ago we drew up an extensive “fact sheet” on Atlantic Yards. And on top of that, our reporters, when writing new articles, fact-check everything a second and third time.
From a news standpoint, all of the three points are accurately reported in Liz’s article. Perhaps to someone who is an advocate or has an agenda, they are not. But there are no factual errors and there will be no correction.
Here is our fact-checking on these three specific points.
1. Liz asked Joe DePlasco, chief spokesman for Forest City, to clarify the $500,000 and he said it was payable to the executive board to be used by BUILD.
2. Promotional material from a PR company does consist of an announcement form Forest City. Regardless, we still asked Mr. DePlasco this and he confirmed our reporting – which is not based on PR releases.
3. As for the three signatories receiving financing, what we wrote is correct. BUILD, Acorn and Rev Daughtry's group all received seed money or political contributions. We have reported this in past articles (written by Nick Confessore). These are the three associations we can definitively say, based on Liz’s own reporting, that received money from Forest City
Dear Mr. Brock,
On behalf of the agenda of empiricism, I encourage you to consider the following:
1) It may seem like a small point, but again I point you to the underlying document, the Community Benefits Agreement, which states that the $500,000 is payable only in the case of the failure to pursue the job training obligations. Imagine if--as it has been inaccurately reported by other media outlets--it was possible for Forest City to get out of its affordable housing obligations by paying just $500,000.
2) I'm not sure whether you meant that "Promotional material from a PR company does [or does not] consist of an announcement form Forest City." Needless to say, Forest City worked with the PR company to produce that announcement. Moreover, as I indicated, Forest City's own promotional flier made the same claims: 10,000 office jobs, 15,000 construction jobs. (If you are in fact arguing that promotional material does not constitute an announcement from Forest City, I wonder how you can rely on information from Mr. DePlasco, who works for a promotional company engaged by Forest City.)
3) It's true that the three Community Benefits Agreement signatories you cite received financing. But the sentence as published is imprecise; it leaves the impression that the other five organizations did not receive funding. However, as subsequent reporting indicated, another organization announced funding.
And, as indicated in the video, Forest City acknowledged "funding obligations and commitments to each of the organizations." Perhaps this was not in the Times's clip file or brought up with the agenda-driven Mr. DePlasco. But it is empirical evidence nonetheless.
For the public editor
Ms. Sullivan, we have a problem here. The editor in charge of the Times's Corrections believes that the newspaper can create its own reality. (Mr. Brock did not respond to my second message.)
That reality relies on information from a public relations officer working for Forest City, which apparently trumps actual documents. It also relies on a self-referential clip file rather than an effort to canvass--or, after the fact, to acknowledge--others' reporting.
What makes this doubly disturbing is that the Times--and I know you're only concerned with coverage during your tenure--has, I'd contend, treated Forest City Ratner and its Atlantic Yards project rather gently.
The Sept. 22 article, interestingly enough, was perhaps the least gentle example, but as the correction request indicated, the errors redound to the benefit of the developer. Indeed, the article could have been much tougher in several places, as I wrote.
It should be noticed that, in that article and the one today, the Times was diligent about disclosing the newspaper's business relationship with Forest City Ratner, partner in building the Times Tower.
However, the Times has been very inconsistent about that once-routine disclosure, including in its Sept. 21 editorial, which offered measured praise for the project. Wouldn't such an editorial--more gentle than merited, I'd contend, given the numerous unfulfilled promises regarding Atlantic Yards and the Culture of Cheating--have been exactly the time to disclose the relationship?
Atlantic Yards Report