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April 27, 2005

Bruce Ratner Donates $50,000 To Combat Infant Morality

After Meeting, Some Questions, Few Answers on Atlantic Yards
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Raanan Geberer

perinatal.jpgMore on Ratner's $50,000 donation to the Brooklyn Perinatal Network:

"I'm going to lean all I can about perinatal [before-birth]* health," said Ratner before offering a symbolic check. "People said I didn't know anything about basketball, but I learned," he joked.

The arena was not mentioned during the ceremony, although several of its supporters, such as James Caldwell of the organization BUILD and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, were in attendance.

* FYI for the Eagle and its reporter, (from Merriam Webster) perinatal: occurring in, concerned with, or being in the period around the time of birth.

BROOKLYN YWCA -- Developer Bruce Ratner yesterday announced a donation of $50,000 to Brooklyn Perinatal Network, to help mobilize community efforts and develop a plan to address the increasing number of infant deaths in Fort Greene.

"I'm going to lean all I can about perinantal [before-birth] health," said Ratner before offering a symbolic check. "People said I didn't know anything about basketball, but I learned," he joked.

The reference was to the basketball arena that Ratner's company, Forest Citgy Ratner, is planning, also in Fort Greene. The arena was not mentioned during the ceremony, although several of its supporters, such as James Caldwell of the organization BUILD and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, were in attendance.

Some people might be surprised that Fort Greene, where a mini-real estate boom is taking place, has had the highest infant mortality rate in the city for the past two years. However, Dr. Georgianna Close, head of the organization Fort Greene SNAP, told this reporter that Fort Greene still has several poverty areas, including three low-income housing projects.

The recent economic change, strangely, has had a negative effect on health funding for the area, according to the Brooklyn Perinatal Network.

“One reason for the rise [in infant mortality] is that Fort Greene, unlike neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant, does not qualify for federally funded initiatives like Healthy Start. Because brownstones and co-ops abut existing NYCHA housing, the base income of the neighborhood is skewed, making the district ineligible for many public resources,” says a handout from the group distributed at yesterday’s ceremony.

The 15-year-old organization, headquartered at the YWCA, covers not only Fort Greene, but a wide stretch of Central Brooklyn stretching east to East New York and Brownsville. The $50,000 donation will be spread over two years, as seed money for the group’s efforts.

In her speck, Ngozi Moses, executive director of the Perinatal Network, slammed the city and state for cutting back on their health budgets. When funding does reach the organization, she says, “it takes nine months to get it.”

Even getting money from private foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations, she said, is getting harder because the aforementioned government agencies are competing for the same grants.

Therefore, she said, organizations like hers must turn to the private sector. She said private business has largely been unresponsive in the past, but praised Ratner, saying that aid from such a high-profile, wealthy individual will get more press and may inspire other firms to donate as well.

Ratner was rather modest, as usual, judging by his rare public appearances. “You’re the experts,” he said. “We’re just the helpers. If you need anything, contact us.”

After the meeting, Forest City Ratner Executive Jim Stuckey answered questions on the arena, and his answers echoed stock replies from the company during the past few months or so.

When asked how much the Atlantic Yards project are Forest City Ratner now owned, he merely said, “A significant amount.” He said he hopes construction can begin next year, and that the arena will be open in time for the 2008-’09 basketball season.

Asked to respond to those critics of the project who want the Atlantic Yards to go through the city’s ULURP land review process, Stuckey responded that Forest City Ratner will go through any process that is required by law.

“However,” he said, “you can look at history, and see that projects on state land and on MTA property usually go through the state review process.” Critics charge that the state process has less public input.

In response to another question, Stuckey mentioned a detail that has been part of the Atlantic Yards plan for a long time but is rarely mentioned: when the Nets arena is build, the MTA’s Long Island Rail Road yards themselves will be moved, to an area between Carlton Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

This, he said, will improve security for the LIFF, as well as make it safe for trains to maneuver during the layup periods in between rush hours. “We’re doing them [the LIRR] a favor,” he said.

Posted by lumi at April 27, 2005 6:27 AM