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September 29, 2005

DDDb Press Release: Bruce Ratner Buys B.U.I.L.D., Fabricating Support for Atlantic Yards

Smoking Gun IRS Documents Reveal $5 Million Payment to Supposed "Community Organization
*B.U.I.L.D and Ratner Have Denied Funding Scheme *

[DDDb's press release on their website has hyperlinks to sources.]

NEW YORK, NY—Today Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) released IRS documents providing smoking gun proof that Bruce Ratner is paying $5 million to the group that he has used as foot soldiers to garner community support.

The $5 million payment to Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) was made in the midst of negotiations over a so called "Community Benefits Agreement" (CBA) for Forest City Ratner's (FCR) 17 skyscraper and arena development in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn.

BUILD, a recently formed 501c3 organization established by Assemblyman Roger Green, has no track record in workforce and small business development (the areas for which it is responsible in the CBA), and it came into existence after the Ratner proposal was announced in December 2003. BUILD came out strongly in support of the Ratner proposal during its first public appearance.

Of the three BUILD officers, according to the IRS 1023 form, President James Caldwellreceives a salary of $125,000, while Chief Operating Officer Marie Louis and Chief Administrative Officer Shalawn Langhorne each bring in a $100,000 salary. These officers also form 75% of the Board of Directors, thereby determining their own salaries. Some of Ratner's $5 million pays these salaries, while nearly $4 million is budgeted for unaccountable "salaries and wages." BUILD budgets the entire $5 million over 2005 and 2006­the key years where Ratner seeks political support and governmental approval for his proposal.

BUILD and Forest City Ratner have repeatedly denied that the developer funds the group created to support Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. As recently as September 21, on the Brian Lehrer show, BUILD COO Marie Louis emphatically denied and took strong issue when Mr. Lehrer asked if Ratner funds her group. In an April 2005 New York Sun article Ms. Louis called the claim that Ratner finances BUILD, "a malicious and outrageous lie." Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey in a November 2004 Brooklyn Papers article said, "of course BUILD and ACORN are not getting paid."

"It is clear that Mr. Ratner has fabricated the appearance of community support by paying BUILD to be his leading foot soldiers" said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Ratner has cynically paid BUILD to do his bidding, such as: making claims that Prospect Heights isblighted; filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in favor of Ratner's favorite tactic--eminent domain; rallying against and accusing Councilwoman Letitia James of being against jobs and housing; turning every serious concern about, and objection to, the project into an issue of race."

"What was already viewed as an illegitimate "Community Benefits Agreement" is now nothing but a clearly compromised Personal Benefits Agreement, negotiated at the expense of the community it's supposed to benefit. We have been witness to a hoax; there is no reason at all to trust anything that comes out of Ratner's PR machine or his supporters' mouths," Goldstein said.

The district's Assemblyman and Ratner supporter, Roger Green, was a driving force in the creation of BUILD. Mr. Green's former staffer Randall Toure was hired out of Green's office by Forest City Ratner to act as a community liaison seeking support for the Atlantic Yards project. From that relationship BUILD sprouted.

Bonnie Brower, Executive Director of the non-partisan public policy organization City Project, said, "If New York City had a genuinely democratic, rational and effective process for discussing and approving major developments, residents of communities immediately affected by proposed projects would be active participants in shaping such deals from beginning to completion, and other city residents and officials would also have a voice, whenever such projects affected city revenues. The problem with the Atlantic Yards project and the so-called ‘Community Benefits Agreement' is that there is neither any authentic public process for participation nor any effective public oversight. As a result, there is far too much opportunity for self-dealing and narrow interests to cut deals that will predictably have long-term, adverse impacts on the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods and on the city as a whole."

Goldstein continued, "The CBA is a charade. Community support for Ratner's project is a fabrication; Ratner's chief cheerleaders are overpaid employees of his. What did Roger Green know about this $5 million paid to the organization he founded? Mr. Green must come clean and explain himself and his organization's behavior. We call on the 25 politicians who endorsed the CBA, including Senator Schumer, Mayor Bloomberg, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and Comptroller Thompson, to withdraw their support for Ratner and his ‘community benefits agreement.'"

"We want to know what Ratner has offered the other seven CBA signatories, four of who are not even incorporated. As members of the community that is supposed to be represented in the CBA, we will be calling for an investigation of the CBA groups and the entire mechanism employed by Forest City Ratner to negotiate such a compromised agreement," Goldstein said.

Mr. Ratner has tried to create and foment racial division in his quest to build his publicly funded 9 million square foot development. BUILD has aided him in this deliberate attempt by publicly describing opposition to the project as a "white" position (see: www.dddb.net/BUILD/bidding.php). Oddly enough BUILD's President James Caldwell and a another core member of BUILD appeared in a Mayor Bloomberg campaign advertisement this past summer. The Mayor, who fully supports Ratner's plan, endorsed the CBA but did not sign it. Instead he released a statement misleadingly stating "Bloomberg...signs CBA." At the CBA signing ceremony, when asked about the enforceability of such a non-governmental document, the Mayor said, "...you have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you and for everybody else in the community."

DDDB spokesman Goldstein concluded, "Today's news must be the tip of the iceberg, and we encourage New York's press corps to look below that tip. For two years now the public has been asking this: Will our elected officials finally stop giving Bruce Ratner a free ride and start scrutinizing his secret, taxpayer-subsidized, sweetheart deal and his unacceptable tactics? Clearly he can afford to pay."

Posted by lumi at September 29, 2005 7:26 AM