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November 6, 2005

Rev. Al defends Ratner alliance

NY Daily News, The Score
by T.J. Quinn and Michael O’Keeffe

Another Ratner supporter supported by Ratner — this time no one is coughing up dollar amounts.

The Rev. Al Sharpton grabbed headlines last week when he ripped longtime political ally Fernando Ferrer after the Democrats’ mayoral candidate voiced opposition to Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal. The Rev. accused Ferrer of playing politics with a project that could create thousands of jobs for minority workers.

“He needs to realize that failure to get projects like this done would be a terrible loss for communities of color throughout this city,” Sharpton said in a statement.

Not included in Sharpton’s statement or the newspaper articles, however, was one significant fact: Forest City Ratner has contributed thousands of dollars to Sharpton’s National Action Network. Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco acknowledged Ratner’s development company provided financial support last year and this year but declined to say how much money FCR has contributed to the National Action Network’s coffers.

Sharpton, too, would not specify a dollar amount, but he did tell The Score that FCR has been a corporate sponsor of his organization’s annual fund-raising dinner and convention for the past three years.

That money, Sharpton adds, has nothing to do with his support for the $3.5 billion project. He points out that he only jumped aboard in July. “If donations to the Network meant anything,” Sharpton says, “then I would have supported it long before that.”

Shaprton says he lent his support to the Atlantic Yards at the urging of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the founder of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance and Bertha Lewis*, executive director of ACORN, a housing advocacy group. DBNA and ACORN, of course, are members of the coalition that signed a community benefits agreement with Forest City Ratner in June; the agreement gives ACORN a big say in access to the project’s subsidized apartments and DBNA a role in a planned health-care center, parks and other public facilities. As The New York Times reported, Daughtry’s group has already received $50,000 from Forest City Ratner for programs for children and the elderly.

Atlantic Yards opponents have expressed doubts that the project will generate thousands of minority jobs and Sharpton, who led a demonstration in 2000 demanding better wages for workers at Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall (the protest was organized by ACORN), says he’ll become the Nets owner’s worst nightmare if the project doesn’t deliver. “If those commitments are not met, I will denounce the project,” Rev says. “If there’s any retreat, I’ll be crying loud about that.”

Posted by lumi at November 6, 2005 8:47 PM