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March 3, 2008

In seventh slick brochure, Forest City Ratner touts "historic" CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder managed to get his hands on a copy of Forest City Ratner's latest pricey four-color multi-page Atlantic Yards direct mail propaganda piece.

This one tries very hard to tout the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), signed mostly by groups that are financially supported by developer Bruce Ratner, and directed primarily at Brooklyn's African-American community.

You gotta love the seven(!) images containing the dummy copy of "Ye Olde Community Benefits Agreement." Complete with frayed and crumbling edges, calligraphy font and faux-antique yellowing — the sub-text that the CBA is make-believe couldn't be more apparent.

Here's an excerpt from Oder's report; you can also check out the article to view the entire brochure.

This flier focuses on the signatories of the CBA, all of whom are black. Several of the previous brochures focused more broadly on the project, with (partial) images of buildings and open space, and pictured a multiracial cast of Brooklynites.

CBA legitimacy

CBA watchdogs and city officials have looked askance at the CBA and critics in Brooklyn point out that the signatories, most of which were formed for the purpose of "negotiating" the CBA, apparently are funded or stand to benefit from deals with the developer. (Here are some details, plus an Observer piece on some unconvincing denials. Here's some criticism from a CBA watchdog, Good Jobs NY.)

Some of the CBA groups do coordination or advisory work, the cumulative support for which is surely much less than the $400,000 the developer paid former New York Senator Al D'Amato to lobby in Washington against eminent domain reform, a story revealed by the New York Observer but not touted in any brochure.

Fledgling groups change names

Some two-and-a-half years after the CBA was signed on June 27, 2005, three of the eight signatories have changed their names. Two changes I've previously reported: The First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee has become Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE). The All-Faith Council of Brooklyn has become Faith In Action, Inc. The flier brings the news that the Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium has become Brooklyn Voices for Children, Inc.

Those three, along with the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance and Public Housing Communities (PHC), apparently were formed expressly for this project, while Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) was fledgling at best. Two other signatories--the housing group ACORN and the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC)--had established track records.

Two of the groups, BEE and PHC, both list addresses at 466 Bergen Street. However, the storefront doesn't show the names of those groups.

Note the scroll lists the names of the original signatories and that, in subsequent pages, representatives of several of the signatories pose individually in front of the scroll.

NoLandGrab: Lost in all the effort that went into the production of this brochure, including make-up artist, is the actual CBA, which has been roundly criticized by good-government groups and CBA experts.

If you have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince people that the CBA is really great, then it probably isn't.

Posted by lumi at March 3, 2008 5:37 AM