April 3, 2008
MONEY & CULTURE: Forest City Ratner Foundation, the Museum, BAM
Today, Norman Oder explores the activities of the Forest City Ratner Foundation and how large contributions haven't hurt relationships with two local cultural organizations:
Forest City Ratner aggressively announces local philanthropy such as basketball clinics and Double Dutch clinics. However, it's much quieter about the activities of its corporate foundation, which over the past three years has given away nearly $1.7 million, including six-figure annual gifts to local institutions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music (three years) and the Brooklyn Museum (two years), plus gifts of $80,000 and $100,000 to the Brooklyn Children's Museum in two years.
There's no web site for the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation; a Google search turns up a handful of press and web mentions. There's no separate phone number. Indeed, a filing with the Internal Revenue Service provides the same number, 718-923-8400, as the company switchboard, blurring the distinction between company and foundation.
Read the rest of the article for a look at what the foundation does, its relationship to the NJ Nets Foundation, and the totally legal lack of transparency regarding funding sources.
How much has developer Forest City Ratner contributed to the Brookyn Museum, which is honoring CEO Bruce Ratner tonight at a gala that will be met by a protest and has already generated a lengthy letter of critique?
To the Brooklyn Paper, spokeswoman Sally Williams cited Ratner's “generous support of various activities of the Brooklyn Museum” but wouldn't provide specific numbers. She said the honor didn't indicate support for Atlantic Yards; indeed, unlike the Brooklyn Academy of Music, whose board Ratner once chaired, the museum did not comment formally during the state's AY environmental review.
Given that tables of 12 with premier seating at the gala are going for $50,000 to $75,000, and tables of ten range from $5000 to $25,000, it's a good bet that the honor for Ratner will draw significant sums. And it's not unlikely that Ratner and colleagues have made individual donations.
Those, however, are not a matter of public record. However, IRS filings by the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation show a $100,000 donation on 7/1/05 and a $100,000 donation on 9/11/06. Donations from the foundation during 2007 have not yet been reported, but if the pattern has continued, the museum gained an additional $100,000.
What does the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) think of the Atlantic Yards project? It would be a good neighbor, especially since Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner's been a good guy, a major donor, and--as documents show--the Forest City Ratner Foundation has been a generous donor, too.
Comments filed as part of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) stressed the potential upside of the project without acknowledging the downside. BAM Chief Financial Officer Peter Gee testified:
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is excited about the new potential audiences, donors, subscribers, and amenities that will result from residential and commercial development in the Downtown Brooklyn. [sic] The affordable-housing component of the Atlantic Yards plan will ensure that BAM audiences continue to be representative of a wide range of people with diverse cultural interests. BAM looks forward to providing programs and services for everyone.
(Did he mean "Downtown Brooklyn" or "the Downtown Brooklyn area"?)
As many of you know, Bruce Ratner served as BAM's chair for 10 years. He was a generous, thoughtful, and responsive leader who presided over many important milestones for the institution, including the expansion of free community programs, the creation and opening of the BAM Rose Cinemas and the establishment of BAM's endowment. We at BAM believe that Bruce has been--and will continue to be--sensitive to community concerns as he forges ahead with the Atlantic Yards development.
Posted by lumi at April 3, 2008 6:04 AM