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February 18, 2010

New York City builders must stop stifling the voices of local communities

NY Daily News, Op Ed
by John Liu

NYC's new Comptroller thinks something is rotten with Community Benefits Agreements.

Scene I: A savvy private developer hires a team of well-connected attorneys, lobbyists and public relations consultants to persuade City Hall to provide government subsidies for a local yet substantial economic development project.

Scene II: In exchange for the subsidies, the developer signs on to a community benefits agreement (CBA) promising all sorts of great things for the surrounding neighborhood, like the creation of hundreds of jobs and affordable housing units.

Scene III: Fast-forward a few years. The developer has built the project using millions of dollars worth of taxpayer subsidies but has fallen short on the promises to the community. Even City Hall has forgotten about or even forgiven those promises.

In many neighborhoods, New Yorkers have been subject to this show too many times. CBAs have too often proven to be great tasting but less filling. Here are examples of CBAs gone wrong:

At Atlantic Yards, the immediate community was not included in the CBA. The project was then held up by a series of lawsuits while the original signatories continue waiting for the promised jobs and affordable housing units.

One of the main reasons why many CBAs in New York City have been disappointing - and have been singled out nationally as examples of what not to do - is that they forgot one important factor: the community.


NoLandGrab: Liu is right that the Atlantic Yards CBA ignores residents, but the problems with it go much, much deeper.

Posted by eric at February 18, 2010 9:44 AM