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March 29, 2010

City Hall News article accepts claim of ACORN Housing's successor that it's unaffiliated with ACORN; AY housing murky but Lewis says role continues

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder debunks claims by Mutual Housing New York (aka ACORN) that they are not an ACORN affiliate.

City Hall News reports, in an article headlined ACORN Housing Arm, Battered by Federal Funding Ban, Lives On that, yes, Mutual Housing New York will continue to work on the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal.

However, the article credulously accepts the explanation that ACORN Housing Corporation was always separate from ACORN and fails to mention crucial elements in the Atlantic Yards deal, such as ACORN's pledge to publicly support the project and Forest City Ratner's $1.5 million loan/grant to national ACORN.
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Not an affiliate? See page 20 of the 7/23/09 report by the Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Whatever the politics behind the report, the documents cited speak for themselves.)

Steven Kest, Executive Director of ACORN, explains to a funder that Mike Shea: Executive Director, ACORN Housing Corporation, is among “the following people... working for affiliated organizations."

(Emphasis added)
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The Atlantic Yards deal

The article states:

MHANY will also be charged with leasing and marketing the roughly 2,250 units of affordable housing built at the controversial Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights. Advocates say ACORN’s shuttering has thrown the Atlantic Yards plan—which has already changed several times—into disarray.

“One of the big issues of course is that nobody has any idea when this affordable housing might be built,” said Jo Anne Simon, a lawyer and activist with the Brooklyn Speaks coalition, which is lobbying for accountability at the Atlantic Yards site. “And of course ACORN was there to ensure not just that it was built, they were going to be managing that property.”

Bertha Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, said in an interview that she was unsure how the Community Benefits Agreement the group signed with Forest City Ratner would have to be amended to reflect the change in organizations. But she insisted that ACORN would continue to live on in some way in order to enforce the housing provisions in the agreement.

“I don’t know what we would have to technically do,” she said, adding, “ACORN still exists, and Bertha Lewis still exists.”

ACORN's not doing much enforcing, given that the Development Agreement requires only 300 units in 12 years.

And ACORN, not merely required by the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding to publicly support the project, gained $1.5 million from the developer to limp along, bailed out temporarily, and folding only after the groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena.

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Posted by eric at March 29, 2010 10:54 AM