By Akosua K. Albritton

AtlanticYardsParkPacific Park’s–née Atlantic Yards–construction is moving full steam.  At the February 24, 2016 community update meeting in the Shirley Chisolm State Office Building, Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Forest City Ratner Ashley Cotton described the progress in building 550 Vanderbilt Avenue, 535 Carlton Avenue, 38 Sixth Avenue, 664 Pacific Street, 461 Dean Street, and the extension of the Long Island Rail Road yard.  Ms. Cotton gave the height and number of affordable housing units for each building–some 1,700 units.

 

There is dedicated space on the first four lower floors at 664 Pacific Street for a 616-seat middle school. 38 Sixth Avenue is being outfitted with a health center.  This work occurs due to the skill of prime contractors, subcontractors, and their constructions crews.  What do the quarterly reports from the Independent Compliance Officer reveal about the contract awards to minority business enterprises and women business enterprises in pre-construction services and total construction expenditures?  What percentage of all construction workers are minorities and what is the percentage of women hired as construction workers? It took foresight for the crafters of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to consider these keys to a win-win situation for the developer and community.

 

Devotion NYC leader Michael West met with Ms. Cotton, February 18, 2016 to ask these questions.  “Ms. Cotton cited some numbers—1,700 construction workers, 50% are minorities, 10% are women, 20% are Brooklyn residents—but there was no document to support her words.  We asked that she send the document to us by February 29.  Rather than the report, she emailed a letter to him, February 29, 2016 containing the same numbers she had stated in the meeting.”  Mr. West had been associated with BUILD. By 2008, he left the organization “due to other responsibilities and had a job.”

 

Without the report neither the CBA Executive Committee nor the public can study the many statistics to know the project’s progress in realizing the CBA.  CBA Coalition Chair Delia Hunley-Adossa was contacted by telephone March 1, 2016 in order to obtain the M/WBE and construction workers statistics; however, the voice mail for Brooklyn Endeavor Experience from where Ms. Hunley-Adossa operates was not activated and contacting her via info@beegreennow.org which is listed on the website resulted in the return message: “Remote SMTP server has rejected the address…it does not exist”

 

What of the Independent Compliance Officer (ICO)?  Who is this person and where are the quarterly reports? According to Michael West and Norman Oder, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report steadfast blogger, no one is in that position.  “Enforcement of the CBA is pretty much dependent on the Independent Compliance Monitor.  [This person] is supposed to report to the community; however, no one has ever been assigned to the position,” explained Mr. West.

 

According to the CBA agreement:

The ICO shall be responsible for oversight of the Project Developer’s, Arena Developer’s and Coalition members’ obligations under this Agreement, investigation of any complaints brought against the Developers or a Coalition member regarding implementation of this Agreement and review of the Developers reports required under Article X (the “Developer Reports”).  After review of the Developer Reports, the ICM shall provide a report to the Executive Committee and the DBOAC, as defined below, on the status of the implementation of all initiatives.

 

Mr. West advances Devotion NYC to serve in this capacity. Rather than one person receive an annual salary of up to $100,000, for $149,000 the organization Devotion NYC would perform the same duties.  Another organization he suggests is a multiservice organization called HigherSelf Lifestyle.

 

The crucial item to examine is the change in the project’s name from Atlantic Yards/FCR to Pacific Park.  Pacific Park is being constructed by Greenland Forest City.  This is a joint venture between Greenland, USA, the developer of record which is a Chinese real estate developer and Forest City Ratner which is responsible for property management.  Greenland, USA controls 70% of the project.  Scott Solish is Greenland’s Director of Design and Development.  Solish left NYC Economic Development Corp. to assume this post.  NYS chapter President of the National Association of Minority Contractors Joseph Coello opines, “Greenland ought to be part of discussions and [learn whether] they are prepared to follow the mandate of the CBA.”

 

This joint venture initiated changes for the project by the Empire State Development Corp.  “The General Project Plan was modified June 2014 to accelerate construction and the creation of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AYCDC) which gives input on development, housing, and community impact.”  One of the 14 board members is Bertha Lewis, Black Institute Executive Director

1 COMMENT

  1. There is a mistake in this story. Devotion NYC has volunteered to act as Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement at no cost. This is a matter of public record.

    HigherSelf Lifestyle (Higher Lifestyle Corporation) has agreed to act as Community Benefits Implementation Coordinator for the employment and small business components of the Community Benefits Agreement.

  2. Correction: During a February 23, 2016 telephone interview, Michael West explained he wants to put up his organization Devotion NYC for the Independent Compliance Monitor (ICO) role but is concerned about the $100,000 salary originating from Forest City Ratner. Therefore, Devotion NYC would assume the ICO role free of charge. Further, West suggests HigherSelf Life to serve as the Community Benefits Implementation Coordinator (CBIC) to be recompensed $149,000 annually. However, the CBIC is not included in the Atlantic Yards CBA. West wants HigherSelf Life to replace BUILD (defunct since 2012) and the operating [NYS chapter of] National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC). The defunct BUILD had governed the Jobs Development Council and co-governed the Small Business Council with NAMC.

  3. I’m with you Norman, only I believe that there is a WEALTH of information missing from the original article.

    After giving a lengthy interview to a competent “Our Times Press” writer, I was bum rushed to make a statement on the current status of the CBA, and gave some much needed critical insight to another writer, Ms. Albritton. To my dismay, Ms. Albritton wrote from a position of very little institutional memory, and gave a very blank and worthless account of what was said to her. As the President of NYSAMC, and a long standing member of the CBA Executive Committee, it would benefit the public to have an open and honest dialogue on the project with the current CBA committee members.

    As for the most “crucial item to examine is the change in the project’s name from Atlantic Yards/FCR to Pacific Park…”, I believe that the writer must be challenged to provide more critical thinking to a project of this magnitude and history. The public, that everyone claims to represent, deserves decent journalism and an honest assessment of the many faucets of the CBA, Good and Bad!

    Finally, to reduce my alleged comments to: ” NYS chapter President of the National Association of Minority Contractors Joseph Coello opines, “Greenland ought to be part of discussions and [learn whether] they are prepared to follow the mandate of the CBA.”…When I clearly stated that NYSAMC and Greenland were scheduled to meet the following week to continue our discussions on increasing MWBE contracting and procurement opportunities, as well as a follow up discussion on a MWBE co-development project, was sheer laziness on the part of the writer.

    Our Times Press, could have and should have done better!!

    Joseph Coello Sr., President
    NYSAMC-New York State Chapter

  4. Unfortunately the original writer, who Akosua did not know spoke with you, never turned in her article. Akosua was following my direction on a different angle and I accept responsibility for the time you spent giving information that wasn’t used.

  5. Greenland Forest City Partners should be held to the original contract and be required to hire a professional, independent Compliance Monitor. While Devotion NYC may have the best of intentions, the role of Compliance Monitor is very complex and in this case requires international experience since the primary developer is now controlled by a Shanghai company (whose org chart lists the head of the Chinese government as their Chair!)

    As it now stands, Forest City has set up Ashley Cotten as both their project development lead and as the community report agent, a clear and offensively dismissive conflict of interest. There is a reason why the Compliance Monitor is specified as professional and independent. As it stands now Forest City is their own arbiter of whether they are in compliance and the local residents know all too well how much FCR thinks of their issues. They need to be held to contractual terms, or make the clear jump that the new partnership is not bound by those terms. And if they do the State should review the entire development contract.

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