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Jeffries criticizes Ratner foes – QNS.com

Jeffries criticizes Ratner foes

By Stephen Witt

A local lawmaker last week credited developer Forest City Ratner’s record of working with Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) Program thus far on the Atlantic Yards project. At the same time, Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries took a swipe at opponents of the project for not casting the same critical eye on the billions of dollars in Downtown Brooklyn developments. “The Downtown Brooklyn developers should be held to the same level of accountability and scrutiny as we have seen directed at the Atlantic Yards project,” said Jeffries. “It would be helpful if some of the passion directed at the Atlantic Yards project would be used as part of the effort to help the NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority] residents in our community benefit from the development that is taking place in Brooklyn,” he added. Jeffries said the billions of dollars being poured into Downtown Brooklyn creates a historic opportunity to improve the lives of the residents from the Farragut, Ingersoll and Whitman public housing developments in the area. Jeffries’ comments come after recent figures indicate that in FCR’s roughly $40.5 million in purchases and contracts let out thus far on the project, about 47 percent or $18.9 million went to M/WBE. This includes $15.2 million or nearly 38 percent of total purchases to MBE, and about 9 percent or $3.6 million WBE. Of the total 45 contracts let to M/WBE firms thus far on the Atlantic Yards project, 16 or 35 percent have gone to Brooklyn-based firms. Additionally, as part of FRC’s community labor exchange program, there have been 20 worker placements from the community including four women. As part of FCR’s community benefits agreement (CBA) with the New York State Association of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC), about 200 M/WBE businesses graduated from ongoing construction management training sessions at Medgar Evers College. There are no CBA’s in place on any of the Downtown Brooklyn developments and several are non-union. Additionally, the quasi-government Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) recently filed for an extension on their initial 990 non-profit tax forms. Thus far, the DBP has refused to produce any financial disclosure documents publicly, and has been tight-lipped about the organization’s three-year, $2 million annual deal with the city. DBP President Joe Chan did not respond to several inquiries about the deal with the city, Both Chan and James Whalen, who Muss Developers (owner of the New York Marriott in Downtown Brooklyn) recently hired, formerly worked under Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. The two were also previously involved in Downtown Brooklyn affairs before coming to work for the city. Chan served as real estate director for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Whelan served as director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, which among other things created the rezoning plan for Downtown Brooklyn. The Downtown Brooklyn Council has since been folded into DBP. Chan did seek and was granted a waiver from the Conflict of Interest Board (COIB) after Mayor Michael Bloomberg tabbed him to run the DBP. In the Chan ruling, the COIB noted that Chan informed the department of the $2 million, three-year contract the DBP had signed with the city’s department of Small Business Services. According to COIB documents, Chan told them that the DBP’s current funding comes almost entirely from the contract. The COIB document further states that Chan told the agency the contract “provides for a major role for the Deputy Mayor.” This role includes regular communications with the deputy mayor (Doctoroff) and being given required quarterly reports, according to the COIB document. Chan did not disclose in the COIB document that the publicly funded DBP receives hefty member contributions from many of the big developers in Downtown Brooklyn. These contributions include at least $25,000 from Muss, and $50,000 from P/A Associates one of the developers that won the rights to develop the city-owned property beneath the Albee Square Mall. In granting the waiver, the COIB noted in bold, “provided that you may not work on any particular matter in which you were personally and substantially involved while a public servant.”

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