Friday, March 10, 2006

"Yanks’ broken promise?" MetroNY 03/10/06

Yanks’ broken promise?
Less than a month before stadium deal deadline, no community pact in sight

by patrick arden / metro new york

MAR 10, 2006

LOWER MANHATTAN — In January, New York Yankees president Randy Levine made a promise to people who live near his team’s current ballpark and who were upset that the Yankees’ proposed new stadium and parking garages would claim 22 acres of parkland.

“We will enter into a community benefits agreement,” he told a luncheon of the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “It will be a very good, fair one — and we intend to be long-term, good-standing neighbors in the Bronx. I promise that on behalf of the Yankees and George Steinbrenner. We care about the quality of life for residents in the Bronx.”

After Levine’s speech, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion said, “We’re working, of course, with every local official and local community leaders to ensure that [this benefits agreement] represents the best interests of the community.” He vowed that “at minimum” 25 percent of construction jobs and contracts would be set aside for Bronx residents and businesses. The full agreement, Carrion said, was “probably in its final steps at this point.”

But after almost two months, there’s still no sign of any community benefits agreement.

Where’s the deal?

Yesterday, the Yankees sought approval for nearly $930 million in tax-exempt financing from the city. Afterward, the team’s spokesperson said she was not “at liberty” to discuss the agreement, and repeated calls to the Bronx Borough President were not returned. In late February, Carrion spokeswoman Anne Fenton said, “The borough president is working with the Yankees to ensure that the community’s concerns are addressed and that the host community will be a partner in the development of this area.”

That had a familiar ring to Majora Carter, founder and director of the community development group Sustainable South Bronx. Carter, who was named a MacArthur Fellow last year, had participated in Carrion’s drafting of a CBA with the Related Companies over the nearby Gateway Center mall project, but that process did not work out as planned. Of the 13 community groups who took part in meetings to craft a deal, only 3 ended up signing the agreement, just moments before the City Council approved the project.

“I took part in it until they determined that we should no longer be a part of it,” Carter said. “We weren’t exactly kicked out, but it became very well known that our assistance was not required.”

Whose deal?

“Supposedly they’ve changed the name for the Yankees — it’s now called a ‘community partnership agreement,’” Carter said. “As far as I know, there have been no meetings held. There is no one involved — there’s the borough president negotiating on behalf of the Bronx Borough President’s office with the Yankees, and that’s it.”

“This is pretty late in the game to still be negotiating an agreement,” said Roxana Tynan of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, the group that pioneered the idea of CBAs. “The more votes that have been taken on the project the less leverage local folks have, unless they have a legal angle and can buy time.

“CBAs don’t work when they’re top-down, because then people don’t trust the process — you have a lot of trust issues to overcome about whose interests the CBA is really going to serve.”

What’s a CBA?

• A community benefits agreement is a legally binding contract negotiated between a developer and a coalition of residents affected by a construction project. In exchange for the neighborhood’s support, the developer agrees to provide jobs, employment training, housing and even youth programs.


At 9:09 AM, Anonymous BD said...

The community doesn't want a CBA; we want our parks! But this is an illuminating example of where our elected officials are coming from. If they really represented us, everything would be handled differently. Obviously, they work for the Yankees. This is plain for anyone to see. And if a CBA is a binding agreement, then don't look at the Gateway CBA as a model, as it is nonbinding...lovely! And he wants to be mayor!


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