Monday, April 03, 2006

Reply to Draft CBA

A Reply by a member of Save Our Parks, John Rozankowski, Ph.d, to the Draft Community Benefits Agreement proposed by Bronx Voices of Equal Inclusion

Save Our Parks, the sponsor of petitions and correspondence mandating the return of 2 community parks, numerous rallies, press appearances and responsible for the "show of force" by the community at public hearings, and recognized by the press and numerous neutral organizations as the true representatives of the people, sets forth the following comments on the proposed Community Benefits Agreement.


The Community Benefits Agreement (hence, CBA) associated with the
Yankee Stadium project (hence, the Project) is being proposed and promoted by Bronx Voices of Equal Inclusion (hence, BVEI), an organization that cannot begin to lay any claim to representing the people of the community.

BVEI, at that time a sub-committee of the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) commenced neighborhood action concerning the Project in July of 2005. From the outset, BVEI proclaimed a message of the inevitability of the Project, the "done deal syndrome," and started touting a CBA as the only answer. This spirit of defeatism was the direct cause of the formation of Save Our Parks, a pure grassroots organization dedicated to winning back the parks and not surrender with a CBA. While some 4,000 people signed the Save Our Parks petitions and large numbers attended its meetings, BVEI was abandoned to a point that the NAC meetings had to be discontinued due to a lack of attendance. In spite of a sudden and short-lived conversion to fighting for the parks in January, BVEI failed to win back the people and quickly returned to its original position of pushing for a CBA.

On March 11, 2006, BVEI invited the entire Bronx to a grand meeting in the huge Andrew Friedman Hall anticipating record numbers of people. In fact, only 22 people made an appearance, including 10 original BVEI members, 5 Save Our Parks people who came in as observers only and some 7 others. Thus, some 17 people, elected by no one and gathered at random, made the audacious claim that they represent the community and set forth this CBA!


A reading of the proposed CBA, especially Section VI raises some very
disturbing questions:

1) Why are monetary awards being granted for very vaguely defined
"not-for-profit" institutions all over the Bronx? How are they affected by the Project? Can most or any of them, outside of the host community, demonstrate that the Project affects them in any way? The only beneficiaries of any proposed largess should be the host community if it is demonstrably willing to accept it. As it stands, this idea is a brazen affront to the host community and it is bewildering that BVEI claiming to represent the community seems more concerned with the entire borough.

2) Subsection "a" discusses granting $700,000 all over the Bronx.
Under what criteria and for what purpose? This money should belong exclusively to the host community and could be invested in tangible and visible projects of direct benefit to the host community rather than being randomly distributed throughout the Bronx without any clear guidelines.

3) Subsection "d" describes 15,000 free tickets handed out all over the
Bronx. How can anyone be even remotely certain that these tickets
would go exclusively to those who truly cannot afford them? Taken together, these somewhat strange proposals seem to suggest an open bribery of Bronx elected officials outside of the host community in exchange for their votes! These officials should be insulted and reject the Project with righteous indignation and anger.

4) In a letter to Mayor Bloomberg rejecting the Project, Councilman
Tony Avella correctly indicates that any money should be handled by
appropriate city agencies and not by some "private individual of prominence selected by a "Fund Advisory Panel" in turn selected by Bronx elected officials “it's unclear exactly who. Such an Administrator would be at the mercy of those who appointed him/her and would be forced to channel money, etc. for projects and organizations favored by the Bronx elected officials. Most of these organizations claim to represent their various communities and should engage in actions and projects favored by their residential constituents. Their independence would be severely compromised and there would be very little transparency and accountability.


No ULURP land use project comes to mind encompassing so many community rights violations as the Yankee Stadium. Thus, signing the CBA would mean ACCEPTANCE: of a breach of the Memorandum of Understanding (6/15/05) by all three signatories concerning community outreach; of secret voting and backroom deals by both the City Council and the State Legislature in the park alienation vote; of a denial of the right to testify at an open meeting by the Bronx Borough President; of the deprivation of the right to a fair and impartial hearing in front of City Planning because of City Advocacy of the project; of denial to local schools of the right to participate in major decisions concerning the community and affecting them; et alii. No community can sign away the fundamental rights of all communities. In addition, ACCEPTANCE of the proposed CBA would be ACCEPTANCE of the antithesis of good government formalizing the dangerously proliferating practice of elected officials ruling instead of serving the people.

No CBA can possibly be written which would even begin to compensate the South Bronx community for the enormous damage that the Project in its current form would create: 2 parks with 400 mature trees, a vital recreation center for the young and the elderly who cannot afford to go elsewhere would be lost; more people would be placed at risk of greater noise, more deadly exposure to asthma, of inconveniences from extra security and fallout from a terrorist attack. And, project amenities such as the new parking garages would eventually turn the neighborhood into a permanently grid-locked parking lot.
Save Our Parks, representing the people of the host community, categorically and unequivocally rejects a CBA, requests that the City Council not use it as an excuse for approval and emphatically urges the City Council to reject the Project in its current form.


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