Daughtry breaks with ‘God
Announcements of benefits agreements being forged between Forest City
Ratner and the “community” over the development company’s
plan to build a basketball arena, office towers and apartment buildings
in Prospect Heights left many residents, activists and elected officials
scratching their heads this week wondering, ‘Who is in this community
and who represents it?
On Thursday, Forest City Ratner principal owner Bruce Ratner held a press
conference at the House of the Lord Church on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum
Hill to announce that the church’s pastor, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry,
was being included in negotiations over a community benefits agreement
(CBA) that Ratner said would be legally binding.
The CBA would guarantee local hiring, job training and a health clinic
as a result of the construction of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal.
Ratner said the agreement would be formalized sometime next month.
“We’re very pleased to be working with the Reverend Daughtry,”
said Ratner, calling him a “respected community leader,” with
30 years of experience in the neighborhood.
Ratner added that the accomplishments of the negotiators would speak for
“Words are easy, but let’s see if we can really do what is right,”
Daughtry resigned as chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition
(DBLC) — often referred to as the “God squad,” because
its leaders are largely comprised of clergymen — to negotiate with
Ratner. The group has taken a harder line against Atlantic Yards, demanding
the type of negotiating power Ratner might offer a business partner or
prospective anchor tenant.
Ratner’s Atlantic Yards would include a 19,000-seat basketball arena
for the developer’s recently purchased New Jersey Nets, three soaring
office towers and 4,500 units of mixed-income housing on property bounded
by Dean Street and Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues in Prospect
Heights. The site begins about four blocks, and accross Flatbush Avenue,
from Daughtry’s Boerum Hill church.
But Daughtry’s inclusion in the negotiations had residents in Prospect
Heights, whose homes lie in the footprint of the proposed development,
seething that the one-time vocal foe of such closed-door dealings had
been, in their eyes, co-opted.
“None of these negotiating groups represent Prospect Heights, where
the project would be located,” charged Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman
for the anti-arena group Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Goldstein
would lose his condominium apartment to the arena plan.
“Reverend Daughtry said at today’s press conference that Bruce
Ratner is honorable, caring, trustworthy and generous. Pardon us if we
don’t think that’s a tough negotiating stance.”
Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James, who championed the anti-Atlantic
Yards cause early on, said Daughtry’s joining the CBA talks helps
make it appear as though Ratner has the community on his side.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to divide and conquer the Downtown
and Central Brooklyn community,” she said.
James, a member of the Downown Brooklyn Leadership Coalition, a group
of political leaders and clergy formed by Daughtry last year in response
to the Atlantic Yards plan. The $2.5 billion Ratner plan is dependent
upon the state’s condemnation of more than two square blocks of privately
owned property and negotiating the purchase of air rights over Metropolitan
Transportation Authority rail yards.
When Ratner appeared with Daughtry this week, his staff and supporters
made it clear that the real estate mogul’s outreach to a local clergy
member was indicative that his company was committed to involving the
Though Daughtry will be the first clergy member represented in the CBA
negotiations, Forest City Ratner Vice President Jim Stuckey invited members
of the DBLC to take a seat at the bargaining table with Ratner.
At a Sept. 30 meeting at the Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church
in Fort Greene, Stuckey reiterated his offer, telling a table of DBLC
members and a 200-person audience that had gathered to decry the exclusion
of the community from decision-making in Ratner’s project, that “the
seat is waiting for you.”
The Rev. Dennis Dillon, who took Daughtry’s place as chairman of
the DBLC said he didn’t think Forest City Ratner took their proclamation
demanding inclusion in negotiations seriously.
“Forest City Ratner continues to falsely state that they have offered
us a seat at the table,” Dillon said. “We’re not talking
about sitting around the conference table at Borough Hall to discuss the
CBA with some cheerleaders. We’re talking about the community that
we represent being able to join in on the discussion, in terms of what
has happened, when it will happen, what it will entail and how much of
the taxpayers dollars it will require.”
Dillon compared the kind of consultation his group seeks to those that
Ratner would be required to do with “various anchor tenants …
government officials … and his partners.”
Barring that, Dillon repeated a threat that arose at last week’s
meeting: a boycott of Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal shopping mall on
the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest retail day of the year.
“The community will be organized to effect economic sanctions against
the Atlantic Terminal mall, and is certainly going to remain vigilant
and determined as a community until justice rolls down like a mighty stream,”
“They didn’t have to wait,” said Ratner spokeswoman Johanna
Flattery. “The offer we put on the table is exactly what they were
While Forest City Ratner officials asserted on Thursday that the agreement
they are forging — in closed-door meetings with Borough President
Marty Markowitz, the heads of Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, and members
of select organizations — will be a legally binding contract, they
did not specify what penalties would be issued for violations of the terms,
and acknowledge that there is no independent body providing oversight.
Committing that the development was “more than just basketball,”
Ratner said he has worked to provide jobs, housing and “other benefits
for the people of Brooklyn.”
Among the benefits discussed at the press conference was the creation
of a health center and “intergenerational” facility, both of
which were advocated by Daughtry, as well as job training programs and
a promise to hire one journeyman trainee construction worker for every
four journeymen hired, in an effort to open union jobs to area residents.
Ratner promised Daughtry’s ideas would be introduced to the in-progress
negotiations for the CBA, but Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, said the
details of the health clinic and intergenerational facility had not been
decided, and they could end up being one facility.
Daughtry said he resigned as chairman of the DBLC because the group failed
to recognize a “good faith” attempt by Ratner to pull them into
“It was ours to respond to and I thought that at least we needed
to move ahead,” he said at a community meeting on Tuesday night.
At the same meeting Daughtry told those in attendance that he was still
“out of the loop,” but was ready to take action on behalf of
the community. “I won’t be left out,” he said. “I
can fight and not be accused of being an outsider.”
©2004 Community News Group