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Domino Sugar donations

Sweet charity: Domino builder gave $100,000 to pro-development W’burg groups

The Brooklyn Paper

The developer behind a plan to build apartments at the former Domino Sugar factory spent at least $100,000 courting Williamsburg community groups that later supported controversial plans to allow residential construction at the industrial site, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Community Preservation Corporation Resources — which is fighting to avoid foreclosing on the massive waterfront plot where it hopes to build 2,200 apartments and retail space — doled out donations of between $9,000 and $30,000 to organizations that subsequently backed the Domino project from February 2008 to December 2009, months before its campaign to rezone the site, court filings reveal.

The currently cash-strapped developer says the donations, which it calls “public reputation” money, simply prove that it is invested in the neighborhood. But attorney and civic watchdog Norman Siegel said the donations suggest an instance of quid pro quo.

“If the developer was giving community groups money five or 10 years before their mission, that would be one thing, but if the developer is giving money for the first and perhaps the last time, it raises the question whether the donor is buying recipients support and it raises questions about the community groups themselves,” said Siegel.

The money went to groups including Southside United Housing, a Williamsburg housing developer; Catholic Charities, a Diocese-affiliated social services organization; El Puente, a Williamsburg youth and activism institution; Churches United, a defunct religious social services outfit; and Keren Ezer, an Orthodox nonprofit. The developers also donated money to the Brooklyn Philharmonic, an orchestra based in DUMBO.

Each group collected a $10,000 check except Catholic Charities, which received $9,000, and Churches United, which brought in $30,000.

After the organizations received the checks, members of Southside United, Catholic Charities, El Puente, and Churches United attended several contentious public hearings on the Domino plan, showing their support for a project that would rezone the 11-acre Kent Avenue site and bring 660 units of below-market-rate housing to the closed plant.

Leaders of the groups testified before Community Board 1, Borough President Markowitz, planning commissioners, and City Council, and voiced their approval of the mega-project to the press. The Brooklyn Philharmonic honored the developer’s former CEO at a gala.

Churches United for Fair Housing director Rob Solano, who was once a member of Churches United but now runs a separate organization, said it’s common for developers to give donations to community groups in the neighborhoods where they plan to build.

His new group received $20,000 from Community Preservation Corporation Resources for its end-of-the-year awards dinners in 2010 and 2011, which honored an employee at the development company and the builder’s former CEO and Domino plan mastermind Michael Lappin.

“Mike was part of making this project happen, so we honored Mike,” said Solano. “It had nothing to do with finances. We supported a project but we had issues with the project and those issues were changed.”

And El Puente director Luis Garden Acosta, whose group received $10,000 for its Three Kings Day celebration in 2009, said his organization supported the Domino project several years before Community Preservation Corporation Resources made its contribution.

“We had declared our decision before they gave us any money, so I don’t think anyone could accuse us of quid pro quo,” said El Puente director Luis Garden Acosta. “We would never do anything based on money.”

A spokesman for Community Preservation Corporation Resources — which bought the Kent Avenue factory with developer Isaac Katan for $55.8 million eight years ago — also denied any wrongdoing, saying the donations show the developer backs “community-building efforts of our neighborhood non-profit organizations.”

Details of the donations were included as evidence in a lawsuit filed by Katan against Community Preservation Corporation Resources this month alleging fraud, breach of contract, and mismanagement of the property — due in part to its community spending.

The lawsuit comes as the future of the Domino project, once expected to be worth $1.2 billion when completed, has fallen into jeopardy.

Real estate insiders say the site is up for sale, but the developer claims it is merely seeking additional financing from outside investors so it can begin construction later this year.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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anywho says:
$100,000 is mere peanuts to all the money Vito Lopez has funneled to his cronies at RBSCC. Insiders? Yeah, who?
March 28, 2012, 6:56 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I remain dismayed that there's any controversy about building residences in a market that is desperately in need of them. The only controversy should be when developers want to build 1 floor buildings.
March 28, 2012, 8:59 am
Mike the shill from williamsburg says:
Yeah..Williamsburg desperately needs more $2,500 a month apartments. Everyone benefits, right???
March 28, 2012, 9:13 am
Mike the shill from williamsburg says:
Yeah..Williamsburg desperately needs more $2,500 a month apartments. Everyone benefits, right???
March 28, 2012, 9:13 am
all day from all night says:
This happens all the time. Part of doing biz in politics.

When is Vito Lopez going to prison?
March 28, 2012, 10:29 am
Resident from PPW says:
I guess everyone has a price.
March 28, 2012, 12:10 pm
Resident from PPW says:
I guess everyone has a price.
March 28, 2012, 12:10 pm
got from sold out says:
they could have gotten more $.

This project will make $millions and $millions in sweet profit.

They got sold out for $30,000 when the Domino Owners will profit more than $600,000,000
March 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
got from sold out says:
they could have gotten more $.

This project will make $millions and $millions in sweet profit.

They got sold out for $30,000 when the Domino Owners will profit more than $600,000,000
March 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
got from sold out says:
they could have gotten more $.

This project will make $millions and $millions in sweet profit.

They got sold out for $30,000 when the Domino Owners will profit more than $600,000,000
March 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
Larry from BKLYN says:
they could have gotten more $.

This project will make $millions and $millions in sweet profit.

They got sold out for $30,000 when the Domino Owners will profit more than $600,000,000
March 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
Larry from BKLYN says:
they could have gotten more $.

This project will make $millions and $millions in sweet profit.

They got sold out for $30,000 when the Domino Owners will profit more than $600,000,000
March 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
Larry from BKLYN says:
they could have gotten more $.

This project will make $millions and $millions in sweet profit.

They got sold out for $30,000 when the Domino Owners will profit more than $600,000,000
March 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
Voice of Verdad from 11211 says:
The uneducated among us complain about the price of apartments and use this to justify not endorsing additional supply.

What these certified morons don't realize is that increased supply puts downward pressure on prices and that while Williamsburg remains a hugely popular neighborhood with inadequate supply, prices will continue to rise.

Of course, these same people sit around demanding handouts and discounts and "affordable housing" and complain when a good school finally comes to the neighborhood because it exposes their failure to do anything about the neighborhood for decades. What about our culture of poverty and ignorance? Your culture stinks.
March 28, 2012, 1:37 pm
Juan from Gowanus says:
Shady.
March 28, 2012, 3:28 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Williamsburg does need more $2,500 apartments. And every other kind too. People want to live in Williamsburg and are willing to pay $2,500 to do it. The only way people aren't going to pay your current landlord $2,500 to live in Williamsburg in your ——ty apartment is if they can pay someone else $2,500 to live in a nice one.
March 28, 2012, 3:58 pm
Shlomo from Williamsburg says:
Mr. Short is making a mountain out of a mole hill! This is not an expose that uncovers hidden, under the table agreements and payoffs benefitting individuals and their bank accounts. This is not about graft or corruption! There is no wrong-doing here. That CPC provided funding to various organizations by participating in events or outright giving donations to organizations who are impacted by their Domino project. Their behavior demonstrate a level of citizenship that ought to be expected of companies and businesses who set up shop in North Brooklyn. It demonstrates a commitment to the community where they expect to make a profit. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, when it saw itself as a member of the North Brooklyn community (unfortunately no longer the case) was quite generous in the past, providing housing, G train security, and helping to establish an appreciated neighborhood school. Many businesses subscribe to events and participate in fundraising activities of local organizations. I don't understand what Mr. Short has in mind by drawing hard working, often understaffed and certainly under-funded organizations into the difficulties that the Domino project has at this time, even if the money spent in the manner described is part of a lawsuit.
March 28, 2012, 5 pm
Joe Blow says:
^
||
||
Because he is an as*hole all the way around.
March 28, 2012, 5:41 pm
The Candidate from Williamsburg says:
we would like to know who is this Keren Ezer, the name of the person who gave them the check, the name of the person who picked it up.

we have no idea what connections they have to CPC or CPCR, never saw thier name associated with the Domino plan, who was the match maker between these two.

If it walks like a duck, this is called kickback, payoff and/or buying support or silencing opposition, verbally we all know that United Churches was promised a lot more in housing and in funds and all of these payoff's should be investigated.
March 28, 2012, 9:51 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Let's focus attention away from the facile and amateurish "supply and demand" logic pervasive to much of this dialogue, maleficent, on "how to bring apartment prices down"--since it is nothing more than an Orwellian appropriation meant ti justify development hypertrophy in Williamsburg while masquerading as "caring about affordable housing." What is the most immediate proof that such an argument is duplicitous? The fact that over-building in Williamsburg for the past 20 years, especially in the last 7 years, has not done a thing to lower rents or prices but has instead magnified costs. So anyone who claims that "to bring rent down, build more" is a bald-faced liar or a profound ignoramus in the face of history. Would it take a building to fall on such logic before it corrects itself? Doubtful.

Instead, I draw attention to the sources behind Mr. Short's reporting here as they are identified in this article that he also penned:
http://brooklynpaper.com/stories/35/11/all_dominoforsale_2012_03_16_bk.html

What is much more pertinent in this BP realm is that Mr. Short is the type of jackass self-validating "rockstar in his own mind but his mind only" who has argued that when El Puente received $3 million dollars to fund the Greenlight Program so as to mitigate against the gentrification of Hispanics in the Southside of Williamsburg, that 1) it was implicitly racist against whites to prevent them from seizing by gentrification the lucrative properties inhabited by Hispanics, and 2) that somehow gaining $3 million dollars is not newsworthy. However, a story involving a whole $30,000 spread across several organizations in what has been typical fashion for the past 25 years between community organizations and non-profits/profits, all within the stated and explicit mission of each of those organizations--that somehow this is "newsworthy."

That, in fact, it is newsworthy enough to risk the "journalistic integrity" that Short laughably defends whenever his implicit racism and favoritism is on full display, newsworthy enough to imply "corruption," "nefarium" and now "quid pro quo" by those organizations. Where was A. Short when J. Lentol, for example, handed over more than a million dollars to arts org 3rd Ward to develop a food kitchen AFTER THEY HAD FAILED AT RUNNING A FOOD STAND ON METROPOLITAN AVE AND LORIMER ST? Was that million dollars not enough, a million dollars applied to parties for ventures they had already demonstrated gross failure in? Or the many other instances too numerous to count, where money has been mismanaged in the gentrification of Williamsburg?

But no, A. Short will claim he is in fact NOT an agent of gentrification, though he has gone out of his way to avoid covering Southside initiatives that mitigate against gentrification, gone out of his way to shack up with vocally and publicly anti-Hispanic forces in Williamsburg, the same forces who also have an interest in the Domino Sugar property. Somehow, all these circumstances are lost on this "journalist of integrity."

And there i more to say, but the morning is tight, and I shall return.
March 30, 2012, 10:03 am
Joe Blow says:
Dennis sinneD, tell us how you really feel. Ouch.
March 30, 2012, 12:15 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
My bad, Joe Blow, for your pain, but I shall tell you more:

What's crucial here is that the persons behind this reporting have been claiming to secretly possess "the smoking gun" against community organizations re: New Domino FOR YEARS NOW. Let's be clear: the apparent target is CPC/R, but the actual target in these years of uncertainty around New Domino HAS BEEN THE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHO BROKER FOR THE POOR. And since the persons making the allegations are 1) identifiable agents of gentrification and 2) making their own surreptitious play on the property, it is no stretch to say that this is no battle of good vs. evil. This is agents of gentrification attacking and undermining the remaining obstacle between Williamsburg and full-blown displacement by gentrification. And so the smoking gun, as long suspected, is leveling "corruption" at affordable housing community organizations for what? Brokering for affordable housing. Really? There is no indication whatsoever, outside of the facile off-the-top-of-the-head accusation of "quid pro quo" that anything corrupt, illegal or even aberrant to the mission of affordable housing occurred between CPC/R and the community organizations allied to them. There is only the opening by which the community can unite to offer alternatives to "New Domino"--which is what the opponents, the so-called "Williamsburg Independents" stand for, and yet, there exists no media coverage, no real concerted effort to get those alternative plans pushed through. Instead of doing the right thing, the so-called "independents" exhaust energy and sanity to attack NOT CPC/R but the community organizations allied to them. And what woe for those community organizations that they should have devils besetting them on all sides! On one side is the "ally," CPC/R, who aims to displace them with luxury condominium development. And on the other side are the agents of gentrification, dividing while claiming to unite, attacking the community organizations while pretending to be ideologically allied to them, plotting their dissolution in the Orwellian name of "community." Psalm 130.1!
March 30, 2012, 12:40 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
My advice to you "Williamsburg independents" reading this right now [you know who you are]: cease with your evil attacks on the community organizations of Southside, Williamsburg. Their dissolution will not serve the mobilization, if and when it happens, against CPC/R. Rather, develop alternative plans and visions that involve the ENTIRE COMMUNITY and not just solely within your narrow private interests. THAT is the solution: ANOTHER PLAN.

Or, enjoy the pyrrhic victory swelling in your twisted imaginations. But really, suffer the ignominy of your defeat and hateful efforts.
March 30, 2012, 12:46 pm

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