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Brooklyn Bridge Park velodrome backer Kate Collignon greased the wheels, committee members allege

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A Prospect Heights woman exploited her position on an influential Brooklyn Bridge Park advisory committee to land a sweet business deal, claim her former colleagues who are lobbing allegations of cronyism over a $40-million bike track development.

Kate Collignon, a principal at the development consulting firm HR & A Advisors, sat for months on the park’s Community Advisory Council while simultaneously doing work for the velodrome, according to committee sources and documents obtained by The Brooklyn Paper — and that doesn’t sit well with other panel members.

“There are extraordinary conflicts of interest,” said Judi Francis.

Collignon was added to the council of “park advocates” and community members in 2010, a year after she began working for the firm — which is doing consulting work for the cycling track and gym and has done similar work for Brooklyn Bridge Park on-and-off since 2005.

Collignon never actually voted on the plan because she resigned from the panel two months ago. But she resurfaced soon after as a representative for the proposed bike track — and panel sources say her votes and contributions to committee discussions helped pave the way for the project.

Her dual roles are a conflict of interest — and just one example of an ethical snafu on a committee in which several members stand to gain from business hook-ups, panel members say.

“We should be representing a community of park users — not the people who provide the park with services [for profit],” said committee member Roy Sloane.

Part of the problem, committee members say, stems from the way appointees introduced Collignon as a Prospect Heights resident who loves parks rather than as a development expert whose firm stands to profit from dealings in the green space.

Indeed, a 2010 press release from Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which had a hand in choosing members, notes “Kate Collignon is a 15-year Brooklyn resident, usually found on weekends exploring the city’s park system with her family.” It goes on to mention her place of employment, but fails to note the firm’s major role in consulting for Brooklyn Bridge Park dating back to 2005 and 2006 when the firm helped create the development’s master plan.

The athletic complex, which will be built on Furman Street near Pier 5, is a gift to the city from millionaire philanthropist and cyclist Joshua Rechnitz, who made the largest donation to a park in the city’s history. But there’s still plenty of money to be made from the project, panel members claim.

Collignon did not respond to a call and two e-mails seeking comment by press time.

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said Collignon did not overstep her role while she was a member of the committee.

“The proposal has proceeded on its own merits and has not been voted on by any members of the Community Advisory Council,” Myer said in a statement. “Kate Collignon resigned at the beginning of the process so as not to pose a conflict of interest. Any suggestion that she exercised influence on the [panel] or Brooklyn Bridge Park regarding the proposed field house is completely inaccurate.”

Myer also says no members of the committee are profiting from their volunteer roles on the board.

The agency’s website notes that committee members were chosen “in consultation with local elected officials representing the park,” and that the panel “truly represents a broad cross-section of park constituents and advocates.”

But that’s not what some members of the group itself think.

“It’s dysfunctional right now and not representing the public’s interest,” Sloane said.

Updated 2:52 pm, July 27, 2012: Updated to include comments from Brooklyn Bridge Park president Regina Myer.
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Reader Feedback

Brian Van from Gramercy says:
Why, yes, there's a clear conflict of interest here, and yet that doesn't mean that it's a terrible idea to take a massive private gift to build a recreational facility here. Especially if that facility is a velodrome, because easily half a million New Yorkers are active cyclists, and there is only one velodrome currently in the entire city.

I am sure the people who are finding this to be alarming have their own agendas to push. Perhaps it would be better for Brooklyn if instead we build an enormous sit-and-be-quiet room on the waterfront. NIMBY-friendly!
July 27, 2012, 10:04 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Brian, I tend to agree with you. We're not talking about building a coal-burning powerplant there--it's a much-needed athletic facility that will boost Brooklyn Bridge Park and also give the competitive cyclists who are serious about training a place to do so without having to worry about pedestrians, casual cyclists, runners, rollerbladers, etc like they do in Prospect Park.

Training in a velodrome is absolutely not the same thing as a circuit with topographical variation; it won't give you a feel for what it's like to compete in the Tour de France. But provided that it's filled with other serious cyclists and has no mixed-use issues, perhaps it's still a net gain for those guys.
July 27, 2012, 10:38 am
pheights from prospect heights says:
I know Kate and these allegations are ridiculous. The fact that HR&A consulted for Brooklyn Bridge Park 8 years ago is irrelevant. She didn't work for HR&A at that time. In fact, she worked for the City at the time and was one of the people instrumental in pushing the park project forward at the city level. Also I challenge Ms. Francis to give one example of how any comment or vote that Kate made while on the committee "paved the way" for the project. That's bull and it's extremely unprofessional for the writer of this article to publish that kind of comment without asking Ms Francis for one actual example. Finally the idea that someone who is working with a non-profit entity that is donating a $40 million gift is benefiting financially in a "business deal" stretches the definition of english words. There is a ig difference between a business deal between for-profit entities and a donation from one non profit to another. Please...
July 27, 2012, 10:52 am
jonb from southbrooklyn says:
a CAC member uses her resources and network to land a $40 million donation to the city of new york and people are upset?!?!? the floating pool was a gift to the city and its creator had many, many high-level connections to the bloomberg admin. how come the anti-park cabal didn't complain about that one?

simply put, Kate should be lionized, not criticized. also, can someone please tell me what judi francis and her crones has ever done for the benefit of the park and its visitors?!?
July 27, 2012, 11:37 am
Park user from Bed Stuy says:
IT IS a conflict of interest.

And it's even more suspect that the supposed philanthropist had ALWAYS wanted to build this velodrome... as a place to host major cycling events from around the world.

He founded his velodrome as an all "regional, national and international" track-cycling corporation.

After he found the perfect place for it by throwing enough money at Brooklyn Bridge Park, he quietly changed the name of his business: from Velodrome of New York City Inc. to New York City Fieldhouse Inc.

It looks like a public field house, but it's a rich man's pet project.
July 27, 2012, 12:12 pm
Park Slope Guy from Windsor Terrace says:
I'm just happy that someone is covering this kind of crap. The daily papers don't seem to care!
July 27, 2012, 12:21 pm
jerry from marine park says:
let me get this straight - we can't build a rec center with a velodrome in brooklyn bridge park but national grid can build a 40,000 s.f. natural gas facility in floyd bennett field, which is part of a national park. wow, what a world!
July 27, 2012, 12:48 pm
JAY from PSLOPE says:
wrong is wrong and its just that simple.
July 28, 2012, 5:44 pm
Here they go again from Brooklyn says:
Kate Collignon has major conflict of interest - she is a Senior VP at the firm that authored the idea of private housing inside this park. She herself voted several times on the committee in favor of private luxury housing inside this park, all the while she was posing as a "citizen" representative of Prospect Heights. She voted against non privatizing funding for this park on many occasions, too.

A Veladrome with indoor recreation is a good thing despite the "private interests" of the donor and his fixer, Collignon, but the final take away should be that the process is broken. A public park does not need fixers, inside the voting committee for the park, or outside. Parks belong to the public not to private, interested parties. And it should be run by a city parks department, and paid for with tax dollars to keep the "private" to a minimum.
July 29, 2012, 7:06 am
Frank from Furter says:
Oh what nonsense. Kate is responsible for world hunger. the brooklyn bridge park's charter over 20 years old requires the park to be self sufficient. The model for this is the Hudson River Park in Manhattan that is paid almost exclusively from the housing in Battery Park City. Was she on that committee too? The City traditionally in fiscal crises have starved the parks department. It doesn't have enough money for all the parks it has now. Adding additional parks to its budget is politically naive.
There was always a hotel and apartments in the plan. It was more a question of how many and where. Its too bad that people vote in their self interest but that is also naive to think they don't.
The BBP was never a city project solely-although the city now controls it but it is still highly subject to the state legislature. The piers were controlled by the state. the state promised to pay half the capital costs -which it ultimately reneged upon but neither the city nor the state would promise to pay operating costs and take that money from elsewhere.
Were would these funds come from if not from residential. perhaps restaurants except that recent history suggests that money is doubtful. No tavern on the green, and the freedom tower could not find an operator. And retail= yes pier 17 across the river has been so successful. and 1 BBPark has been so successful in leasing its retail hasn't it.Isn't 1BBPark a residential building? Isn't Judi Francis married to Roy Sloane(not that I am saying that there is anything wrong or a conflict there either-they are surely entitled to their opinion as well)

as one of the marx brothers said no matter what they do or say I am going to oppose it anyway-whatever it is I'm against it -no matter who began or who commenced it I'm against it.

from wienie land
July 29, 2012, 8:55 am
JAY from PSLOPE says:
Frank it is your kind of thinking that caused the "masters of the universe" to do things that in their mind justified melting down Wall Street. Sad. Wrong is Wrong and hell yes, it matters. If you don't get that, then you should check out Russia where your way of thinking prevails adn see how well it works for them.
July 29, 2012, 4:56 pm
Frank from furter says:
hey jay how did you get from Housing in he Park to Wall Street? so you disagree exactly how? I am always struck by the fact when people disagree they say I should check out Russia. BTW Russia is no longer communist. Using people with an agenda is only ok if you agree with them....
people have complained about the lack of active sports venues in the BBP. When an active venue is brought in, they then complain about that too...so exactly how would you pay for the park?increase YOUR taxes
July 29, 2012, 10:41 pm
Anon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Frank, wrong again. No apts ever planned for the park until the Mayor decided to do it to our park. Who cares about that gal anyway? She is just the tool of the Mayor and that says it all. We should be fighting for a park and as much park land as it humanly possible. That is what this whole discussion should be about and with housing inside a park, it becomes the 1% park as someone once said. Yup, a 1% park - too bad for the 99% of us.
July 30, 2012, 9:33 am

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