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.
©2012 Community News Group
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