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Call for Dolly to divest of Nets - Brooklyn Paper

Call for Dolly to divest of Nets

Responding to the news that Brooklyn City Planning Commissioner Dolly
Williams is a co-owner of real estate mogul Bruce Ratner’s recently
purchased New Jersey Nets, a group opposed to the team’s move to
Downtown Brooklyn filed a grievance this week with the city.

The complaint, filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board by the anti-arena
group Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, charges that by investing in
the team — as well as in Ratner’s plan to build an arena, office
buildings and a housing development — Williams has “broken the
law,” and should be forced to either divest of her Nets interest,
estimated at nearly $1 million, or face criminal prosecution.

Borough President Marty Markowitz’s appointment of Williams to the
powerful planning board made her a key player in the city’s land
use approval process. She and her husband, Adonijah Williams, own A. Williams
Construction and are joint investors in the team Ratner hopes to bring
to an arena he would build at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

“This is a flagrant violation of city law,” said Daniel Goldstein,
a spokesman for Develop-Don’t Destroy. The group opposes Forest City
Ratner’s bid to build Atlantic Yards, a 21-acre project that includes
the basketball arena, 4,500 units of housing and three towering office
buildings on property extending from the downtown intersection into Prospect
Heights. The plan calls for the state to seize nearly 10 acres of privately
owned property.

“As a planning commissioner, Williams can smooth the way for this
project, which is gong to line her pockets at taxpayer’s expense
— and she’s drawing a $45,131 city salary while she does it,”
Goldstein charged.

In a letter to Mark Davies, executive director of the Conflicts of Interest
Board, Goldstein called Williams’ interest in the team a violation
of Chapter 68 of the City Charter, the section detailing conflicts of
interests involving city officials.

In his letter, Goldstein states that the provision applies to all paid
city officers and that the law goes on to say that a city officer with
ownership interest in firms doing business with the city has a conflict
of interest.

“[Forest City Ratner] plans to borrow money from the city for this
project; hence the company will be doing business with the city,”
Goldstein writes. “What is also of interest is the fact that [Forest
City Ratner Executive Vice President] Jim Stuckey has said that his company
is ‘working closely with City Planning.’ He has stated this
in public on several occasions.”

“Already, during the ULURP process for the Downtown Brooklyn Development
Plan, part of which included a segment of the proposed [arena] project,
Mrs. Williams was involved in reviewing and voting on zoning changes which
impacted the proposed Nets arena,” Goldstein writes.

“It is therefore too late to claim that Mrs. Williams will recuse
herself from any vote related to this project; she has already failed
to do so.”

The portion of the massive Downtown Brooklyn rezoning plan to which Goldstein
refers is a triangular plot of land at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues upon
which a portion of the planned arena would sit.

That land was removed from the Downtown Plan by the City Planning Commission
at the request of Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James, a fervent
opponent of the Nets arena plan and a supporter of Develop-Don’t
Destroy.

Williams could not be reached for comment on the complaint filed with
the Conflicts of Interest Board by press time.

Asked last week about any apparent conflict, she said that while she is
an investor in both the team and Atlantic Yards development project she
“had not thought about” whether her company would be involved
in the 8 million square feet of construction.

“It is not a conflict, otherwise I would not do it,” said Williams,
whose 20-year-old construction company is worth millions.

Stuckey could not be reached for comment.

Word of Williams’ interest in the team came to light after The Brooklyn
Papers obtained, reported on and published, a copy of the Nets investor
list last week.

Atlantic Yards will likely not be required to pass the city’s Uniform
Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Ratner is looking to steer the 21-acre
project, half of which would be built over the state-run Metropolitan
Transportation Authority’s Long Island Rail Road storage yards, through
the far less stringent state review process.

Markowitz, a vocal supporter of the Nets-to-Brooklyn plan, appointed Williams
to the 13-member commission in 2002.

The decision of the commission, with appointees by the mayor, each borough
president and the public advocate, is generally a deciding factor in development
proposals subject to city review.

Davies, to whom Goldstein addressed the complaint, said he would neither
comment on the case nor confirm the agency received the letter.

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