City Councilman David Yassky is under fire for asking city taxpayers to underwrite a promise that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner made to a handful of community organizations.
Under the provisions of a “community benefits agreement” negotiated by Ratner and the groups, the developer and his supporters pledged to create a job-training program.
Thus far, Ratner has given $285,000 towards that worker-training program, which is being administered by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).
Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) now proposes a city contribution of $3 million — more than 10 times what Ratner’s given.
Critics were quick to point out that Yassky submitted the budget request after BUILD President James Caldwell and other CBA signatories endorsed his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights) in the mostly black 11th congressional district in central Brooklyn.
Yassky declined to respond to critics who accused him of bailing out Ratner, but said through a spokesman that the money would be well spent.
“There is an eight-and-half percent unemployment rate in [the area] and that is not going to go down unless there is more access to job-training programs,” said spokesman Evan Thies.
“More money needs to be going to establish these essential programs.”
Critics say the bid for public funding is another example of the developer relying on taxpayers to make good on his promises.
“Yassky is [helping] Ratner get public money without going through the public process,” said Bill Batson, a Community Board 8 member who is running to succeed Assemblyman Roger Green (D-Prospect Heights). Green, a longtime Atlantic Yards supporter, is running for Congress.
Experts on CBAs thought the Yassky bill was misguided.
“[Public funding] usually doesn’t happen after the CBA is signed,” said Roxanna Tynan, a spokeswoman for the LA Alliance for a New Economy, which was involved in a landmark CBA in that city.
“The developer is still on the hook for the benefits that he owes. If the money is coming from the public that should be clear from the beginning,”
Caldwell dismissed that notion.
“We believe that Forest City Ratner has done their share and now [city officials] have to do its share,” he said.
It’s no surprise that BUILD is looking for funding. The non-profit once anticipated receiving $5 million from Ratner, according to an IRS filing.
“That [filing] was a mistake,” Caldwell told The Brooklyn Papers this week.
The city and state have each already allocated $100 million to cover infrastructure improvements that will help Ratner build his $3.5-billion, 17-skyscraper development in Prospect Heights.
But the costs of implementing the CBA’s celebrated commitment to hiring local workers and building affordable housing have never figured into public discussion of the project. Until now.
“We’re wise enough now to know that we can’t expect Forest City Ratner to do everything,” said Caldwell.
Spokespeople for Forest City Ratner did not return calls for comment.