Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CBA Nonsense

Patrick Arden in yesterday’s Metro writes about how the Community Benefits Agreement created for the Bronx Terminal Market project had almost no community input or support. Arden interviews CBA taskforce members who rightfully complain that the agreement gave very few concessions and that the Borough President Carrion controlled the process in overbearing fashion:

Pasquale Canale, a representative of the 161st Merchants Association, said he was thrown out of a meeting after he objected to Carrion’s assertion that the Gateway CBA would be a “template” for an upcoming agreement on the stadium.

“Almost everything the community asked for, Related rejected,” Canale said. “They felt the deal is already done, so why should they bother.”
Canale is one of the few taskforce members to criticize the document openly because many, according to the article, are afraid of retribution from Carrion:

“Everybody had problems with the language,” said one member who noted that Related’s promises of jobs were called “goals” in the final document, which was feared to weaken accountability. “We all ended up going along with it, because we realized a lot of our money comes from the borough president.”
A spokesperson for Carrion said that most community-based groups that participated in the initial brainstorming did not sign the CBA because: “
Only three signatories were necessary to make it binding. Because the negotiations were going up to the last minute, they called seven people and stopped after they had three who could take off work to be there. They wanted to get it signed before the vote.”
First, who set the ridiculous rule that only three community signatories were needed to make the document binding?, second who determined that government-controlled entities like BOEDC, New Bronx Chamber of Commerce and HOSTOS would be legitimate community signatories and third, why haven’t more groups signed the pact now that there is time to do so?

The answer to the first two questions is that since whole process was politically-controlled the Borough President and others arbitrarily came up with procedures that maximized their influence and minimized that of the community (the answer to the third question is that the agreement stinks). Considering that there are hundreds of community-based groups and other similar stakeholders in the Bronx, the fact that only 3 were needed sign this agreement is mind-boggling.

The one hope is that the Gateway CBA does not become a model for future agreements:

“Others are unhappy about the agreement,” said Lillian Smith, of the Concourse Village Stockholders Association. “We should be making sure it doesn’t happen again with Yankee Stadium.”
However, we are not too optimistic about this. According to Yankee President Randy Levine, a Community Benefits Agreement is almost finished for the Stadium project yet, again, no real stakeholders in the community were involved in negotiation process. Interestingly, though, Levine acknowledges in Dave Lombino's NY Sun article today that the Bronx Terminal Market agreement was quite shabby:

Mr. Levine said yesterday that negotiations over a community benefits agreement were near completion. He said he expected the agreement would be "much more significant" than a $5 million agreement signed last week between the developer of the nearby Gateway Center mall, local elected officials, and some community representatives.