Monday, January 07, 2008

CBA Yanked

In today's NY Times, the paper's Timothy Williams takes a hard look at the community benefits agreement that was crafted when the deal to build a new Yankee Stadium was struck two years ago. We're far from shocked to see that, although benefits were supposed to flow as soon as construction began, so far no money has been allocated- and the "community group" in charge has yet to meet: "But nearly 17 months after construction began, as workers race to complete the new Yankee Stadium by opening day 2009, none of that money has been distributed, and the group responsible for administering it has never met."

What we have here is the flimsiest semblance of a CBA: "The agreement for Yankee Stadium was unusual, however, because it was not negotiated or signed by community members. It carries only the signatures of four elected officials, who said they were acting on behalf of the community, and a representative of the Yankees." Who're they kidding?

This CBA is no different in substance from the one that was "negotiated" over the dead body of the old Bronx Terminal Market, a market discarded when a deal was struck to evict long time merchants in order to make way for the new Gateway Mall. At the time we labeled that deal the Carrion Benefits Agreement, in honor of the creative role played by the Bronx BP, and the fact that many of the community reps bailed on the agreement before it was signed-in protest of the rigged nature of the negotiations orchestrated by our old friend Jesse James Masyr.

In fact, when the Gateway CBA was signed, Yankee president Randy Levine told Dave Lombino in the NY Sun that his CBA deal 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." At the time, the Sun's Andrew Wolf saw through all of this: "To ensure the continued support of Bronx public officials, a scheme has been concocted to have the Yankees set up a $28 million trust fund to be run by "an individual of prominence" selected by a group appointed by Bronx political leaders. Would it surprise anyone if the "individual of prominence" dispenses the largesse to the groups that pledge fealty to the party bosses?

And so it went. This is clearly a race toward the bottom; and the panel set up on the Yankee CBA has yet to be even be incorporated. Council member Foster, an opponent of both the stadium project as well as the mall deal deservedly has the last word: "Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster, who represents the High Bridge neighborhood and who opposed the stadium, said she had neither been briefed nor been asked for an opinion on the board. She said she had sent letters requesting information to Mr. CarriĆ³n and to council members Ms. Baez and Ms. del Carmen Arroyo without response. “I have no idea how people were selected to the panel,” she said. “It concerns me, but I’m also wise enough to know that a lot of people are hinging careers on how great this deal is, so I’m not surprised we haven’t had this conversation.”