Monday, March 02, 2009

Feasting on Carrion

The NY Daily News' I-Team focused yesterday on the tawdry pay for play machinations of our new White House policy advisor-the developer's munecho-Adolfo Carrion: "The man who is President Obama's newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers' money, a Daily News probe found. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion often received contributions just before or after he sponsored money for projects or approved important zoning changes, records show."

On project after project AC was a friend, not to the communities or minority businesses who could have used the support of the city's highest ranking Hispanic legislator, but to those real estate interests whose projects were often antithetical to real community needs. Nothing was more emblematic of this sell-out philosophy than AC's shilling for the destruction of the Bronx Terminal Market, and the subsequent building of the Gateway Mall by Related.

Here, not only were the merchants evicted, without so much as a meager helping hand from the Bronx BP (after Carrion called the market a, "commercial ghetto"); but the resulting project will generate 125,000! cars and trucks a week to the area of the South Bronx known as "asthma alley." As the News points out, and as we have commented extensively on:

"Developer Related Companies' subsidiary, BTM Development Partners, needed Carrion and the city Planning Commission to change zoning, modify height restrictions and approve permits for parking spaces. As the project moved forward, the neighborhood railed about increased traffic and the impact the chain stores would have on local businesses. All the while Related executives wrote campaign checks to Carrion. On March 10, 2005, five $1,000 donations from Related executives arrived. On June 20, 2005, the company notified the city it planned to build a 1 million-square-foot retail center with 2,610 parking spaces and a 250-room hotel. On Oct. 19, 2005, Carrion approved the project, with his office monitoring local hiring. Since 2003, Carrion has received $39,100 from 24 Gateway-related donations."

Adding insult to injury, Carrion proceeded to usurp the community's role in the development of a community benefits agreement. As we highlighted at the time:

"The negotiation process for this CBA was incredibly, incredibly flawed:

• Normally CBAs are negotiated prior to the land use review process so that community coalitions can have leverage over developers. The opposite occurred with the Gateway CBA. Brainstorming for the document only began in November after City Planning Certification, Community Board approval, and the Borough President’s “Yes” vote. The agreement was finalized two days prior to the City Council’s approval.

• There was no independent community coalition. The community-based organizations involved in the initial brainstorming (“the taskforce”) were handpicked by BOEDC and Borough President Carrion. When certain group representatives said or did things that upset the Borough President they were kicked out of the negotiating group.

• None of the taskforce members had CBA negotiating experience

• The taskforce was not given legal representation

• Unknown to the participants, representatives from Related were in the room while the taskforce brainstormed

• The taskforce never negotiated directly with Related. Final negotiations occurred between Bronx elected officials and the developer. For this reason the final CBA is a very watered down version of what the community asked for.

• Most of the City Council never had the chance to read the CBA. The final copy was sent to the Council the morning of the project’s approval."

And, as we pointed out in this morning's NY Times focus on Carrion: "It’s ironic that President Obama hired Adolfo Carrión, whose record in the Bronx at every turn thwarted the interest of the community, and yet the president started his career as a community organizer,” said Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for the market’s former merchants." The NY Daily News followed up its expose yesterday as well, and we told the paper: "Carrión's acted in such a perverse manner to really go out of his way to thwart community and small-business concerns," Lipsky charged."

So Carrion, someone with both good looks and charm-if not good judgment-leaves a legacy of abandoning genuine community interests; both substantively as well as procedurally, to go to work for the ultimate community organizer. Either Obama has taken a real audacious leap of faith here-suspending all disbelief-or Carrion will hopefully transform himself into a shrewd analyst of urban problems. Anyone want to take the under/over here?