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BROOKLYN     Press Release Main Page


For Immediate Release: September 29, 2005

Bruce Ratner Buys B.U.I.L.D., Fabricating Support for Atlantic Yards
Smoking Gun IRS Documents Reveal $5 Million Payment to
Supposed "Community Organization"

B.U.I.L.D and Ratner Have Denied Funding Scheme
NEW YORK, NY–Today Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) released IRS documents providing smoking gun proof that Bruce Ratner is paying $5 million to the group that he has used as foot soldiers to garner community support.

The $5 million payment to Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) was made in the midst of negotiations over a so called "Community Benefits Agreement" (CBA) for Forest City Ratner's (FCR) 17 skyscraper and arena development in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, Brooklyn.

BUILD, a recently formed 501c3 organization established by Assemblyman Roger Green, has no track record in workforce and small business development (the areas for which it is responsible in the CBA), and it came into existence after the Ratner proposal was announced in December 2003. BUILD came out strongly in support of the Ratner proposal during its first public appearance.

Of the three BUILD officers, according to the IRS 1023 form, President James Caldwell receives a salary of $125,000, while Chief Operating Officer Marie Louis and Chief Administrative Officer Shalawn Langhorne each bring in a $100,000 salary. These officers also form 75% of the Board of Directors, thereby determining their own salaries. Some of Ratner's $5 million pays these salaries, while nearly $4 million is budgeted for unaccountable "salaries and wages." BUILD budgets the entire $5 million over 2005 and 2006Æthe key years where Ratner seeks political support and governmental approval for his proposal.

BUILD and Forest City Ratner have repeatedly denied that the developer funds the group created to support Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. As recently as September 21, on the Brian Lehrer show, BUILD COO Marie Louis emphatically denied and took strong issue when Mr. Lehrer asked if Ratner funds her group. In an April 2005 New York Sun article Ms. Louis called the claim that Ratner finances BUILD, "a malicious and outrageous lie." Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey in a November 2004 Brooklyn Papers article said, "of course BUILD and ACORN are not getting paid."

"It is clear that Mr. Ratner has fabricated the appearance of community support by paying BUILD to be his leading foot soldiers" said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "Ratner has cynically paid BUILD to do his bidding, such as: making claims that Prospect Heights is blighted; filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in favor of Ratner's favorite tactic--eminent domain; rallying against and accusing Councilwoman Letitia James of being against jobs and housing; turning every serious concern about, and objection to, the project into an issue of race."

"What was already viewed as an illegitimate "Community Benefits Agreement" is now nothing but a clearly compromised Personal Benefits Agreement, negotiated at the expense of the community it's supposed to benefit. We have been witness to a hoax; there is no reason at all to trust anything that comes out of Ratner's PR machine or his supporters' mouths," Goldstein said.

The district's Assemblyman and Ratner supporter, Roger Green, was a driving force in the creation of BUILD. Mr. Green's former staffer Randall Toure was hired out of Green's office by Forest City Ratner to act as a community liaison seeking support for the Atlantic Yards project. From that relationship BUILD sprouted.

Bonnie Brower, Executive Director of the non-partisan public policy organization City Project, said, "If New York City had a genuinely democratic, rational and effective process for discussing and approving major developments, residents of communities immediately affected by proposed projects would be activeæparticipants in shapingæsuch deals from beginning to completion, andæother cityæresidents and officials would also have a voice,æwheneveræsuch projects affected city revenues.æThe problem with the Atlantic Yards project and the so-called ïCommunity Benefits Agreement' is that there is neither any authenticæpublic process for participation nor anyæeffective public oversight. As a result,æthere is far too much opportunity foræself-dealing and narrow interests to cut deals thatæwill predictably have long-term, adverseæimpacts on the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods and on the city as a whole."

Goldstein continued, "The CBA is a charade. Community support for Ratner's project is a fabrication; Ratner's chief cheerleaders are overpaid employees of his. What did Roger Green know about this $5 million paid to the organization he founded? Mr. Green must come clean and explain himself and his organization's behavior. We call on the 25 politicians who endorsed the CBA, including Senator Schumer, Mayor Bloomberg, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and Comptroller Thompson, to withdraw their support for Ratner and his ïcommunity benefits agreement.'"

"We want to know what Ratner has offered the other seven CBA signatories, four of who are not even incorporated. As members of the community that is supposed to be represented in the CBA, we will be calling for an investigation of the CBA groups and the entire mechanism employed by Forest City Ratner to negotiate such a compromised agreement," Goldstein said.

Mr. Ratner has tried to create and foment racial division in his quest to build his publicly funded 9 million square foot development. BUILD has aided him in this deliberate attempt by publicly describing opposition to the project as a "white" position (see: www.dddb.net/BUILD/bidding.php). Oddly enough BUILD's President James Caldwell and a another core member of BUILD appeared in a Mayor Bloomberg campaign advertisement this past summer. The Mayor, who fully supports Ratner's plan, endorsed the CBA but did not sign it. Instead he released a statement misleadingly stating "Bloomberg...signs CBA." At the CBA signing ceremony, when asked about the enforceability of such a non-governmental document, the Mayor said, "...you have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you and for everybody else in the community."

DDDB spokesman Goldstein concluded, "Today's news must be the tip of the iceberg, and we encourage New York's press corps to look below that tip. For two years now the public has been asking this: Will our elected officials finally stop giving Bruce Ratner a free ride and start scrutinizing his secret, taxpayer-subsidized, sweetheart deal and his unacceptable tactics? Clearly he can afford to pay."

TIMELINE:
December 10, 2003
-- Bruce Ratner unveils his Brooklyn Atlantic Yards (BAY) Development Proposal

January 23, 2004 -- Assemblyman Roger Green announces the creation of BUILD

March 4, 2004 -- BUILD Announces support for Ratner BAY Project

August, 2004 -- BUILD begins its "CBA" negotiations with FCR

December 20, 2004
-- BUILD files 1023 form for 501c3 status with IRS, indicating $5 million payment from Ratner

June 27, 2005
-- BUILD, 7 other groups, and Ratner sign CBA, with Mayor Bloomberg, Assemblyman Green, Public Advocate Gotbaum, Borough President Markowitz, and other elected officials as witnesses.



In other recent Forest City Ratner/Atlantic Yards News


Below is based on the first official document released regarding the Ratner proposal, which is the draft scoping document. It can be found at the Empire State Development Corporation's website, at: http://tinyurl.com/c7xqy

Housing:
What was announced on May 19, 2005 as a revolutionary 50%-50% "affordable" housing agreement between FCR and ACORN has officially been reduced to a 31% "affordable" housing program. All the "affordable housing is dependent on an extraordinary package of city, state and federal housing subsidies. ACORN has not fulfilled its promise of a 50%-50% housing program.

Of the proposed 7,300 housing units, 5,050 would be market rate luxury units, while 2,250 would be "affordable." Only 12% of the housing units would be for low-income families earning less than the Brooklyn median income of $35,000. As Councilman Charles Barron has said, the Ratner proposal is "instant gentrification."

Jobs:
When the project was unveiled in December 2003, FCR announced there would be over 10,000 permanent jobs. The Mayor continues to claim 8,500 jobs. As of one month ago FCR claimed 6,000 jobs. The latest official scoping document outlining the project includes office space or room for 3900 jobs at most. According to an NYC Economic Development Corporation scenario, only 30% of those jobs will be new jobs, totaling 1,170 potential new jobs. None of which can be guaranteed to local residents.


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DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

Supporting Documents & Information:

Pertinent BUILD IRS forms showing $5 million funding from Forest City Ratner, budgets, and salaries  (pdf)
or HTML.

Timeline of Events

Video clip, from 9/21/05 Brian Lehrer CUNY-TV show, of BUILD President Marie Louis denying her group is funded by Ratner.
[QuickTime-shorter clip, 2.2mb]
[QuickTime-longer clip, 5.8 mb]
[Streaming RealVideo, start at 23:55 for funding denial]

Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey denies funding BUILD

BUILD denies that Ratner funds the organization, claims its a "myth"

Context & Questions: Ratner, BUILD and the "Community Benefits Agreement"

Assemblyman Roger Green's instrumental role in forming BUILD

Testimony by BUILD's President James Caldwell at May 2005 City Council Hearing

What is the validity of the so-called "Community Benefits Agreement?"

Past quotes related to Ratner funding of BUILD, FCR and BUILD's denial, and examples of BUILD/CBA tactics

Doing Ratner's Bidding:
How BUILD has supported Forest City Ratner in return for Payment

BUILD's (and Reverend Daughtry's) amicus brief for Kelo v. New London, supporting the City of New London, and the Ratner position on eminent domain (pdf)

An overview of the CBA, BUILD, Ratner, Roger Green story: Download Chapter 4 on the "CBA" in the report: The New York Times and Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards: High-Rises and Low Standards (pdf)

Snake in the 'grassroots'
Juan Gonzalez, NY Daily News
September 29, 2005.
A nonprofit group that spearheaded neighborhood support for the huge $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards housing and commercial development in Brooklyn, reported to the IRS in January that virtually all its $5 million budget for 2005 and 2006 was coming from Forest City Ratner, the project's developer. continue...

A Cool $5 Million
Matthew Schuerrman
The Observer Real Estate Blog
September 29, 2005
For a long time now, opponents of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project said that a grassroots group supporting it, BUILD, was astroturf. continue...

Brooklyn arena opponents call community group a front
APNew York on Newsday
September 29, 2005

Brooklyn Arena Supporters Got Millions From Ratner
WNYC. Andrea Bernstein
September 30, 2005

WBAI Coverage (go to 19:15)
September 29, 2005