Friday, November 14, 2008

CBAs as "shakedowns"

From yesterday's New York Post, in an article about the controversial Willets Point redevelopment project:

Outgoing City Councilman Hiram Monserrate and some particularly dubious allies have succeeded in squeezing City Hall for a "community benefit" agreement requiring a vast tract of low-income housing to be included in whatever ultimately rises at Willets Point.

"Community benefit," of course, is a euphemism for "legal shakedown."

From a potential developer's perspective, it represents a pre-negotiated bribe paid to politicians and their allies for the right to attempt to create new jobs, and to bolster the city's revenue base.

But the practice is all the rage in New York these days. Similar requirements accompanied the recent Harlem rezoning deal, and "community benefit" shakedowns were integral to the new Yankee and Shea baseball-stadium projects.

The successful Willets Point developer now must agree to dedicate fully 35 percent of the undertaking to low-income tenants - up from a barely tenable 20 percent in City Hall's original proposal.


But Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Chris Quinn are behind it. And Monserrate and his allies are happy.

Now to find a developer.

Good luck with that.

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