Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brian Lehrer and Seth Pinsky discuss CBAs and economic development in New York City

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, spoke on the Brian Lehrer show on Monday. Responding to a question about Mayor Bloomberg's recent criticisms of CBAs, Pinsky said that "it's important to distinguish between garnering community benefits through the legally prescribed process and community benefit agreements. The objection that the mayor has is that communities, and who these community members are, have often tried to make agreements separate from the political process to benefit only those communities in ways that are completely unenforceable by the city and also in ways that cost the city and cost city taxpayers substantial amounts of money."

I would point out that Bloomberg endorsed the Atlantic Yards CBA, even though there was no city review of the project at all, and he provided substantial funding to help Columbia negotiate a CBA through the West Harlem Local Development Corporation. So to a certain extent, if these CBAs are costing city taxpayers and operating outside the city planning process, it can be attributed to the administration's previous policy stance. Moreover, the New York City CBAs, for the most part, are not "completely unenforceable." There may be difficulty in enforcing them, but they're still valid contracts. (On that note, the Yankee Stadium CBA, which has the most legal problems, will soon be going to court.)

Pinsky continued by emphasizing the importance of a more formal process: "What the mayor feels is the appropriate way to ensure that communities in the city as a whole benefit, is to use the political process that we have, the Uniform Land Use Review Process, through which the community board, the borough president, as well as the city council are able to ensure that the communities get the benefits that they need."

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