Friday, January 22, 2010

Lower East Side Basketball City CBA?

There has been talk for the past few weeks of a CBA for Basketball City, a recreational facility planned for Pier 36 on the New York City's East River. Based on a 1994 legal agreement requiring Pier 36 to be "permanently dedicated for use... as a community recreation facility," the developer previously agreed to make the facility available to low income residents (more info on that legal agreement here). But that promise wasn't included in the city's lease to Basketball City, leading Community Board 3 to seek a binding CBA.

The proposed community benefits agreement requires Basketball City to charge reduced fees for CB3 residents, and even smaller fees for low income and public housing residents. Free court time would be offered to nonprofits and schools, and the developer would be expected to make a good faith effort to provide living wage jobs.

Bruce Radler, president of Basketball City, says that he can't formalize a CBA because the project hasn't started. He also emphasizes that "Basketball City is committed to giving back to the community."

One question that nobody seems to have asked yet, is whether CB3 should even be involved with this CBA. Remember, back in 2007, the city planning commission recommended that CB9 create a private local development corporation to negotiate a CBA with Columbia University, instead of bargaining directly. Having the community board involved, the planning commission said, "would raise significant issues regarding sound land use planning and create either the appearance or reality that such agreements are not voluntary in nature."

In fact, there's already a community organization that's been developing ideas for the Lower East Side waterfront. The O.U.R. Waterfront Coalition produced "A People's Plan for the East River Waterfront" through a community visioning process involving three planning sessions with 150 participants, a town hall meeting with 80 participants, and an 800-person survey. They've also commissioned financial analyses and business plans, and they've reviewed existing NYC Economic Development Corporation contracts. (See also here for information on the Waterfront Alliance.) The Waterfront Coalition had been negotiating directly with Bruce Radler for community benefits, but it agreed last week to work through the CB3 framework instead of negotiating separately.

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