Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Just to be clear, Mr. Carrion

I am all for the White House having an Office of Urban Affairs. But the Director, Adolfo Carrion, shouldn't be boasting about his CBAs in his official bio. It explains that during his tenure as Bronx Borough President, "Almost no project passed muster without a Community Benefits Agreement." What it doesn't explain is that the Gateway Center and Yankee Stadium CBAs didn't really involve the community, making them less like real CBAs and more like backroom political deals. It doesn't mention that the Gateway Center CBA doesn't provide for specific performance as a remedy, but only liquidated damages, or that the Yankee Stadium CBA is very likely unenforceable for lack of consideration. Nor does it mention all of the shenanigans that have gone on with the Yankee Stadium CBA, like the year and half long delay in distributing funding under the CBA, the lawsuit filed by the community fund's former lawyer and administrator alleging mismanagement of the fund, the indictment of a city council member on extortion and money laundering charges related to a procurement contract connected to the CBA, or the fact that parks promised to be built on the site of the old Yankee Stadium still haven't materialized.

It's problems like these that have contributed to the poor reputation of New York City CBAs and created precedent for developers to co-opt the CBA negotiating process. The CBAs that Carrion helped to draft and finalize also figure among the catalysts for City Comptroller John Liu's recent decision to form a task force on CBA best practices and reforms. The White House simply shouldn't be representing these agreements up as an example of good urban policy, even if only impliedly.

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