An alert reader pointed to a new post by Norman Oder, who has been following the so-called Atlantic Yards project, a $4/9 billion proposed “redevelopment” for part of Brooklyn proposed by Bruce Rattner of Forest City Development.
What caught his eye was that Schneiderman had secured a settlement from three groups, one New York City’s “economic development agency” and two local development corporations. This triumverate was pushing local legislators to support development projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.
What’s wrong with that? The Wall Street Journal explains:
Local development corporations are nonprofit organizations that can acquire land from a municipality without public bidding, and they are commonly used in major public projects. While technically separate from government, their political independence varies widely. They are banned from lobbying.
This is also a poke in Bloomberg’s eye, since they were pet initiatives of his. Schneiderman takes a victory lap:
“These local development corporations flouted the law and lobbied elected officials, both directly and through third parties,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
But Oder raises the question: why didn’t Schneiderman also pursue the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which operates in pretty much the same manner? Might it have something to do with the $12,500 that Rattner gave to Schneiderman’s 2010 campaign?
…there was no mention of seemingly similar activities by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which lobbied the city for the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and the state for approval of Atlantic Yards. As a 10/28/09 New York Times article stated:
Mr. Doctoroff was determined to do better, through a local business group, the Flushing-Willets Point Local Development Corporation, which received half its money from the city. But about half the group’s money was spent doing something not allowed under state law: lobbying city officials. The group’s lobbying, has led to an investigation by the attorney general’s office.
That investigation has expanded into the activities of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which the city helped create in 2006 to help push through development plans following a broad rezoning of the area.
The city awarded the group a $6 million three-year no-bid contract. The group raised another $1.1 million in private donations, tax records show. And Mr. Doctoroff installed a top aide, Joe Chan, to run it. The partnership has become a key voice for the development of Downtown Brooklyn, inserting itself, critics say, into the debate over a plan to build a Nets area and high-rises at the Atlantic Yards. It has spent some $200,000 on lobbying expenses. Councilman Lewis A. Fidler complained last year that the partnership was using public funds to promote Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing plan.
I queried the Attorney General’s office yesterday about whether the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership had been given a clean bill of health (and, if so, why), or whether an investigation was continuing. I didn’t get an answer.
It’s difficult to see how the DBP, which is a not-for-profit local development corporation, does not, like the other entities named, fall under section 1411(c) of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, says no “such corporation shall attempt to influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise.”
The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning aftermath involves legislation, and the Atlantic Yards plan involved legislation, such as the city and state approvals of budgets containing subsidies. And if “legislation” is broadly seen as government approval, well, the DBP’s Joe Chan, and board members, testified regularly at Atlantic Yards hearings…
We still don’t know cause and effect, but Schneiderman owes the public an explanation of why the DBP was excluded.