Defenders of the Atlantic Yards community benefits agreement have long whispered that it is vastly superior to the much ballyhooed minority hiring plan hatched last February by the New York Jets for the football team’s ill-fated West Side stadium. The Real Estate just got a copy of the plan, which was widely believed to have been kept secret from the press when it was released. (Jets spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein said this week it was given to anyone reporter who asked for it.) But it isn’t so much a plan as it is a plan for a plan. In it, the consultants promise to “[establish] parameters for firm participation” and “implement an outreach strategy to target areas of high unemployment.” Jets President Jay Cross was widely quoted at the time as saying the stadium would give “up to $100 million” worth of work to minority-led firms (about 5 percent of the total project cost), but the plan doesn’t even mention that figure as a goal, let alone guarantee it. By contrast, developer Forest City Ratner promises in the Atlantic Yards agreement at least to try to hire 35 percent minority construction workers and to steer 20 percent of the construction spending to minority-owned firms for the 22-acre project in Brooklyn, which will include a new basketball arena for the Nets and 16 apartment and office towers.
Yet one element that the Jets included that Forest City did not was a conflict-of-interest clause: the politicians, association heads and consultants who were on the minority advisory board for the stadium and were to continue on as supervisors of the agreement “will be precluded from entering into any service contract work with the NY Jets and its consultants on the [New York Sports and Convention Center] project.”
Earle Walker, executive director of the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors, which devised the Jets agreement, told the Real Estate that the conflict-of-interest clause came about largely for a practical reason. “We would have a meeting that would go on for two or three hours and we would spend at least an hour on who was going to get what contract,” he told the Real Estate.
Just imagine what went on in that Forest City board room!
Without such a conflict-of-interest clause, three of the eight signatories of the Atlantic Yards agreement have already received money from Ratner. BUILD, which had received $138,000 as of mid-October, is drafting its jobs program right now. The big question is whether BUILD will actually do the training itself (and take much of the money), or subcontract it out to other certified, and experienced, job-training programs (and simply take an administrative fee).