The CBA is Dead, Long Live the CBA

If you’re a real development junkie, you will remember the C.B.A. craze that took hold of the city last year, when real estate developers cozied up to grassroots activists to get projects approved and, when they couldn’t find any to cozy up to, they made them up. The rumor was that Mayor Bloomberg was going to crack down because these community benefits agreements were becoming just another word for bribe.

Not so–on the cracking down part. (The bribe part is still up for interpretation.) The request for proposals that the city’s Economic Development Corporation put out yesterday for the 575,000-square-foot Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx (which will likely become some sort of retail and entertainment complex) mimics provisions that appeared in the C.B.A.’s for the Atlantic Yards and Bronx Terminal Market projects, and carries the added weight of coming from an authority–the city–that could really crack down if pledges are violated.

The winner of the bake-off must, for example, participate in the “Buy Bronx” program, should take pains to recruit local employees for construction work, and better prod their tenants to hire neighborhood residents as well. The agency is also giving preference to plans with a lot of $10 an-hour-or-more jobs.

“I keep hearing that the Mayor is going to come out against C.B.A.’s, but by the time we get rid of C.B.A.’s, we will have made them official,” said land-use attorney Jesse Masyr, who largely wrote the Bronx Terminal Market C.B.A. while representing The Related Companies. “The good thing is that we may have taken the money out of them, which will make everybody more comfortable.”

Bettina Damiani, project director for Good Jobs New York, painted the city’s selection criteria as a step forward, though she noted that C.B.A.’s are supposed to be contracts between developers and community groups, rather than with the city. (Commuinty groups did, however, sit on the task force that came up with the request for proposals.)

“This is a good example of how development should happen in the city,” she said.”There is a better chance of New Yorkers benefitting from development and that’s positive.”

-Matthew Schuerman