Thursday, December 28, 2006

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Says They Were Robbed

If you've been following the entire Atlantic Yards process, you will recall that the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods was picked to coordinate the "community expert review" of the huge Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement. We were skeptical at first, figuring that the same people that were guiding Atlantic Yards through the approval process had handpicked a fox to check out the quality of the poultry in the hen house. We were wrong. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods did an incredible job of keeping watch over the process, becoming one of the most vocal critics of the process and the hasty way the review was conducted.

Now, it turns out that the group, which was supposed to get $100,000 from the New York State Assembly to cover the cost of hiring experts and doing oversight, hasn't been paid. The write:
Based on these assurances CBN contracted a large team of environmental consultants and produced a highly praised independent analysis that is being used by officials in evaluating the Atlantic Yards proposal. One problem…the Assembly money has “disappeared.”

What happened?

Outgoing Assemblyman and early Atlantic Yards supporter Roger Green twice blocked the money, and twice after meeting with CBN members who addressed his concerns he agreed to remove his freeze. CBN would really like an accounting of where that money has gone and why.

“Public money was promised three times for a community review of this EIS. The community deserves to know what happened to that money. We hope the media and all government officials will insure these questions are answered. We aren’t going to let this drop without an accounting,” said James Vogel, spokesman for CBN.

It’s just so easy to skip paying bills during the holidays, especially if you’re the government!
There is a cautionary tale here for community organizations messing with big projects that come with government (or developer) money, and we're not entirely convinced this is the last cry of "we've been stiffed" that we will hear, given all the groups that have gotten and will get Forest City Ratner money from the process. That having been said, this smacks of dirty, lowdown politics at its finest. First you hire a group and hope they'll be pushovers. Then, when they turn out to do excellent work, you simply try to screw them by not paying, in turn, stiffing all the consultants they hired to analyze the huge Atlantic Yards documents. Let's hope it's just a itty-bitty check processing boo boo. But, given the rank ugliness of the Atlantic Yards process, we're thinking more than honest paperwork error.

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