City Comptroller John Liu has formed his Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements, selecting four co-chairs who hail from backgrounds of labor, the real estate industry, housing and small business. The chairs are Jack Ahern, president of the Central Labor Council; Barry Gosin, CEO of brokerage Newmark Knight Frank; Priscilla Almodovar, a former top state housing finance official and an executive at JPMorgan Chase; and Joyce Moy, professor of Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship at the City University of New York.
The purpose of the effort, which saw its first meeting Friday, is to recommend a more formalized process of creating “community benefits agreements,” in which developers seeking public approvals strike deals with a collection of community groups and labor. The process surrounding the agreements has been criticized for its lack of consistency and for an inherent capriciousness in the spreading of benefits, among other complaints.
“Things sound great at the initial announcement once private entities get public subsidies, and then a few years later it’s much harder to see that they actually materialize,” Mr. Liu said Friday.
Mr. Liu is making this an early issue in his tenure—an interesting choice given that a CBA is not something that would customarily fall under the purview of the comptroller. (The comptroller has a vote on many tax incentives, but not on land-use decisions.) While the chairs on the task force represent an array of interests, the membership of the broader commission has a lefty bent, with representation from all the major unions on development issues (the Hotel and Motel Trades, SEIU 32BJ, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, and the Building Trades); affordable housing groups such as the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development; and small business advocates such as lobbyist Richard Lipsky.
The commission has been charged with making its recommendations in the next six months.
The announcement comes days after the Association of the Bar of New York City put out a thorough report on CBAs, criticizing the process by which they are typically formed. The Bar Association recommended a task force, but one convened by Mayor Bloomberg (who, of course, would be more empowered to enact recommendations than Mr. Liu, who would not have a vote on any necessary legislation).
More from Eliot Brown: