Developing Progress: Ensuring that public resources contribute to New York’s equity, resilience, and dynamic democracy
Progressive development policies that ensure consideration of economic, social, and environmental impacts will grow a city that is equitable, resilient, and democratic. While stimulating new revenues for the city, progressive development policies will also promote the economic and environmental sustainability of our communities and provide good jobs to both construction and permanent employees.
Each year New York City invests $2 billion to encourage private development, but it does not require progressive development practices, transparency about job creation or other contributions to community well-being, or accountability to benchmarks that could demonstrate the return on this investment.
Starwood Capital Group’s track record for development in New York City provides a good example of the problems with the current approach to the public’s investment. While some Starwood developments meet responsible development standards, others endanger workers and other community members. Notably, on its publicly subsidized project at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Starwood has partnered with a general contractor with a history of safety violations and alleged illegal behavior.
Examples like the Pier 1 project highlight the need for higher standards with stronger enforcement on projects the public invests in. Brooklyn Bridge Park – particularly, the development of Pier 6 there – offers the city an opportunity to develop principles, institute policies, and enforce standards to ensure that public resources contribute to New York’s equity, resilience, and dynamic democracy.
We recommend that immediate steps be taken as a broader set of progressive development policies takes shape:
- The request for proposals for development of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 should include strong, clear criteria to promote the economic and environmental sustainability.
- Starwood Capital should use only responsible contractors and subcontractors on the Pier 1 project.
- Pension funds should withhold future investments with Starwood Capital until the group meets the pension funds’ Responsible Contractor standards.
- Developers should be legally accountable and culpable for the safety, health, and environmental conditions on their worksites.
- Penalties for violations of safety, health, building, and environmental standards, as well as for violations of community benefits and other agreements in public contracts should be raised.