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January 2016

CBA Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)?

Here is an excellent definition of community benefits agreements from expert CBA attorney Julian Gross:

A CBA is a legally enforceable contract, signed by community groups and by a developer, setting forth a range of community benefits that the developer agrees to provide as part of a development project. A CBA is the result of a negotiation process between the developer and organized representatives of affected communities, in which the developer agrees to shape the development in a certain way or to provide specified community benefits. In exchange, the community groups promise to support the proposed project.”

CBAs are increasingly being negotiated between private developers and community coalitions when the developer’s project could have significant negative impacts upon the community — by, for example, displacing local residents or small businesses, or adversely affecting local schools. Frequently, these are private projects seeking substantial public investment in the form of tax breaks or other subsidies. CBA negotiations give residents a chance to work directly with the developer on a plan to reduce the project’s harmful effects, and ensure that the project truly benefits the community that is subsidizing it.

Public benefits resulting from CBAs have truly been wide-ranging. Some common examples include guarantees for a portion of a project’s units to be set aside for working families; wage standards to ensure that the jobs created to build and run a project can sustain families and contribute to the community’s economic growth; agreements to hire and train community residents so that economic growth is truly local; safeguards to protect residents from the traffic congestion and environmental dangers of construction; and contributions from the developer to the local educational system, such as the construction of a new school.

Why is a CBA needed for Starwood’s United Hospital project?

Starwood Capital Group, a wealthy Greenwich-based private equity firm managing $44 billion worth of assets across the globe, seeks substantial public investment in its project to redevelop the United Hospital. The company wants both a rezoning that will instantly increase the value of the United Hospital property and a $60 million tax break. Yet, in return for these investments from Port Chester taxpayers, Starwood offers only meager public benefits. In fact, the benefits Starwood proposes fall far short of mitigating the negative impacts the project could have on our community and schools.

CBA negotiations would allow Starwood to meet directly with community leaders to reach an agreement for public benefits that would alleviate these adverse impacts and justify Port Chester’s investment in the project.

Until that happens, we continue to face a proposal from Starwood that could hurt Port Chester’s children and taxpayers by:

  • Reducing Starwood’s contributions to public schools by at least $34 million over 20 years;
  • Worsening the school overcrowding that our students and teachers already struggle with;
  • Permanently destroying 133 affordable homes for working Port Chester families;
  • Harming small businesses in Downtown Port Chester by leading to unfair competition, commercial rent hikes and higher property taxes.

What benefits should be included in a CBA for the United Hospital project?

The Sustainable Port Chester Alliance seeks a CBA that includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following essential community benefits:

  • A guarantee that all jobs for building and running the project will be good, safe jobs, offering ample training opportunities, and at least area-standard wages and benefits; with a significant portion of these jobs made available to Port Chester residents.
  • A plan for 20% of the project’s units to be affordable for working Port Chester families.
  • Funding from Starwood for the expansion of Port Chester schools to ensure this project does not exacerbate current overcrowding
  • The hiring of an independent monitor to supervise cleanup and mitigation at the hospital site, which is contaminated with hazardous materials, including PCBs, human waste and asbestos.
  • Provisions designed to protect Downtown Port Chester’s restaurants and retail from any rent hikes and/or unfair competition that could be instigated by the United Hospital redevelopment.