About two years ago, Brookfield entered a competitive bid to develop a transit village that would have included housing, shops, etc. They then sat on it and just pulled out.
This is the same company that wanted to be the Master Developer of the Concord Naval Weapons Station and lost out to the Concord First Partners. I did not support Brookfield then because of what I saw as red flags in their proposal and situation, some of which relate to the BART deal:
1. They never signed or started to negotiate a union contract required by the BART deal.
2. They never reached out to the community.
3. They never reached out to the immediate neighbors who had serious objections to BART’s plan to build on their backyard fence.
4. They never reached out to the City Council on the project
5. They never pushed BART on their side and ignored the community as above.
However, there is more when it came to the weapons station Master Development Agreement:
1. In my first meeting with them, I asked them about the above issues. Their answer was that they wanted to see what we were really going to do, which I also attributed to why they did not submit the required agreement with the building trades – which was done only by Concord First Partners.
2. About eight months prior, there was a mass demonstration against them in their New York office by IBEW3 (electricians’ union) for wage theft: agreeing to a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and not following through. For the various sins of the Concord First Partners, breaking a PLA was not one of them.
3. A New York municipality had gone through project assignment. After getting it and waiting and waiting, Brookfield walked.
4. In a fight with AIG, they had to pay out more than $900 million for what might be called legalistic misbehavior.
5. They had numerous environmental fines, currently more than $7 million, hardly making them the squeaky clean of developers.
6. They had a sketchy set of deals with Jared Kushner over a New York City building.
7. When asked who they were going to use for the 40% local origins, they replied, “We have a very good relationship with Albert Seeno.”
A better position
They were going to use Discovery. With Discovery at 45% of Concord Partners with their money at risk, we should have a better power position than trying to deal with them through the screen of Wall Street.
Then again, there is more in how to deal with this:
1. Legal advisors asked if they would rather go against Brookfield or the Concord Partners clearly said Concord First Partners.
2. When asked, friends in the labor movement advised that dealing with the local/Main Street companies was far better.
3. When asked of financial friends and reflecting on my own experiences with Lennar, the position was that Wall Street would always have a higher demand for a rate of return than privately held, Main Street companies.
The world is a dangerous place, and I have had to deal with high-risk situations all over it in the maritime business. It never comes down to trust – that is naïve. It always starts with your power relationship vs. those with whom you are dealing.
If you are going to wrestle an alligator, pick the smallest one and wrap as many bands around its mouth as you can.
Edi Birsan is a member of the Concord City Council. However, opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not reflect those of the city. Send comments and questions to EdiBirsan@gmail.com.