By MAUREEN NEVIN
I'm amazed by the local daily's reaction to this Madison Marquette (MM) deal with Asbury Partners. The editorial board interview was a cream puff job. Once more, it contained no financial information!! The only way to be confident of any partnership is to know what the parties are in for - a dime or a dollar.
What's the commitment? Is there an escape clause? Do we get to see this contract - ever? We're told the City will give up air rights, allowing taller buildings in exchange for MM's participation. Why should this cost A.P. anything? We have a budget shortfall that could be wiped out by the sale of air rights. Remember the Dispute Resolution Agreement?
Can you say Breach of Contract? The Dispute Resolution Agreement, hammered out of months and months - behind closed doors - was supposedly a get tough measure to make the Partners more accountable to their deadlines.
Isn't this new deal allowing the Partners to dodge another commitment and more deadlines for finishing work on the boardwalk? Tell me where it's not so. Another round of negotiating is necessary, Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno is quoted saying. Another round of private - out of the public eye talk among the principals - who won't include you or me.
This latest development basically allows the City to acquiesce instead of pressing its rightful legal position with the Partners. How does the City enforce its interests in this deal if it's between the Partners and MM? Now the City will be one more entity removed from enforcing its rights. Gees, only a lawyer like Alfred Faiella could feel comfortable plunging into a tangled web like this one promises to be. Oh, that's right, Faiella is the Partners' lawyer. What did the editorial board story say, M.D. Sass's Hugh Lamle is a 50% partner? Lamle? We know that Cherokee is a 50% partner in Asbury Partners. So who's out of the game? How can you cover this deal without clarifying that point?
Cherokee was never even named in the story. Are they still in? Those interviewed declined to discuss the financial end of this reportedly $150 million investment, the paper said. The financials are the story!!! Sure I'm glad somebody got out there and cleaned up and prettied up the 5th Avenue pavilion and opened businesses there. What's not to like? But this city isn't a little girl to be told, "Don't look a gift horse in the face. You're a lucky little girl to be at this dance at all." This is just the time when we should be looking that horse straight in the eye.
As we used to say, we've been down so long anything looks like up. But this is just the time to be most wary.
Just tell me why the city is giving up anything now. We've got a signed deal - two signed deals. Why should we make a third? Isn't it allowing the Partners to square the deal with MM? If so, the City is giving the Partners the equivalent of millions to give to MM in order to buy the Partners' way out of the hole they're in with the City. And, one more thing: The paper's budget story on 6/17 about the projected 11.5% increase for taxpayers. How do you refer to a $7 million revenue shortfall due to a successful tax appeal against the city and not identify the winners?