Numbers game over Ratner arena jobs

The Brooklyn Paper
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At a June 17 rally on the steps of Borough Hall to support the Atlantic Yards project, the loudest cry came from labor.

As reported in last week’s Brooklyn Papers, men and women from various unions voiced support of the arena, residential and office tower development planned for Prospect Heights.

From the beginning the project’s developer, Bruce Ratner, has said the project will create 10,000 permanent jobs and 15,000 construction jobs.

But critics of the plan are pointing out that the project will really only create 1,500 construction jobs, which will continue each year for 10 years.

“Fifteen-hundred jobs a year over 10 years is 15,000 jobs and it’s 1,500 jobs a year in an area of high unemployme­nt,” said Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Beth Davidson. “I don’t think there would have been more than 2,000 workers supporting the Atlantic Yards project at last week’s rally if there were any doubt this project would create a significant number of jobs.”

Opponents of the plan disagree.

“I think it’s very misleading,” said Patti Hagan, a spokeswoman for the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, a group opposed to the $2.5 billion construction of a basketball arena, four soaring office towers, and 4.4 million square feet of apartment buildings.

Union organizer Anthony Pugliese, of the District Council of Carpenters, said he does not think Ratner is deceiving the public.

“It’s creating jobs, even it it’s 1,500 over 10 years, those are man hours that don’t exist right now,” he said. “We’re unions, we want to put our people to work.”

Ratner has vowed to build the entire project with union labor.

The pledge has raised some concerns among area residents who want to make sure they also get jobs.

Darnell Canada, who foundedPeople for Political and Economic Empowerment, a group aimed at creating jobs for people in public housing, wants to see a project labor agreement ensuring that jobs go to local residents.

“I know if there’s not a project labor agreement there’s no possible way the construction of the arena or any of those jobs will put the people down here to work,” said Canada.

“They said it’s 100-percent union, these [local] people are not in the union,” he added. “If they don’t do a project labor agreement the people down here won’t get the training they need.”

Daryl Green, a consultant for Ratner, said Forest City Ratner would work to create a pre-apprenticeship program with the unions. He said he expects one out of four jobs to go to local residents.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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