Local workers who once championed the Atlantic Yards project have turned their back on developer Forest City Ratner — vowing to protest every two weeks until they get what they were promised: thousands of jobs.
About 100 people rallied outside the in-progress Barclays Center on Wednesday morning to demand jobs and contracts for minority workers, many of them from the community organizations that loudly supported the controversial project.
“We pushed for Atlantic Yards from 2003 until the project got going,” said Martin Allen, president of People for Political and Economic Empowerment. “Now they shut the doors on us.”
Allen, a 61-year-old union worker, said that his group — which finds jobs for hard-to-employ people such as ex-cons — has yet to receive any contracts. Instead, he said, Ratner is hiring laborers from outside the community.
From the beginning, developer Bruce Ratner touted the 15,000 construction jobs he would bring to the area.
But those jobs are in short supply since most of the Atlantic Yards mega-project has stalled. The development is supposed to include the basketball arena and up to 16 residential and office towers, though everything but the arena is on hold.
Ratner also announced in March that his first residential tower might be built using prefabricated steel boxes — jeopardizing hundreds of union jobs.
Atlantic Yards spokesman Joe DePlasco said that 543 people are working on the arena and 217 of them are from Brooklyn. He promised thousands more jobs if the larger project ever gets off the ground.
“Unfortunately, there have been significant delays due to litigation and, more recently, the recession,” he said.
DePlasco said that Forest City Ratner aims to start construction on the first residential tower by the end of this year. But Allen and other workers say they’ve heard enough empty guarantees.
“We’re going to start hitting them where it hurts and let them know what they’re doing is wrong to the people of Brooklyn,” said Allen, whose group is an offshoot of REBUILD, an organization launched by the late Fort Greene activist Darnell Canada.
Canada was once an advocate for BUILD — a local group that signed a “benefits agreement” with Ratner to secure local jobs for the project — but resigned in 2004 citing BUILD’s focus on “financial self gain.”
The arena is on target to open next September.
©2011 Community News Group
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