Building Trades

Brooklyn Bridge Park Can’t Tune Out Labor’s Voice

June 6, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco

Build Up NYC rallies outside BBPB offices.

Build Up NYC rallies outside BBPB offices.

Brooklyn, New York – Build Up NYC, the coalition of organized working men and woman fighting for responsible development across the city, pumped up the volume on a meeting of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board [BBPB] on Wednesday, blasting the governing body for failing to heed warnings about the anti-labor group tapped to develop the coveted waterfront site, and predicting a “nightmare” for the city. (Watch Video)

“We wish that we could work in concert with Brooklyn Bridge Park,” Daniel Walcott, director of special projects for the NYC District Council of Carpenters, told the board. “A simple Google search would have put a red flag against this contractor. We were told in the past by this board that there would be discussions with the trades, but that has not happened.”

Walcott made his remarks while the rest of the Build Up NYC coalition rallied with squealing sound effects and horror movie screams just outside on Furman Street. The coalition has long opposed the decision to let the Starwood Capital Group develop a condominium and hotel project on public land located at Pier 1. The developer’s subsequent hiring of the Hudson Meridian Construction Group – an outfit the coalition is criticizing for its long history of violations and litigation – has only heightened those concerns. 

“I told them a year ago that this project has to have good jobs, and it’s got to be part of the RFP, but they didn’t listen to me,” said Councilman Steve Levin, who also serves on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board. “They gave it to a developer that has no track record of dealing with the working families of New York City in a fair and honorable way. So, now we’re in a situation where they have no idea what’s going on. They’ve got a developer who’s not dealing straight with any of the labor unions. It’s going to be a nightmare.”

Dennis Lee, a union organizer with Local 79, argued that non-union jobs are a “cancer” on the city that last year cost Gotham over $1.1 billion – and that further subsidizing of those same kinds of jobs will soon mean fewer police, firefighting and ambulatory services.

“This is a terrible social problem that is only going to get worse,” Lee said. “The billionaires of this world can easily afford to pay union wages. It behooves all of us to have good paying jobs. Not for just workers themselves, but because they benefit the city directly. Look at all those tax dollars that we’re losing out on. How can you guys sit here, ladies and gentlemen, and appoint them this job with a straight face and a good heart?

Lee never got an answer to his question. Regina Meyer, Brooklyn Bridge Park president, and possible successor to Amanda Burden as the next City Planning Commission chief, told LaborPress that the BBPB encourages “the developers and unions to speak.”

“That’s all I can say,” Myer said. 

Councilwoman Letitia James, meanwhile, charged that the fast pace of non-union development sweeping throughout Downtown Brooklyn has proven to be deadly, as well economically disastrous for working men and women.

“At last count, there were five deaths,” Councilwoman James said. “Five people lost their lives. Most of them were undocumented immigrants coming to our shores for opportunity. When we do development, we need to do it safely. We need to built it with prevailing wages and we need to build it union.”

The local representative and candidate for NYC public advocate, also jeered the Bloomberg administration for overseeing the greatest transfer of wealth from working people to rich people in the history of New York City, and said that the present development of Brooklyn Bridge Park will depress wages and “turn back the clock on all that we have built in New York City.”

“It’s time we work together in a coalition to build good jobs and respect the middle class,” Councilwoman James added. “It’s time that you and I work together to make sure that all of the projects that are built in Downtown Brooklyn and throughout this city are built by unions, because they represent good jobs and good wages.”

Build Up NYC last paid a visit to the BBPB back in April when they delivered thousands of postcards signed by residents urging responsible development. 

“Since then, we’ve learned that the Hudson Meridian Construction Group was hired by Starwood Capital as a general contractor for the $259 million luxury development in the park – a public park,” said Ray Rondino, an organizer with Plumbers Local One. “The choice of Hudson Meridian raises the specter of a nightmare for the all workers who will build and staff the luxury condos and hotel. And ultimately, a nightmare for the public that owns and is responsible for the park.”

June 6, 2013

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