Building Trades

Will Brooklyn Bridge Park Go Workers’ Way?

October 23, 2013
By Joe Manisclaco

BBP planners are being urged to change direction.

BBP planners are being urged to change direction.

Brooklyn, NY – The directors of the Brooklyn Bridge Park [BBP] are being urged to “change course” this week and adopt a responsible set of development guidelines for a still-evolving section of the waterfront space that is slated to become a major source of revenue for the project. Watch Video

Pier 6, located at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, is projected to generate between $3 and $4 million in recurring revenue for Brooklyn Bridge Park, thanks in large part, to the inclusion of 450,000 square feet of residential space still to be realized at the location. 

A Request for Proposals [RFP] to do the work has yet to be issued. But Build Up NYC – the coalition of labor groups citywide that has been pressing BBP directors for over a year to engage responsible developers who provide good jobs and benefits to workers – is trying to make sure that, for at least this phase of park development, their concerns are heeded. 

“Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation has an opportunity to change course and adopt a responsible set of development guidelines for the Pier 6 development,” Build Up NYC representative Bianca Garcia told BBP directors earlier this week. “Before the corporation issues its RFP for Pier 6, we urge you to fully consult with members of the Community Advisory Council, the general public and members of your own board, to ensure that standards for responsible development are included in this RFP.”

That, however, appears unlikely absent a remarkable turnaround. 

New construction at BBP.

New construction at BBP.

Board of Directors President Regina Myer called labor's concerns "premature," and said that there are no plans to sit down and talk with the union.

BBP Board of Directors Chair Robert Steele refused to comment.

“We believe that monies from the Pier 6 RFP are important to our financial model,” Myer told LaborPress.

Brooklyn Bridge Park’s projected annual operating expenses total $12 million, while annual recurring revenues – with Pier 6 monies included – are currently pegged at $13.5 million.

Councilman Steve Levin – one of the very few members of the BBP Board of Directors sympathetic to labor concerns – has previously expressed his disappointment that the group failed to act proactively and include worker-friendly language in other RFPs issued for the park. 

This time out, however, Levin said that he partly agrees with Myer due to some zoning issues with sections of the Pier 6 site that have yet to be resolved. 

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen at Pier 6,” Councilman Levin said. “In that regard, I’m not sure if and when a Pier 6 RFP is going to be going out.”

Councilman Levin also reiterated his opposition to any residential housing being built on the site.

“If, in fact, they do move forward with an RFP for Pier 6, it is essential that there be responsible development in terms of working with the trades and insuring there’s labor standards,” Councilman Levin added. “It’s not just about wages necessarily, it’s about having responsible developers, responsible contractors, safety rules, having apprentice programs and all the things that go along with responsible development.”

BBP picnic area.

BBP picnic area.

Despite BBP’s cold shoulder to organized labor, workers have made some gains on the waterfront. This week, it was learned that Starwood Capital has entered into an agreement with the New York Hotels Trades Council to operate a new hotel on Pier 1 when it debuts in 2015. 

Back in August, Former New York City Economic Development chief Seth Pinsky actually talked about using union labor for a different phase of park development.

“If there was no price difference, then I think it would be clearly in our interests to be able to move this project forward with the partnership of union labor,” Pinksky said. 

According to Garcia, the Pier 6 property is "sure to provide generous returns to private developers who can afford to uphold industry standards, training requirements, safety provisions, wages and benefits that most developers of residential waterfront property adhere to.”

“We’re going to keep coming out to these things,” Bianca said following the Board of Directors meeting. “We’re going to keep talking to the community. I think that a job that employs union contractors and provides wages is only going to benefit Brooklyn. It’s going to benefit the city.”

Said Councilman Levin, “There is certainly room for big developments to have strong safety and labor requirements.”

Labor's best shot at getting a worker-friendly developer and contractor for Pier 6 could rest with a new mayor. 

"I don't want to jinx it, but I'm hopeful that Bill de Blasio gets elected mayor in a couple of weeks," Councilman Levin continued. "And I'm hopeful that a de Blasio administration will be on the same page there"

October 23, 2013

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