This year, community groups which previously supported Atlantic Yards have protested the development, saying that they were duped into believing they’d get work once construction on the stadium started; and the construction unions which supported the Yards, knowing that they’d actually get all the construction jobs, have grumbled at the possibility of developer Forest City Ratner using cheaper, less labor-intensive prefabricated units for the residential side of the project.
And this week, several Brooklynites filed suit against Ratner and BUILD, the largely FCR-funded group founded to give the project a facade of local support. BUILD signed on to the Community Benefits Agreement for the project in 2005; last year, they held a Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, touting it, the plaintiffs in the suit allege, as a pathway to a union card and a lucrative construction gig at Atlantic Yards. The plaintiffs, all graduates of the 15-week program, charge that their “training” consisted primarily of being used as free labor on a Staten Island home renovation.
As per usual, Norman Oder has all the gory details at the Atlantic Yards Report, including reports from the dueling press conferences held by City Councilwoman Letitia James, who set the plaintiffs up with their attorneys, and BUILD’s James Caldwell, who incredulously denied the claim, made in the lawsuit, that he told the plaintiffs and other members of the PATP that they should “prepare to be millionaires.”
That’s just one of the disputed statements at the heart of the issue here—there’s nothing in writing about union cards and construction gigs, but the suit contends that the training program was constantly portrayed as a point of entry into gigs it couldn’t deliver. (The pathetic “training,” which seems to have consisted of being given wikipedia handouts and waiting around until BUILD could find a contractor friend who could use some free labor, hardly paints BUILD in a credible light.) Atlantic Yards ran on platitudes—vague talk of jobs and community improvement won over the segment of the community most eager to believe it. If words meant something then, they still should now.