Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Our Time Press, the notorious Stephen Witt hails Ratner's modular plan, cites support from Caldwell of BUILD

The notorious Stephen Witt is now writing for the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Our Time Press, but his m.o. remains the same.

In Build Atlantic Yards in Bedford-Stuyvesant (from this issue), Witt writes:
If developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) wants to prefabricate all planned 16 high-rise buildings in his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project that’s fine with me as long as most of the factory work stays in Brooklyn.

And a good place to start looking for a site to build modules components of the skyscrapers that will be trucked and bolted together on the 22-acre site starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection is in Bedford- Stuyvesant.
This is a version of an argument made by Crown Heights residents (and then-Daily News columnist) Errol Louis, as expressed at a forum in September 21006: "If they’re going to get a billion-dollar TIF [tax-increment financing] deal in Rensselaer County, I think where I live, in Kings County, if somebody wants to bring a billion-dollar deal there, with way too much paid per job, in my neighborhood, where there’s a lot of unemployment, personally, I would say, ‘You know what? I’ll take that.’”

In Bed-Stuy?

Witt writes:
The only sour note in Ratner’s announcement was that he was looking to locate the factory in Long Island City Queens, which would take jobs out of Brooklyn.

So I called Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco, who said the company, is also looking at sites in Brooklyn. A good place to start is northwest Bed-Stuy, which is currently zoned for manufacturing.

Another good spot would be in and around the Brooklyn Navy Yard – also zoned for manufacturing.
The only sour note? Didn't he notice that the number of jobs, and pay, for the construction phase would go down significantly, and that several unions are upset.

Note that Forest City would build the factory where it's cheapest to build, and where industrial synergies are available. That suggests they'd choose Long Island City or the Navy Yard over Bed-Stuy.

Cover from Caldwell

Witt finds his favorite source:
James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD), one of the signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) also hailed the move.

“If it creates jobs in manufacturing it will be a throwback to a different era with a new twist,” said Caldwell, whose non- profit organization is funded by Ratner.
As No Land Grab's Erid McClure comments, referring to Caldwell's most famous utterance:
It's like "An Angel sent from God II!"
Witt writes:
Caldwell said since signing the CBA, BUILD has put about 350 people to work either through Ratner or on other Ratner projects throughout the city.
If so--and we haven't seen the Independent Compliance Monitor report, because there is no ICM--most of those jobs are at Ratner's malls. In February, Forest City Ratner reported a total of 150 workers at the Atlantic Yards site.

Witt's warfare

The article closes:
The announcement came as the mostly wealthier and white opponents of the project continue to decry it. Interestingly, some of these people have made opposing the plan a cottage industry and have already benefited from the project.

Caldwell said he finds it interesting that opponent bloggers never even try to tell both sides of the story, and continue to demonize anyone that tries to see both sides of the coin.

“I was just at Cataldo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue and the owner told me how he is doing a great business from arena construction workers,” said Caldwell.

“The bloggers and people against the project don’t talk or write about the positive economic impact the arena has already had in the area,” he added.
As McClure comments:
Ouch. But we thought it was the wealthier and white proponents of the project who were benefiting from the project — that is, until the Feds swooped in.
The other night, as it happens, I was talking to someone who lives on the Prospect Heights/Crown Heights boundary. Nobody in her building--mostly poorer and black (to use the converse of Witt's term)--supports Atlantic Yards.

Maybe that's a limited sample, but Witt's sample is just as limited. And everyone he cites is making money from Atlantic Yards. Maybe he should consider the other side of that coin.

2 comments:

  1. When the steam shovel/crane came into use beginning in the mid-19th century, it became cheaper to erect buildings, and fewer workers were needed.

    The list of innovations in which technical progress supplanted workers (or farmers)is legion and part and parcel of the necessay and desirable process of social advancement.

    Putting aside the odious Ratner and his land/subsidy grab, modular home construction is cheap enough so that workers who erect a building can actually afford to live in it, rather than commute to work from eastern Long Island or Pennsylvania!

    Modular construction of homes on City-owned land, with revenue from taxes, not from borrowing, is the only way to address the housing shortgage.

    If only the NYC Housing Authority built modular.

    Attacking technical progress per se because it results in greater efficiencies is simply backwards.

    Modular housing was a major feature of the 1967 Montreal World's Fair (see Moshe Safdie, "Beyond Habitat", MIT Press, 1970) .

    The case of Ratner and AYP, who more and more clear-eyed people are loving to hate, should be separated from a critique of the modular construction process itself, and its clear benefits.

    If the Building Trades have a better idea for actually solving the housing crisis, as opposed to trying to solve their own personal financial crisis, I'm all ears.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Modular construction may have benefits, though it should be noted:
    --it's untested at the height proposed
    --it would require a significant revision of the economic returns projected for Atlantic Yards

    ReplyDelete