Early in the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn, Senator Chuck Schumer appears at a rally in support of the proposed Atlantic Yards stadium and housing development. “What really enervates me about this project,” Schumer says, “are the jobs.” Sure, it’s an innocent slip of the tongue: Schumer meant to say “energizes” or “excites” or something equally booster-y. Yet he inadvertently cut to the core of this eight-years-and-counting urban outrage: “Enervate” means lacking in energy or vitality, and the promises of developer Bruce Ratner — that he was bringing world-class architecture, affordable housing, and, most important of all in his sales pitch, tens of thousands of jobs to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues — are turning out to be expensive fictions.First, I don't give Schumer--a Harvard graduate--that much slack with vocabulary.
More importantly, while Smith is correct that, overall, the Ratner claims "are turning out to be expensive fictions," Schumer's claim was already such a fiction. So Smith has a case for an even greater outrage.
(Guess what--former Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey, the developer's Atlantic Yards point man, disagrees.)
Office jobs vs. construction jobs
In fact, the movie deserves some footnotes. "This is a great project," declared Schumer, at the 2004 State of the Borough address, which, as the Brooklyn Paper reported, focused on Atlantic Yards. "But you know what really enervates me about this? 10,000 jobs."
Beyond Schumer's word choice, a footnote would point out that the 10,000 jobs were to be housed in speculative office space, and the developer traded that space for housing.
Another footnote might point out that, later in the film, Council Member Letitia James erroneously decried those 10,000 jobs as temporary construction jobs. Another might note that Forest City Ratner promised 15,000 construction jobs, but those are measured in job-years, so it should’ve been 1500 jobs a year.
Bogus from the start
As I've written, the figure of 10,000 jobs was bogus from the start. There was no market for that many office jobs.
Further diminishing the impact, even if there had been a market, Forest City Ratner overstated the number of jobs that could fit in the four towers planned around the arena. And it neglected to explain that most of the jobs would not be new but transferred from Manhattan.
Now only one office tower is planned, with the other three designated for housing.
But even developer Bruce Ratner told Crain's in November 2009: “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”