Thursday, July 28, 2011

FUREE, looking for "missing jobs" promised in Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, protests Forest City Ratner, focuses on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

In contrast to yesterday morning's protest by People for Political and Economic Empowerment regarding the lack of local jobs and contracts, an afternoon protest held by FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), was more organized, with protesters wearing t-shirts, planning with the police, chanting and singing, and offering both agitprop theater and concrete demands.

FUREE, which brought 40-50 people to several sites around Downtown Brooklyn, including the offices of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, focused on the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), asking (unsuccessfully) for a meeting with DBP President Joe Chan.

They contrasted the promises of 18,500 new jobs with the reality, which includes a claimed 7000 new jobs--I'd like to see the statistics.

The press release below points out that, instead of jobs (via office towers) the main result of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was luxury housing.

I'd add that planners and the City Council neglected to require that, should developers take advantage of increased development rights and build luxury housing, they should have been required to share the fruits of their increasingly valuable property and build affordable housing, as via the now-standard practice of inclusionary zoning.

On video

The two videos below, which I shot, combine several different episodes during the protest. "Shirley Holmes" (aka a female version of investigator Sherlock Holems) is portrayed by Latisha Butler, while the gentleman wielding the signs with developers' faces, and holding the "moneybag," is Alvin Bartolomey.





From the press release
Unemployed and underemployed area residents and youth searched for missing jobs in Downtown Brooklyn. The event targeted development sites that received over $3.4B in private investments and $300M in public subsidies and claimed to create local jobs and other community benefits. Organized by Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE), the "Where the Jobs At?" job hunt stopped at sites of shuttered small-businesses, the CityPoint development, MetroTech Center and others. Following the hunt, residents held a press conference and hand-delivered demands directly to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), a quasi-public local organization responsible for development in Downtown Brooklyn.

In 2004, the city passed the Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning Plan that, according to the City, was designed to encourage new office development within the existing commercial area. The plan also projected the creation of 18,500 jobs. Contrary to the expectations of city officials, luxury housing has been the predominate type of development, steadily erasing the permanent job prospects of community residents that is further impacted by the recession and rising unemployment rates in the area. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, under the leadership of Joe Chan, formerly of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, touts bringing in 7,000 new jobs to the area but members of FUREE pointed out that over 11,000 are still missing.

One stop on the hunt included properties of United American Land on Bridge and Willoughby Streets and the small businesses that were evicted over three years ago. Today, the businesses remain closed and diminish foot traffic to other area businesses. Washington Square Partners and Acadia Reality of CityPoint were also targeted, as members of FUREE highlighted the loss of 731 jobs when the former Albee Square Mall was demolished to build mixed-used business and luxury housing development on the site. CityPoint received over $20M in economic stimulus funding where only a handful of the 108 constructions jobs have gone to locals.

Three additional developers were “hunted” at MetroTech Center: JPMorgan Chase, Forest City Ratner Companies and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Chase received tens of millions of dollars in subsidies for its MetroTech offices that were to bring 5,000 office jobs to the area. Ratner, who despite having received over $675M in government aid, currently employs only 430 workers, a far gap from the 17,000 jobs cited, and has broken a host of other community benefit pledges.

The job search stop that residents really had their eyes on is that of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Joe Chan, known as the main cheerleader of the area’s “redevelopment.” FUREE members hand-delivered a letter to the Partnership requesting that they hold developers accountable, including those that sit on their board, commit to transparency and develop better ways to ensure community-involvement in decision-making in area developments.

The letter also demanded that Chan co-create a jobs plan with community residents and make public the number of actual jobs created in the community, including how many of the jobs provide living wages, are permanent and are full-time much like how they promote luxury condominium developments on their website. It also demanded the preservation of small businesses, the creation of small-business protection fund and help small businesses find affordable space in the area.

2 comments:

  1. Norman, I was at the march; my first one with FUREE. I agree that it was very well organized and structured. Even though I am not a member of that community, I empathize, and am dissappointed at the unfairness and insensitivity that the developers display.

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  2. I was also at the FUREE event.
    Here's a link to the flier we were handing out during the "Where the Jobs At?" walking tour.

    http://furee.org/sites/default/files/Jobs%20action%207-27-11.pdf

    It includes a list of developers in the area that haven't delivered on their jobs pledges and also a list of policy demands for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

    And while Joe Chan didn't meet with the FUREE members who went in to the DBP office, we did get to deliver our letter and Chan's secretary did agree they would get back to us by Monday. The ball is in their court, for now.

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