Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Ratner response to yesterday's protest: there are 543 workers, 217 from Brooklyn (really?); one report asks, Where's the ICM?

Several news organizations covered the protest yesterday (my coverage) by former vocal supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, and got Forest City Ratner's questionable response.

The Daily News, in Atlantic Yards project's former supporters turn on developer over lack of local jobs, reproted:
Advocates and would-be workers who loudly backed the project at years of public hearings turned their bullhorns yesterday on developer Bruce Ratner.

"We feel like idiots because we supported you, we listened to you, we thought your word was gold," said Martin Allen, president of People for Political and Economic Empowerment. "Now that you got the job moving, you turn into a rat."

There are 543 workers on the site, Ratner officials said - compared with 1,620 predicted in state documents by this summer. Officials said 217 of the workers live in Brooklyn, but residents who aren't already members of construction unions can't get the jobs.
I question those statistics.

Keep in mind that, at the 7/14/11 Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Forest City reported 430 workers on site. Even if that number has increased, keep in last month a more independent source--the consultant to the arena bond trustee--reported 320 workers--while in May Forest City had reported 500.

As for the number of Brooklyn workers, aid Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin, stated, verbatim. "[S]ince construction began approximately 180 Brooklyn residents have been working on site."

(Emphasis added)

Cumulative totals are not the same as current statistics.

And yes, there are fewer buildings under construction than predicted, meaning fewer workers, but that raises the question: were Forest City's timetable promises credible? And, as the Daily News notes, should modular construction be used, the number of workers would decline.

Where's the ICM?

The Epoch Times, in Atlantic Yards Construction Jobs Not Delivered, Protesters Say, made a couple of errors--no, the marchers weren't from Boerum Hill; no the "Community Board Agreement" (actually: Community Benefits Agreement) wasn't signed by Community Board 2 (or any CBs), but did make an important point:
All of the contract stipulations rest on the oversight of an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM). The ICM is a committee composed of representatives of each benefit category, explained Perris in a phone interview. The ICM is responsible for assessing whether Forest City Ratner has sufficiently fulfilled its duties.

“The ICM has never been funded,” said Perris. “I'm not sure if they've ever met. We've not been apprised of any meeting or of how successful any commitments have been.”
Indeed, as I've reported, Forest City has claimed that the CBA went into effect only after the arena broke ground.

The Epoch Times reported:
Should the ICM meet and find that Forest City Ratner has not fulfilled its end of the deal, the developer would be required to pay $500,000.

“Some people have said it's a buyout,” quipped Perris. Echoing concerns of many opponents of the development, Perris noted that government involvement in the project has been minimal and no officials were party to the CBA.

“Nobody in government has any sort of leverage to say, 'You guys haven't done what you said you're going to do,'” Perris said.
The $500,000 refers only to job training, which FCR has funded, but the larger point is important: there is no government leverage.

Other coverage

Patch, in Workers Rally Against 'Broken Promises' on Atlantic Yards Jobs, was first off the blocks.

The Brooklyn Paper oddly headlined its coverage Unions to Ratner: Hey, where are the jobs?; while a few of the protesters were also members of unions, the rally was organized by a group that includes mainly non-union workers.

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