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Lots of people looking for part-time arena jobs, but they were never the justification for the subsidies and tax breaks

There are 1901 projected-part time jobs at the Barclays Center, and "nearly 20,000" (according to NY 1) or 26,000 (as per New York Times) applicants, a sign, according to the Times, that Amid Gloom, Job Hopes Rest Heavily on New Arena.

Well, that's news, especially given the desperate economic times, with half of the city's black residents unemployed. In Residents Line Up For Chance At Barclays Center Jobs, NY 1 quoted a resident calling it "a good opportunity."

It's surely better than no job, or even certain low-wage jobs, given that it's expected to be unionized. And Forest City Ratner, as the Times pointed out, has fulfilled its pledge by recruiting in Brooklyn, at churches and housing projects.

But such part-time jobs were never the justification for Atlantic Yards, and the attendant subsidies and tax breaks. No wonder elected officials like Council Member Letitia James and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery scoffed at them, during a rally earlier this month. The jobs should be those "that sustain families, not sell hot dogs," said James.

Looking at the numbers

The Times acknowledged that the jobs were "generally part-time and low-paying (though union-scale)," though it didn't offer numbers.

As I wrote in April, the 1901 part-time employees would work 23.9 hours a week over 52 weeks.

Given that existing legislation defines a living wage in New York City as a minimum of $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without benefits, the salary adds up to $239 to $275 a week.

That's a decent salary only if you have a part-time additional job, or are sharing an apartment with a lot of other people.

(For the record, both news outlets reported that there were 2,000 jobs, conflating part-time and full-time position. Rest assured, the people seeking jobs as ushers and food servers were not eligible for the full-time jobs, which require higher education and other qualifications. My bet is the news outlets simply reported the number provided by Forest City Ratner)

Making a dent

Forest City is not exactly acting out of charity. At an average of $11/hour, 23.9 hours/week over 52 weeks adds up to an aggregate of about $26 million a year, paid, surely, by arena revenues.

News of significant public subsidies going to the developer has gotten much less dramatic coverage.

Consider, by contrast, the news the Times reported almost parenthetically in a 4/5/07 article headlined, Clearing of Atlantic Yards’ Site Proceeds as Legal Thicket Grows Denser.
In the budget it unveiled in January, for example, the Bloomberg administration quietly doubled its direct subsidy to the project area, to $205 million from $100 million. The difference is bigger than the entire annual budget of the city Buildings Department.
Couldn't such money be used to help job seekers find work or, heck, simply serve as wage supports? (City officials now say the total's $171.5 million, but that could be disputed.)

And what about the $200 million-plus in arena naming rights? The state simply gave that away. Again, that hasn't exactly been the focus of such press coverage.

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