Skip to main content

Do Barclays Center jobs really pay a "living wage"? Not unless workers get 40 hours a week (and they don't)

Barclays Center officials have made a big deal out of hiring approximately 2000 workers (some 1900 part time), most from Brooklyn, with a significant chunk from the nearby Community Boards as well as from public housing.

They're far more closemouthed, even after a year, about whether those jobs could actually support and individual or family living on their own.

While they stress the hourly pay represents a "living wage" above $10/hour, they won't disclose the starting wage (A source tells me $12.50 for some jobs, a figure well below Madison Square Garden), or say how many hours people work. After all, a living wage is defined as the combination of that hourly wage and a 40-hour work week.

So it went last night at a meeting of a Brooklyn Community Board 6 committee, where arena Community Affairs manager Terence Kelly came to give an update on hiring.

By the end of September, he said, there were 2060 "active hires," some 76% Brooklyn residents. The percentage from Community Boards 2, 3, 6, 8 dropped from 30% 28%, while public housing residents stood at 31%.

At the last hiring event, in September, more than 90% were from Brooklyn, and over 35% from the four Community Boards, Kelly said. He didn't mention why there was such a hiring event, but, since the pool of part-timers is essentially unchanged--the number of full-time hires has risen from a projected 105 to 150-160--there must have been a lot of attrition.

The part-time jobs, some 1900, generally work in either facilities, food concessions, or housekeeping. The meeting of the Economic/Waterfront/Community Development & Housing committees was held at P.S. 58 at Smith and Carroll streets.

Drilling down: health benefits

Kelly was asked by a board member "what percentage of the jobs pay a living wage of over $10 an hour," whether there were health care benefits, and whether workers were in a union.

He repeated the statistics, noting about 1900 are part-time or event driven. "Those are all unionized jobs through 32BJ and Local 100, so across the board they receive union benefits. And in terms of health care benefits and additional, benefits and resources of the union are extended after a period of time, such as in any other collective bargaining agreement."

It's unclear whether any actually get benefits, or whether they can afford them. (Forest City executive Ashley Cotton previously said they didn't get benefits.)

A search on the 32BJ web site shows that full-time workers are eligible for health benefits. If you click through as a part-time worker, no results are shown.

Some members suggested that a union rep come and speak to the board, and Kelly seemed amenable to that.

Drilling down: wages & hours

What about the wages?

"They're above living [wage]," Kelley responded. "In terms of living wage, you mean above $10/hour?"

Yes, he was told.

"They're all above $10/hour," he responded.

How many hours a week is part-time?

"It's really dependent.. on the collective bargaining agreements," Kelly said, "because seniority allows people to staff--the staffing and deployment of people is different and there's no set standard. So you could work a reasonably short period of time, and you could work whatever the maximum is in the bargaining agreement, which I offhand do not know and I certainly could get that answer to you."

Last year, arena developer Bruce Ratner said the jobs were "up to" 30 hours a week. After company officials said the then-2000 jobs represented 1240 FTE (full-time equivalent), I did the math and calculated that worked out to 23.6 hours a week.

Surely Barclays Center officials could tote up the total hours worked, and then divide by the number of part time workers.

I asked a question: "What's the starting salary?"

"I can't answer that," Kelly responded.

"You said living wage," I continued.

"They're above $10 an hour," he said.

"But living wage is premised on a 40-hour week," I countered.

"I answered the question as best I could with the information I have," he responded. "I'm not thinking 40-hour workweek when I said living wage, I was just thinking, in the context of $10 an hour."

At, say, 24 hours a week, a wage of $12.50 works out to $300/week. A 40-hour workweek at $10/hour works out to $400/week, or $20,800 a year.

But, as indicated below, a living wage in Brooklyn is actually $12.75, so 40 hours a week is $510/week, or $26,520 a year.

What's a living wage?

The current minimum wage in New York state is $7.25/hour, but it will rise to $8/hour by the end of the year and to $9/hour by the end of 2015.

According to the web site Living Wage NYC:
Under an ideal living wage, someone who works an ordinary 40 hour per week job would be able to afford shelter, food, health care, and other basic necessities of life. 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.
Wages for certain jobs at the Barclays Center, I'm told, start at $12.50. According to the Living Wage Calculator from MIT (linked from Livign Wage NYC), a living wage in Brooklyn for a single adult working 40 hours a week is $12.75. That's surely unattainable at the Barclays Center.

The explanation:
The living wage shown is the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family, if they are the sole provider and are working full-time (2080 hours per year). The state minimum wage is the same for all individuals, regardless of how many dependents they may have. The poverty rate is typically quoted as gross annual income. We have converted it to an hourly wage for the sake of comparison. Wages that are less than the living wage are shown in red.
No protest from ACORN

Ironically enough, some arena supporters might find room to protest the wages at the Barclays Center. In May 2000, according to a 5/10/00 Daily News article headlined SHARPTON LEADS SALARY PROTEST AGAINST ATLANTIC MALL DEVELOPER, the Rev. Al Sharpton and ACORN led a demonstration arguing that tax breaks for Forest City Ratner were not passed on to provide anything more than a minimum wage at the Atlantic Center Mall:
[ACORN's Bertha] Lewis called for what she termed a living wage - $10 to $12 an hour for workers without benefits, $8 an hour for those receiving other employment benefits.
At that time, the minimum wage was $5.15. So Lewis's definition then of a living wage--$10-12/hour-- was between 194.2% and 233% of the minimum. A similar ratio today would be between $14.08 and $16.89.

Or, alternatively, those protestors could simply point to the living wage calculator and request $12.75 and 40 hours a week.

Staff cutbacks?

Kelly was asked last night about the arena's announced intentions to save money on staffing. Will that affect hiring?

"In terms of workforce development, I think that we're still sort of refining," he said. "These numbers are not going to drastically reduce. I think, in terms of cuts, we're looking more at less overtime for shows, if we can project better.... Those are where the efficiencies can be improved from one year to the next. Certainly, as mentioned from the CEO and down, was a lot of money thrown at the first year, to make a good, important, and great first impression.

Local benefits

Kelly also said he didn't have statistics yet on the impact on local businesses but pointed out that there were many Brooklyn-based vendors. I'd bet some statistics are coming.

One member of the board's transportation committee noted that "we've sort of looked the other way [about transportation impacts] because of the economic benefit."


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…