Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Honors and complications: on Dean Street parking lot fence, a plaque for BUILD's Marie Louis


Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) may be defunct and in court.

But there's a more positive perspective on its legacy, a plaque--surely temporary, and movable--honoring BUILD's Chief Operating Officer Marie Louis, who died in late 2011 of cancer.

The plaque is affixed on Dean Street just east of Sixth Avenue on the fence--otherwise occupied by Artbridge canvas--enclosing the parking lot mainly used by satellite TV vans. It was put up about a week ago, quietly, according to James Caldwell, BUILD's former CEO, because Louis "always did things behind the scenes."

Developer Forest City Ratner helped Louis with medical treatment, Caldwell noted. "A year later, after BUILD closed, I asked them if they would put up something in her memory," he said, "and they [ultimately] did it." He said he expected the plaque will be moved.

Indeed, the house next to the parking lot, as well as two other adjacent houses and the building behind it, are slated to be taken by (or under the threat of) eminent domain.

The cleared site may serve as staging for construction across the street and should, in a few years, become home to B15, a residential tower with (likely) a school at its base.

Honors and complications

The dedication honors Louis "In recognition of decades of hard work, steadfast dedication, and tremendous sacrifice to ensure the residents and communities of Brooklyn were the beneficiaries of the historic Atlantic Yards Project."

Louis advocated vigorously for Atlantic Yards and helped run an organization that provided job-training advice to thousands of people and placement to several hundred. 

That said, a consultant hired by Forest City, Ritchie Tye, found that it appeared the developer supported the CBA organizations for their potential to secure support for Atlantic Yards, not for their capacity to fulfill the programmatic goals in the CBA, according to papers in the pending lawsuit over BUILD's pre-apprenticeship training program (PATP).

And it's highly debatable that the "the residents and communities of Brooklyn" have benefited more than certain larger entities.

As the record in the lawsuit shows, however Louis supported Forest City publicly, she clashed forcefully with the developer over whether that PATP could lead, as seemingly promised in the CBA and other documents, to union apprenticeships or, as Forest City insisted, to yet another training program.

It might be tempting to think of the plaque as damage control, an effort to smooth ruffled feathers caused by documents unearthed in the lawsuit, such as a Forest City executive, commenting generally about BUILD, that "these people are snakes.”

But some sort of tribute has been in the works for a while. Maybe the lawsuit pushed it along, maybe it didn't. Still, the unresolved lawsuit remains a question mark over the legacy of BUILD.

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