Skip to main content

The BUILD lawsuit: how group, ostensibly aimed at job training, served as an Atlantic Yards support organization

At noon on Friday, July 11 is a crucial hearing in the federal lawsuit filed by trainees in a coveted pre-apprentice training program (PATP) promised in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) via jobs-development group BUILD, or Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, now defunct after developer Forest City Ratner stopped funding it. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, 225 Cadman Plaza E., Judge John Gleeson, Courtroom 6C South.

The trainees--20 of 36--charge that BUILD CEO James Caldwell falsely promised that, upon finishing the 15-week program, they'd get jobs and union cards. They seek damages for that and seek recovery for weeks of unpaid labor on the training site Caldwell agreed to--an actual job assigned to the contractor, Gausia Jones, who was teaching part of the program. 

The hearing concerns motions for summary judgment, as defendant Forest City wants most of the case against it dismissed, which would leave the plaintiffs far less likely to recover any major sums. At issue is Forest City's relationship with BUILD: how much was the non-profit was acting on the developer's behalf and as a "joint employer," a key legal test.

I'll write at length about the case at length tomorrow, but will first share some relevant items.

BUILD was far more than an organization focused on getting people jobs. It served as a cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, recruiting and focusing support in neighborhoods where many black residents were unemployed and/or seeking better opportunties.

As I wrote 5/10/13, Forest City's attempt to distance itself from BUILD contrasts enormously with its use of the organization, and Caldwell, to establish community credibility. I presented five examples:
  • FCR offered its offices to BUILD and others to organize the CBA, with Bruce Ratner thanking them for their support
  • One of five amicus briefs backing the defense in the Kelo vs. New London eminent domain case London came from BUILD, joined by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and the Carpenters Union.
  • an advertisement featured Caldwell and other CBA signatories
  • a TV appearance by BUILD's Marie Louis
  • Forest City's provision of a p.r. spokesperson for BUILDBeyond these, of course, BUILD regularly supplied supporters to cheer for the project at rallies and to testify at public hearings. Caldwell numerous times cheered Atlantic Yards and referred to Ratner as like "an angel sent from God."
There's more. One of the more dramatic, and distorted, examples, came in June 2006, when BUILD marshaled its forces to attend the public presentation of a rather high-minded critique of Atlantic Yards by the Municipal Art Society (MAS).

As I reported 6/19/06, BUILD sent a message to supporters that was not merely simplistic but thoroughly distorted the purpose of the meeting.

"Come out to support affordable housing, jobs and business opportunities for our community," the flier said. There was no mention of the MAS critique..

The flier went on to list the groups and political figures sponsoring the MAS session--groups that actually were careful not to endorse the MAS's conclusions--and declared that they are "trying to STOP Jobs, Affordable Housing And The NETS Arena and Opportunities from coming to our community. Over Fifty (50%) percent of Black Men in OUR Community are unemployed."

"Please come out and support the nets Arena and The Atlantic Yards Project," it continued.

This was clearly organized by BUILD, not Forest City. But BUILD was being paid by Forest City to remain active as an organization even though it was not pursuing its stated activity: job training.

In this way, it stayed relevant.

Comments

  1. Anonymous8:43 AM

    Thanks for this post Norman. I'm wondering if the community investigated the possibility of any type of S3 law requirement.

    What is Section 3? Section 3 is a provision of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Act of 1968 that helps foster local economic development, neighborhood economic improvement, and individual self-sufficiency. The Section 3 program requires that recipients of certain HUD financial assistance, to the greatest extent feasible, provide job training, employment, and contracting opportunities for low- or very-low income residents in connection with projects and activities in their neighborhoods.

    If Forest City received any Federal Funding support for the Arena they are liable and required to follow S3.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.