Wednesday, July 09, 2014

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.

1 comment:

  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.

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