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Ratner, Bloomberg provoke little skepticism about "2,000 jobs" announcement; recruitment efforts begin next week; Ratner admits more potential delay on first building

The press conference yesterday regarding jobs (press release) at the Barclays Center was mostly a success for Mayor Mike Bloomberg and developer Bruce Ratner, whom the mayor referred to as "a neighbor of mine, a friend of mine."

First, many media outlets provided the understandably dramatic visuals of the structure, as shown in the first video below that I shot, and Bloomberg's endorsement of the tight seating bowl.

And most media outlets reported, with relatively little skepticism, the claim that there would be 2,000 jobs at the arena, with recruitment focused on the neighborhoods and housing projects near the site.

Also note that Ratner nudged back the goalposts for the first residential building yet again, suggesting it could start either later next year or early next year. And I already reported on Bloomberg's dismissive response to a question about whether arena-going crowds would inundate neighborhood streets and sidewalks.

Reasons for skepticism about jobs

But there were reasons for skepticism about the jobs. I reported yesterday in Daily Intel that, when asked how many full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs there would be, Bloomberg responded testily, and Ratner dodged the question with a joke aimed at me (video here).

Only later did Forest City confirm that there would be 1,240 FTE jobs, though without any documentation. And, despite Ratner's claim that compensation would "be above living wage, I'm sure," it's unlikely doubt that such part-time jobs will qualify as living-wage jobs.

Let's say 1850 people have part-time jobs and 150 have full-time jobs. That means 1850 part-timers would be vying for 1090 FTE [1240-150] positions. That works out to 23.6 hours a week [(1090 x 40)/1850 = 23.57]. (Ratner said the jobs would be "up to 30 hours" a week.)

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.

But if they're only working 23-25 hours a week, how can that be a living wage? Moreover, no one said anything about benefits. Presumably, when Forest City Ratner reps begin making presentations next week at area community boards (Monday at CB6, Tuesday at CB2, etc.), more details will emerge.

Right now only the higher-wage jobs are listed on the Barclays Center site.

Press coverage

The New York Times, which had two reporters there, didn't cover the press conference (yet). The Daily News reported there would be "2,000 jobs... some 90% of them part-time," but didn't clarify--despite the reporter's tweet--that it would mean 1,240 FTE.

The New York Post focused on remarks Borough President Marty Markowitz made in response to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but did mention the 1,240 number.

(The Post in January, presumably citing information provided by Forest City Ratner, predicted 1500 full and part-time workers. When asked about those numbers yesterday, Ratner said, "I don't where you got the 1500... at any one time, we'll have at most 800 people in the arena.... on a major event.")

Metro didn't specify the number of jobs but did--unlike nearly every other press outlet--quote a statement issued later by Council Member Letitia James, which strikes me as on target, that most of the jobs "will do little to address the rising poverty in the borough."

Patch quoted the 2,000 figure as well as my pre-meeting reference to the state's projection of 1,120 FTE jobs. NY1 cited 2,000 jobs and some debate over the living wage, but didn't drill down. ABC was enthusiastic, with no skepticism. Ditto for Newsday.

The Observer focused on naming the Nets. amNY quoted skepticism from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn but not the 1,240 figure. The Village Voice cited the interaction I had with Bloomberg.

 Gothamist didn't quote the FTE numbers but stressed:
Forest City Ratner is promising to "report quarterly on the number of employees and the neighborhoods that they are from." All the arena-haters noted that for future reference? Good.
Gothamist apparently doesn't know about the developer's long-delayed obligation to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor. The Epoch Times did focus on the questionable job numbers.

Bloomberg's opening remarks: economic growth

In his opening remarks, Bloomberg cited his enthusiasm for the arena and "a lot of economic growth, more tax revenues and more jobs." That of course is a bit more complicated.

The city devoted significant subsidies--Bloomberg yesterday said $200 million, though his administration would argue that the number's lower--and the New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a net loss for the city.

Note that it was a tad ironic for Bloomberg to read, a bit stumblingly, press release praise for Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories after he'd previously denounced CBAs as "extortion." Of course he didn't recognize that job-training group BUILD has been sued.

Bloomberg later said, in response to a question, about the possibility of a move by the New York Islanders, "This is an arena that is built so they can have hockey here." Actually, he has the situation exactly backwards: the arena was built for basketball, and could only have about 14,500 seats for hockey.

Ratner's remarks

Ratner, in his remarks, said job fairs would start in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) project. "We've got to employ everybody in the city, where you live in a NYCHA community or in our [Frank] Gehry building," he said.

"Today is one of the most important days in the history of this arena," he said. "You'll have championships here... It's one of the most important days because we're hiring 2000 people that are local residents... ushers and porters and ticket-takers from our own community."

"That's along with the 8 to 900 jobs, construction jobs, we have working here every single day," he said, not offering a FTE number, "along with the thousands of others that work off-site."

"We call ourselves a civic developer because jobs have always been important," Ratner said. "Whether it be 15,000 jobs at MetroTech, or 2500 jobs across the street, working in our two shopping centers--14 shopping centers built in these boroughs, where we have over 5000 other jobs, jobs are what it's about.... I really have been looking forward to this day, honestly, for eight years."

Markowitz's remarks

Note Borough President Marty Markowitz's statement, "I've always said this arena will create thousands of excellent-paying jobs, and here they come. A promise made, a promise kept." That's not exactly a solid claim.

Also note Bloomberg's introduction of Markowitz with a bit of doggerel.

Comments from NYCHA Chairman John Rhea

Comments from Small Business Services Commissioner Rob Walsh