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The BUILD lawsuit: how FCR's Ratner saluted BUILD's Caldwell at 2010 arena groundbreaking, months before tensions

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 Thursday, but will first share some relevant items.

At the Barclays Center groundbreaking, 3/11/10, developer Bruce Ratner conspicuously saluted a loyal supporter, BUILD's Caldwell.

"Now something you've heard about before, June 2005, the mayor was there, our Community Benefits Agreement was signed. A very important agreement. As Reverend [Al] Sharpton said, it is going to be a model for what's done in rest of this country, and it's got to be a model, because it's really important."

Of course, the Rev. Sharpton is a bit of a rent-a-speaker: the Atlantic Yards CBA was not a model, not from the start, and the failure of BUILD to deliver job training to those in the construction field is a conspicuous deficit.

Ratner then went on to salute the CBA signatories by name, only giving a few the courtesy of elaborating words. "Reverend [Herbert] Daughtry, a Brooklyn treasure, a national civil rights leader, a great and inspirational man, it was your idea," the developer continued. "Bertha Lewis [of ACORN]--where's Bertha Lewis?" He looked around to locate her. "Ooh." He blew her a kiss.

"Ok. Bertha Lewis, Brooklyn's own and one of the great leaders and organizers of this generation, ensures that our housing is available for all," Ratner said. "Thank you, Bertha."

Saluting Caldwell

"Mr. James Caldwell, who's here," Ratner continued. Several people--presumably BUILD staffers and followers--in the crowd cheered. Ratner smiled a bit indulgently, offering an avuncular "Yeah."

"He's a man of integrity and a man of dignity. He fights for community job training and he's done an exceptional job." Ratner paused to clap conspicuously.

As the lawsuit shows, Ratner's colleagues at Forest City Ratner did not think Caldwell was doing "an exceptional job," and that dissatisfaction would crest some seven months later.

"Then our Community Benefits Agreement," Ratner continued, rattling off the names. "Charlene Nimmons, Rev. Lydia Sloley, Joe Coello, Elenora Bernard, and our chairperson, who you will hear from, Delia Hunley-Adossa. All of us are indebted to you."


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