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December 14, 2010

Atlantic Yards project needs further review

City Beats
by Julia Pyper

November 9th was a great day for the Brooklyn residents who want to see the Atlantic Yards project reevaluated, but it was an awful day for Lloyd Mathews.

State Supreme Court Justice Marcy S. Friedman ruled that the $4.9 billion Forest City Ratner development project, known as Atlantic Yards, needs further review. To critics of the project, it means a progress; to Mathews, the decision means his job prospects are uncertain.

“Jobs in the construction field right now are at a low,” said Mathews, 43, who is training to become a construction worker. “I’m trying to have a good outlook on things, but things aren’t going the way I planned.”

As a member of the Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) pre-apprenticeship program, Mathews beat out almost 8,000 people to receive free construction training that will prepare him to work at Atlantic Yards. He’s worried about the effect the November 9th ruling and future court cases on his employment prospects.

Only days away from completing the apprenticeship course, he desperately needs a job once he’s done.

“I’m just hoping and praying everything goes right,” said Mathews. “Christmas is coming and I’ve got a baby, so I have to do right by this.”

There are worries, however, that even if construction continues unimpeded by lawsuits, there won’t be as many jobs as Forest City Ratner promised BUILD and the other seven organizations that signed the Community Benefits Agreement. In the agreement, signed on June 27th, 2005, the Atlantic Yards Development Co. pledged to “establish training, hiring and referral initiatives for pre-construction and permanent jobs for Minority and women, Low Income and Moderate Income Individuals.”

But last month, the Daily News reported there were only 100 people working on the site, when state documents projected there would be 1,426 by the end of 2010. The article also stated that the number of employment opportunities created by Atlantic Yards could be 95 percent below expectations. The possibility of fewer jobs than anticipated is an issue for supporters of the project, and fuel for its challengers.

BUILD has already had to handle some disappointments from the Atlantic Yards developers. The pre-apprenticeship program Mathews is a part of took Forest City Ratner three years to implement, and when Ratner began the course in September 2010, they cut down the number of available positions initially agreed upon from 100 to 30.

Still, Tracy Gibbs-Brown, a job developer at BUILD, remains confident that once the legal battles are dealt with there will be work available.

“A lot of jobs aren’t open yet because the arena has to get built,” she said, “and with so many people opposing it, it will never happen.”


Posted by eric at December 14, 2010 5:11 PM