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March 25, 2011

Build Atlantic Yards in Bedford-Stuyvesant

Our Time Press
by Stephen Witt

He's baaaaaaaack! Legendary Atlantic Yards reporter Steve Witt is now penning, apparently, a column for Our Time Press called "At Wit's End" — and this one certainly lives up to the name.

If developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) wants to prefabricate all planned 16 high-rise buildings in his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project that’s fine with me as long as most of the factory work stays in Brooklyn.

And a good place to start looking for a site to build modules components of the skyscrapers that will be trucked and bolted together on the 22-acre site starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection is in Bedford- Stuyvesant.

It’s an idea that developer Bruce Ratner should consider after announcing recently he might start the housing portion of the arena/housing project with the world’s largest prefabricated or modular dwelling at 34 stories – 30 percent of which will be affordable.

Modular building provides plenty of jobs in America’s rural areas as many single- family homes are now built that way. If this technology can be perfected in large-scale buildings, other developers will follow suit, and there is a chance to revive the city’s sagging manufacturing base.

See, Bruce Ratner isn't double-crossing the unions. He's saving New York City's manufacturing economy!

The only sour note in Ratner’s announcement was that he was looking to locate the factory in Long Island City Queens, which would take jobs out of Brooklyn.

So I called Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco, who said the company, is also looking at sites in Brooklyn. A good place to start is northwest Bed-Stuy, which is currently zoned for manufacturing.

Another good spot would be in and around the Brooklyn Navy Yard – also zoned for manufacturing.

James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD), one of the signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) also hailed the move.

“If it creates jobs in manufacturing it will be a throwback to a different era with a new twist,” said Caldwell, whose non- profit organization is funded by Ratner.

It's like "An Angel sent from God II!"

Caldwell noted that it’s very tough for people of color to get into construction unions under the current economic climate.

“It (building part of the project in factories) might be an easier way for people of color to get into the unions,” he said.

But guess what — those factory jobs pay roughly 40% of the construction-site jobs, according to The Times.

Caldwell said since signing the CBA, BUILD has put about 350 people to work either through Ratner or on other Ratner projects throughout the city.

Call us skeptics, but we sure would like independent confirmation of those 350 jobs.

“We’re working on an employment plan for when the arena is built to provide about 1,200 jobs and even more when the affordable housing is built,” he said. “There will be a lot of permanent jobs and small business opportunities at the arena, particularly in customer service and hospitality-type jobs.”

And yes, we sure would like to see that plan.

The announcement came as the mostly wealthier and white opponents of the project continue to decry it. Interestingly, some of these people have made opposing the plan a cottage industry and have already benefited from the project.

Ouch. But we thought it was the wealthier and white proponents of the project who were benefiting from the project — that is, until the Feds swooped in.

Caldwell said he finds it interesting that opponent bloggers never even try to tell both sides of the story, and continue to demonize anyone that tries to see both sides of the coin.

Operative word: coin.

“I was just at Cataldo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue and the owner told me how he is doing a great business from arena construction workers,” said Caldwell.

“The bloggers and people against the project don’t talk or write about the positive economic impact the arena has already had in the area,” he added.

Don't let anyone say we haven't written about the positive economic impact of the arena: James Caldwell says that construction workers are buying lunch at one restaurant on Vanderbilt. Only $5,999,990,000 to go!

Posted by eric at March 25, 2011 8:15 PM