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March 2, 2012

Where are the Barclay’s Center Jobs?

Construction was a washout, but hopes are high for service

The Brooklyn Ink
by Scott Eidler

In a classroom on the 10th floor of the Metro Tech Center, in downtown Brooklyn, two dozen adults are engaged in an exercise. The assignment? After hearing a list of workplace hiccups—unanswered phone calls, pushy customers, tardy co-workers—they must decide, in order of importance, how they should be handled. And quickly.

“It’s piling up now!” says the instructor, after a few of the scenarios have been read aloud.

“You have to respond to the telephone!” suggests one woman in the class.

Charles Torres sits in the back of the room, taking it all in. He likens the customer service class he’s enrolled in to a slice of “humble pie.” He used to manage the Off Track Betting center on Delancey Street in Manhattan, until 2010, when the city closed it down. Customer service wasn’t the field Torres hoped to fall into, but he’s had to swallow his pride. He thought his experience managing an O.T.B. site would qualify him for banking jobs, but so far, he’s been told otherwise. After nearly two years of struggling to find work, he’s been forced to reinvent himself, at 53.

Torres, like many among the unemployed in Brooklyn, connected with Build (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), an organization that pushes development as a job creator and to help Brooklyn residents land those jobs. Most of the students have been laid off, and they see customer service as a second act. They hope to be hired at the Barclay’s Center, the new basketball arena poised to be the cornerstone of the Atlantic Yards project when it opens in the fall.

After legislators criticized Build and the site’s developer, Forest City Ratner, for failing to hire enough Brooklyn residents for construction jobs, Build’s president and CEO, James Caldwell, says more may be hired at the arena. He also argues that Brooklyn residents will be better suited for the housing construction phase of the project than they were for the arena construction.

Though Build instructors say they can’t promise students a service job with the arena, they’re certainly showing them the way there.


Photo: Scott Eidler/The Brooklyn Ink

Posted by eric at March 2, 2012 11:13 AM