December 20, 2012
By Marc Bussanich
Building trade union and community members rallied in downtown Brooklyn in front of the City Point project to protest the property developer for refusing to pay prevailing wages and hiring local community residents at a living wage, although the project has received $20 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds via the 2009 federal stimulus.
According to the protesters, the developer, Acadia Realty Trust, refuses to talk or meet with them.
Lucas Shapiro, an organizer with Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, which participated in the rally, said that the project’s second phase calls for 450,000 square feet of expanded retail and three towers of luxury apartments.
“Our complaints over City Point are manifold. The project has contributed to displacing more than 100 small businesses when the Albee Square Mall was demolished, creates only 20 percent of affordable housing units, which is typical in the private market but is deplorable for city-owned land, and abuses taxpayer dollars to subsidize luxury development,” said Shapiro.
He noted that City Point is part of a broader shift in luxury development in the city that exacerbates the city’s growing and widening income inequality gap.
“The rezoning in 2004 that passed almost unanimously in the City Council really did in downtown Brooklyn by creating a wild speculative boom that allowed developers to build significantly taller buildings that increased their value overnight, but the developers haven’t used that added value to build affordable housing for the community.”
John Skinner, President of Metallic Lather and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46, said that his union members, along with the ironworkers, sheet metal workers and laborers, were there to put pressure on Acadia to negotiate.
“They won’t answer our phone calls. We’re not going to take it anymore. They’re not going to turn New York City into a right-to-work state as they’ve done elsewhere. The unions in this city are banding together like never before. We’re going to fight to hold onto the middle class. We’ll keep putting pressure any way we can to turn this job around,” said Skinner.
Raynier Gamboa, a member of the NYC District Council of Carpenters for over 20 years, said he has hasn’t worked steadily for almost a year because more contractors are hiring lower-wage, non-union workers.
“There are guys who have more than 15 years in the union and haven’t been able to get steady work in four years. The union is currently negotiating four different contracts, but the contractors insist on 20 percent give-backs and other concessions. I’m worried about my retirement,” said Gamboa.