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Big Promises

January 19, 2012
By Bendix Anderson, LaborPress Senior Editor

Construction Projects Aplenty in State of City Address

For construction workers, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised a lot in his 2012 State of the City address.

“In every borough in 2012, we’ll bring new jobs on line and make investments that will attract more visitors,” said the Mayor at the Morris High School in the Bronx, January 12.

Thousands of construction workers are still unemployed — and thousands more would be out of work if it weren’t for a giant public construction projects like rebuilding the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. That makes the dozens of construction projects mentioned by the Mayor that much more important. The labor advocates take the long list of proposed construction deals with a grain of salt.

“I can’t get excited till I see what’s going to happen,” said Jack Kittle, political director of District Council 9 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. “If any of it happens, I’ll be happy.”

The Mayor’s List:

– The Kingsbridge Armory. The Mayor announced a new effort to “bring jobs to the most talked-about empty building in the Bronx: The Kingsbridge Armory.” The last proposal by the Related Companies to build a new mall on the site fell apart in the City Council after advocates demanded a “Living Wage” for workers in the mall. However there is some reason to hope. The current request for proposals allows a broader range of uses than retail. “We’ve heard from a variety of interested parties, including those who want to develop it into recreational space,” said Bloomberg. Also new plan is being crafted with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., one of the most active opponents last time. Compromise on the Living Wage proposal now before the City Council may also help to prospects for the Armory.

– The Science and Engineering Campus on Roosevelt Island. Announced in December, the project will create 20,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs. The partners will include Cornell University and The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

– Hunts Point Produce Market. The City hopes to convince the market to stay in the Bronx, as opposed to moving to New Jersey. “We’re fully committed to modernizing the Market and keeping those jobs here,” said the Mayor. “So today, in partnership with Council Speaker Christine Quinn, we’re adding another $25 million to what will now be the City’s $87 million commitment to re-building the market.”

– The City will continue its rezoning effort, which has already changed the rules on what can be built across much of the City, often allowing new construction. For example: “We’ll begin re-zoning East Fordham Road to allow for more private sector investment and explore economic development possibilities on Webster Avenue,” he said. The neighborhood includes the New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx Zoo, Montefiore Medical Center and Fordham University.

– The mayor also has big plans to build government-subsidized low-income housing throughout the City, including a site that has sat largely vacant for a half-century around Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. The City is planning 2,300 units of housing, a waterfront park and a supermarket on vacant public housing land next door to the Astoria Houses on the East River. Unfortunately, most of the affordable housing built in New York City currently tends to be built by non-union workers.

– The Mayor also touched on plans for the City’s parks, including continuing work on waterfront sites like Rockaway Park in Queens, Soundview Park in the South Bronx, the first phase of Calvert Vaux Park in Bensonhurst, the transformation of Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park into soccer fields and open space and Governors Island in New York Harbor. The City will also finish work on the McCarren Pool in Williamsburg.

– Then there is the billions of dollars work still being done on New York’s existing public housing stock. Because of federal prevailing wage laws, all of this labor will probably be performed by union construction workers. “Across the entire New York City Housing Authority system, we will significantly reduce the backlog of repairs that has resulted from sustained Federal budget cuts,” said the Mayor. “This is a key part of our strategic plan to improve services to NYCHA’s residents and preserve public housing for generations to come.”
But wait… There’s more:

– A redesign of the Staten Island Zoo Aquarium.

– Construction will start on a major apartment and retail development at the Homeport, creating more than 1,100 construction jobs. “This has been talked about for twenty years,” said Kittle.

– Jet Blue will open its new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens,

– The Queens Museum of Art will double in size.

– The first wave of 2,000 construction workers will break ground on the $270 million Mall at Bay Plaza project this year.

– Smith Electric Vehicles will hire more than 100 New Yorkers to assemble zero-emission trucks and vans at a new plant in Port Morris.

– A new supermarket, stores, offices, and a new charter school will bring 200 new jobs to a long-vacant spot at the Bronx Hub on 149th Street.

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