April 25, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Build Up NYC, the broad alliance of labor organizations opposing developers who routinely shortchange workers citywide, delivered thousands of post cards to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board on Wednesday afternoon, all urging the governing body of the 17-acre recreational site to help “plant good jobs” on the waterfront. (Watch Video)
“When you plant good jobs at Brooklyn Bridge Park it helps build up the middle class and keeps our economy strong – and that’s the message we’re delivering here today,” Build Up NYC Representative John Wund told LaborPress.
Starwood Capital, one of the largest private equity real estate investors in the country with an equally expansive record of poor labor relations, has been tapped along with the Toll Brothers group, to develop a still controversial mixed use hotel and condominium project on publicly-owned land located inside Brooklyn Bridge Park at Pier 1.
And even though the private equity fund is the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in public financing, and will pay no property taxes on its 550,000 square-foot facility, the firm has reportedly not agreed to so-called labor peace requirements as stipulated in the New York State Public Authorities Law.
“We need to be speaking with a strong voice,” State Senator Daniel Squadron told a group of about 100 union men and women gathered outside the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board’s Furman Street offices. “They need to be hearing us at City Hall, and across the city. When we are building on public land, when we are building for the benefit of the public, we have to do it in a way that builds New York City. That means high quality, good jobs and the kind of middle class life that makes this city.”
Angel Mercado, a laborer with Local 79 said that it was vital for him to come out and show solidarity with other workers.
“It’s important that we support union labor because families get benefits,” Mercado said. “But it’s just better overall. Buildings gets built with skill, and it’s all about the quality of the work. And our quality speaks for itself.”
Construction on Brooklyn Bridge Park began in 2010 after several years of litigation in which opponents of the plan charged that building a hotel and condominium complex on the waterfront violated the Public Trust Document, which is suppose to prohibit private encroachment on public spaces.
In lieu taxes, Starwood’s estimated annual rent bill – set for the first 25 years of its 97-year lease with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation – is estimated to be $3.3 million. Further financial arrangements make the project even more inviting for the developer.
Despite all that, however, organized labor and its supporters remain dubious towards Starwood and its willingness to extend area standards, wages and benefits to the men and women who will actually realize the mixed-use hotel and condominium project slated for Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“We can’t have a race to the bottom anywhere in this city, and we certainly can’t start in Brooklyn on public land where we’re building a public park,” State Senator Squadron said.
Ultimately, planners expect Brooklyn Bridge Park will eventually grow to encompass 85 acres along the Brooklyn waterfront when it is completed.