DUMBO's waterfront is one step closer to getting a shiny new residential building, one that may or may not promptly fall down in the event of another Hurricane Sandy-caliber storm—at least according to union workers livid at the city's decision to choose non-union developers for the project.
The city announced yesterday the selection of Alloy Development and Monadnock Development to design and construct a 47-unit apartment complex at John Street in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board of Directors acknowledged that of the eleven developer proposals received, only one would have employed union workers, which would have cost $9 million more than the selected developers.
Councilman Stephen Levin, one of just two board members to oppose the selection, said the request for proposals should have incentivized union labor in the first place. "My disappointment is that we did not act proactively to address this issue on the front end," he said.
Hoards of angry union laborers were gathered at Borough Hall to protest another of the board's choice in developers, Starwood Capital Group, who employed contractor Empire Pile and Foundations to build a forthcoming luxury hotel and condo at Pier 1, with workers insisting that the company has a history of cutting corners when it comes to safety and quality—in addition to the fact that it lacks a Department of Buildings license, which expired in 2009.
“These guys are outlaws—they just do whatever they want," said Dan Walcott, a representative for trade union advocacy group Build Up NYC, referring to the contractors selected for the job. "It’s not a playground for this group. It’s a public park.”
Theodore Scarles, an ironworker of eleven years, explained to the board the benefits of hiring union. "I'm an ironworker," he said. "I hang iron. I don’t hang drywall. When you hire non-union, you get a jack of all trades, a master of none, and along with that comes injuries, people don’t know how to hang iron, don’t know the ins-and-outs."
"I hope you can sleep at night," he added.
Of course, none of the long stream of impassioned speeches ultimately meant much—by the time public comment rolled around at the meeting's end, the vote had already been taken.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation Chairman (and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development) Robert Steel curtly told us that holding public comment until after the voting items have already been addressed is "the form of the meeting."
"They're always done that way," he said.
So public comment—really more of a formality?
"I would never say that," Steel said, eying the door. "I think we learned a lot from it and were informed. There's a constant conversation, the conversation is not just about the items for today."
According to a press release, the John Street development will incorporate "pedestrian bridges over a tidal salt marsh, tree-lined pathways and 13,000-square-foot gathering lawn." The building itself will feature 47 apartments with ground-floor retail, to be occupied by the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Construction is expected to begin in 2014, and be completed by winter of 2015.