Workers' Lawsuit Against Forest City Ratner Moves Forward

Developer and nonprofit ally accused of failing to deliver on promised construction jobs.

A Federal Court ruled last week that Brooklyn construction workers accusing Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner of failing to provide promised employment opportunities can proceed with their lawsuit.

In a 19-page decision, Brooklyn Federal Court Judge John Gleeson stated that seven Brooklyn construction workers who participated in a job training program created by FCRC and Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD) could sue for unpaid wages and a failure to provide union status.

The ruling is the latest legal wrinkle for FCRC, which this week lost its battle to avoid an entirely new environmental review based on an updated 25-year construction timetable.

Gleeson's decision is also likely to provide even more fodder for critics of BUILD, a nonprofit that has out of hundreds of job-training program participants.

The Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program was started in 2005 as a partnership between FCRC and BUILD to train area residents for construction jobs and provide necessary union cards after completing the program.

But for many participants, that dream of a well-paying union job in Brooklyn did not happen.

Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Fort Greene, called BUILD's pre-apprenticeship program and Atlantic Yards development as a whole “the greatest bait-and-switch in the history of Brooklyn” during .

According to the complaint, the workers said that they were given approximately a month of classroom training, and then were sent to work on construction at a Staten Island home, doing heavy labor.

The plaintiffs also allege that they didn’t receive any training or supervision on the site, and ended up dividing the work among themselves so that each person did the work he or she already knew and learned little.

Right now on the Atlantic Yards construction site, according to FCRC, they have 1,079 union employees in total, with 561 from New York City. Of the 561 city residents, 237 of them are from Brooklyn.

According to the decision, the defendants argued that the developers could not be held to promises to deliver union jobs.

But Judge Gleeson decided that FCRC and BUILD may actually be responsible for a failure to provide promised positions at the site.

“I cannot conclude ... that it was unreasonable, as a matter of law, for the Plaintiffs to rely on promises of union membership and jobs made to a small number of PATP participants by a major real estate enterprise that would employ tens of thousands of union workers,” Gleeson said.

During , Martin Allen, a community organizer for People for Political and Economic Empowerment, spoke out against Bruce Ratner and BUILD:

"We feel like suckers because you made us tell our people something that wasn't true," Allen yelled through a bullhorn.

Gib Veconi June 28, 2012 at 12:16 PM
It is a small point, but the PATP didn't start in 2003. BUILD was formed in 2004, and the pre-apprenticeship program was defined in the Community Benefits Agreement that was signed in 2005 between Forest City Ratner, BUILD and other organizations.
Amy Sara Clark June 28, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Thanks for letting us know Gib. I've made the correction above. -Amy
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