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Atlantic Yards Job Development Group Closes Its Doors

Brooklyn-based nonprofit leaves a trail of criticism and legal recriminations in its wake.

A key community backer of Atlantic Yards redevelopment will soon be no more.

Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, a nonprofit set up to connect unskilled local workers with good paying jobs, will dissolve operations at the end of next week, according to Atlantic Yards Report.

As of Wednesday, a closed sign was posted on the door of BUILD's office on Hudson Street in Downtown Brooklyn underneath a notice regarding 900 immediate openings at Con Edison in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

BUILD was signatory to a Community Benefits Agreement in 2005 promising good-paying jobs and affordable housing for Brooklyn.

The nonprofit, headed by James Caldwell, was touted as a big piece of the community development puzzle, charged with the task of forming and facilitating a Workforce Development Council and to provide apprenticeship training program for low-income workers.

Whether BUILD ever fully lived up to that mission has been hotly contested almost from the beginning.

"It was a criticism from community and good government groups form the start that you couldn’t get the benefits that were promised," said Danae Oratowski, chairperson of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. "There's no way these small organizations with no accountability could achieve these goals."

A Forest City Ratner spokesman sent the following statement regarding BUILD's demise:

"BUILD was a critical partner in the creation of the Community Benefits Agreement and the hiring for Barclays Center. We are thankful for their assistance and insight and their on-going commitment to social and economic justice for the people of Brooklyn. Mr. Caldwell has always believed strongly in the inherent good of people and recognizes that regardless of one's background, we all share the same desire to create a better, safer and healthier life for our children and families. It is a commitment he brought to Atlantic Yards and one that will continue to guide us as we begin the housing portion of the development. As we did with arena, we will continue to work with community groups, the city and other partners to ensure that as many of our employees as possible come from the surrounding communities.”

As Barclays Center rose quickly using mostly union labor from outside the neighborhood, some unemployed Brooklyn residents said Forest City Ratner and its community partner BUILD could have done much more.

Workers gathered at the still-rising Barclays Center in July 2011 slamming developers for failing to provide jobs for local residents — a goal that, according to the Atlantic Yards CBA, BUILD was supposed to help facilitate.

In November 2011, construction worker Kathleen Noriega joined others in suing Forest City Ratner and BUILD for damages related to unpaid wages and promises of employment.

No word yet on how BUILD's decision to end operations would affect Noriega's suit.

With the first residential tower at Atlantic Yards expected to break ground in December, Oratowski said BUILD's demise would mean even less accountability for Forest City Ratner to hold to its promise of more housing and jobs.

"It’s clear that the CBA was just a sham to generate publicity for the developer at a time when he was seeking state approval for the project," Oratowski said.

Joe Gonzalez November 07, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Who is really surprised BUILD shut down? Those Ratner flunkies served their purpose to help provide political cover and are no longer needed. We have seen this movie before!

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