Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brutally weird: Times covers lawsuit against BUILD/FCR amid longer article about promotional event for the Nets

So, former supporters and construction trainees of Atlantic Yards Community Development Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) held a press conference today to say, basically, we were robbed (because promised union memberships and project jobs didn't pan out, leading to a lawsuit), and how does the New York Times cover it?

In the 11th paragraph of a 19-paragraph CityRoom post headlined Nets Hold a Rally Amid a Lockout and an Uncertain Season. The article begins:
On Tuesday, the day after one of the bleakest in the history of the National Basketball Association, when the players rejected the league’s contract offer, disbanded their union and the season seemed closer to being doomed, the Nets held a rally to promote their “Brooklyn Experience” outside Borough Hall.
Lower down comes the swerve:
The Nets’ promotional event happened on the day when yet another lawsuit was filed against the Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner Companies. (The company also built The New York Times headquarters in Midtown.)

Councilwoman Letitia James held a news conference to announce that seven local residents had filed a federal suit claiming that Forest City Ratner had not fulfilled its promises of employment following a job-training program. The program, run by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development – funded by Forest City Ratner Companies – held an unpaid internship for 36 Brooklynites in the fall of 2010 to be trained for construction jobs within the project.

It was part of a negotiated community benefits agreement, and the participants said they had been led to believe they would have a fast track to union jobs.

James Caldwell, the president and chief executive of Build, which was also named in the suit, said that trainees had signed a waiver saying they would not be expecting wages or make claims against Build. A spokesman for Forest City Ratner, Joe DePlasco, said that 19 of the trainees found jobs in property management, retail or construction related positions.
I guess the Times isn't about to revisit its "modern blueprint" claims regarding Atlantic Yards.

My comment

My comment:
The framing of the lawsuit--as a subordinate item amid coverage of a far less meaningful promotional event involving the Nets--disserves readers. It deserves its own article, and the juxtaposition is awkward.

Though Caldwell said trainees had signed a waiver of payment, at the press conference--not attended by the Times--a lawyer for the plaintiffs said that such a waiver was unenforceable, and that the workers had to be paid.

As for DePlasco's numbers--that "19 of the trainees found jobs in property management, retail or construction related positions"--the issue is: how many got the union jobs that the plaintiffs said were explicitly promised? (Some are working at McDonald's and Planet Fitness. Only one is working at Atlantic Yards.)

One of the reasons we didn't learn these statistics earlier relates to another issue raised in the lawsuit: Forest City Ratner's failure to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement.
I'll have more extensive coverage, with video, in the morning.

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