By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN — After years of promising that the Atlantic Yards project would create jobs for people in the surrounding communities, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Forest City Ratner Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner returned to Flatbush and Atlantic avenues to deliver.
Visiting the almost-finished Barclays Center on Thursday, they announced a plan to fill 2,000 jobs at the arena.
Ninety percent of the jobs will be part-time, Ratner said.
Robert Walsh, commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, said that most of the jobs would be in customer service, office work and sales, although some would be management-level positions.
Walsh, Bloomberg and Ratner said they intended to begin filling jobs using the city’s Workforce1 services. Brooklyn has two Workforce1 centers — one at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch at Grand Army Plaza, the other at 9 Bond St. in Downtown Brooklyn.
Priority hiring for the jobs will be for residents of Brooklyn community districts 2, 3, 6 and 8; graduates of a training program run by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD); and residents of the nearby Ingersoll, Whitman, Farragut, Atlantic Terminal, Wyckoff Gardens, Warren Street, Lafayette Gardens and Gowanus housing projects.
From the beginning, Ratner courted the low-income residents of Fort Greene, where there is a high level of unemployment, as supporters of the Atlantic Yards plan.
Job fairs will be held in June, July and August in locations near the arena to fill the majority of the positions. Levy Restaurants, which will oversee all food services, will meet with local community boards and elected officials to discuss hiring plans. In response to a question, Walsh answered that people from other areas — and even other boroughs — would also be welcome to apply.
Asked by a reporter whether the jobs would meet the criteria of the Living Wage Bill just passed by the City Council, Ratner said, “Well, there will be 2,000 employees, so it’s reasonable to assume that at some point they’ll form a union and they’ll bargain for wages, so it’s expected that the wages will be above the level of the Living Wage Bill.”
Looking beyond the Barclays Center to the rest of the long-stalled Atlantic Yards project, Ratner was asked how many jobs the more than 10 planned residential towers would provide. “About 15 to 20 employees per building,” he said, stressing that he planned to start construction on the first of these buildings by the end of the year.
There was quite a bit of humor at Thursday’s press conference. Borough President Marty Markowitz called Ratner “Cousin Brucie,” a reference to the famous WABC-AM disc jockey (and proud Brooklyn booster) of yesteryear.
Asked about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out comment about the Nets moving from the Garden State to Brooklyn, Bloomberg responded, “Well, Chris is a basketball fan, and basketball fans tend to say whatever is on their minds! I’ve seen him in action [getting excited] at a basketball game at the Garden.”
Bloomberg also read a short poem to celebrate “Poem in Your Pocket Day:”
“Going to Brooklyn is always a party,
Having a ball, just me and Marty,
But when it comes to the Nets, forget about Marty and me,
Because we’ve got Jay-Z.”