Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Willets Point and Living up to the Terms of the Deal

As we have been pointing out, the terms of the original agreement concerning the fate of Willets Point have been shredded by an administration whose word has no weight. One of the key provisions that has been discarded concerns the issue of living wage-an issue that CM Diana Reyna felt was crucial in the casting of her vote in favor of the project.

WPU has now written to Reyna to request that she vote against the newly configured development in order to signal that she won’t be played by dishonest negotiators from the Bloomberg administration. And we will be asking her-along with Public Advocate (and likely next mayor) Bill de Blasio-to stake out a firm position opposing the bait and switch at Willets Point. As we wrote to Reyna:
“When the proposed Willets Point development was first evaluated by the City Council during 2008, labor unions promoted the fact that they had negotiated "historic agreements" with the City administration, specifically to include a living wage provision in the RFP pertaining to the Willets Point development. The living wage provision would affect retail workers at the future development, and is distinct from and in addition to the prevailing wage provision that had also been negotiated, which pertains to construction and other workers.”
And we went on to point out:
“You then led the questioning of a panel of union officials concerning the "historic" project labor agreement. The key hearing excerpts below culminate in the unions guaranteeing you and other Council members that the agreed labor standards – including the required living wage provision – will be "included in the Request for Proposals" and "contractually binding". Moreover, the unions commit to providing a copy of the project labor agreement to the Council for the record…”
On the day of the hearing the president of the Central Labor Council stood on the steps of City Hall with other labor leaders and announced this “historic” agreement:

"Organized labor negotiated several months ago with the City of New York an agreement regarding this project, where prevailing wages were guaranteed in the RFP, living wages are guaranteed, there's issues in there for retail …" – Gary La Barbera, President, New York Central Labor Council

"What is significant about the way that Willets Point will be developed is the assurance that broad labor standards will be met by the chosen developer and contractors. It won't just be thousands of jobs; it will mean thousands of construction and permanent jobs that pay prevailing wages and living wages." –
Stuart Applebaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

"We are proud to be here today with our brothers and sisters from organized labor. And we're not just proud because we've negotiated an agreement on Willets that provides prevailing wage and living wage jobs. We're proud to be here because the Willets Point project should be a model for economic development going forward." – Kevin Doyle, Executive Vice President, Local 32BJ. “
What this means is that the “historic” agreement is, well, history-or rather relegated to the dustbin of history as just another devious example of how the current mayor is not a man of his word. As we wrote to Reyna-with a copy to de Blasio as well):
“Despite all of the above-quoted clear statements and testimony to the Council concerning the agreed living wage provision, in 2011 NYCEDC issued a Request for Proposals pertaining to Phase One of the proposed Willets Point development that completely omitted the required living wage provision. Consequently, developer firms responding to the RFP were never required to explain how their proposed tenanting plans would maximize the number of jobs that meet living wage criteria. Now we see the final result: The term "living wage" is nowhere to be found within the project contract dated August 1, 2012 between NYCEDC and the selected developers.”
Reyna is not alone in this-the entire city council was played and this indicates once again why negotiated “deals”-just like the phony community benefits agreements-need to be backed by legal sanctions if they are to have any meaning. But the city council-along with the likely new mayor who was also duped when he voted for the deal in 2008 as a member of the council-has been given a second chance.

The disappearance of living wage is only one reason why the deal should be defeated and left to the new administration to reconfigure it after the New Year. No affordable housing-another failed promise-but also illegal lobbying and crony capitalism and corporate welfare. Of all of the development deals put forward by the Bloomberg administration in 12 years this is by far the most dishonest-and the worst for the citizens of the city.

We urge CM Reyna and her colleagues to send a message to the mayor: Your time is up and we will no longer rubber stamp the dishonestly bad deals you have crafted to benefit your rich friends.