Fight For Good Jobs, Responsible Development On Staten Island Waterfront Unfolds At City Hall Hearing

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Michael Yellin – 917-434-6130

Growing coalition demands Council vote “No” on St. George Redevelopment/Empire Outlets if BFC Partners does not commit to providing good jobs with real career paths for local residents and address traffic concerns


New York, NY — Scores of Build Up NYC members and a growing coalition advocating for responsible development and good jobs today called on members of the New York City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises to vote “No” on the application by BFC Partners for its Empire Outlets redevelopment plan on Staten Island if the developer does not commit to providing good jobs with real career paths for local residents, support for local businesses, and making traffic and infrastructure improvements.

“For Empire Outlets to provide real economic opportunity to Staten Island, it must commit to jobs with good wages and benefits and the use of contractors with state approved training programs to give workers the skills they need to work safely and compete for long-term employment beyond this project,” said Paul Fernandes, Chief of Staff of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, which is part of Build Up NYC.  “So far the developer has said maybe it will do some of this, but not all of it, and only on the 15% of the project.  The City should not accept offers from developers seeking taxpayer subsidies that leave workers on 85% of the project treated like second class citizens.  Staten Island residents have gone through that for too long. We therefore urge the Council at this time to vote down the land use applications specific to Empire Outlets and approve only those applications for other parts of the St. George Waterfront redevelopment where indications are that they will proceed more responsibly and responsively to the local community’s concerns.”

By a vote of 25-1 Staten Island Community Board 1 approved the project in June on the condition that it creates good jobs with real career paths for local residents who represent the diversity of the community, supports local businesses including minority and women owned businesses, and results in traffic, transportation and infrastructure improvements to protect against rising sea levels and future storms.

The City’s selection of BFC Partners to develop the city’s first designer retail outlet store complex has sparked a growing movement on Staten Island for responsible development and good jobs. BFC Partners has, as yet, refused to provide assurances that it will respect Community Board 1’s conditions for the project’s approval.

As it stands now, the New York Wheel is on track to satisfy Community Board 1’s requirements while Empire Outlets has yet to commit to meeting them.

“BFC Partners should not shortchange Staten Island residents and local businesses by creating dead end jobs.  Good jobs grow the economy, create stronger communities, and support for local businesses,” 32BJ SEIU Vice President Shirley Aldebol said.  “Staten Island residents should have priority for the permanent jobs created on this project.  BFC’s refusal to commit to good jobs on this project for all of the construction, operations, maintenance and security workers takes one more step to increase income inequality in our city which is already at record levels.”

Empire Outlets is one part of the Staten Island Harbor Commons Project on the waterfront in St. George. The project also includes the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, and a 200-room hotel. It is expected to generate millions of tourists a year to Staten Island.  New York City has entered into a long-term lease with the developers for use of the land and has provided various other incentives to promote this development.

Miranda Nelson, from the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, told Councilmembers, “Over the years, hotel workers in New York City have fought to change what tends to be low-wage, exploitative work into one of the best career options for working class people in New York City. Being a hotel worker has become the kind of stable, middle-class occupation that is rare these days, with good wages, quality healthcare, and retirement security. We are very concerned that this developer will not create the kind of family-supporting jobs Staten Islanders deserve.”

Build Up NYC is fighting for responsible employers to work on Staten Island and in New York City. They should participate in the established training and apprenticeship programs that put a premium on safety training and teaching quality workmanship. When New Yorkers invest in projects such as Empire Outlets they expect, and deserve, their investment will create good jobs that sustain the middle class, allow hard working construction, operations and maintenance workers, and hospitality workers to provide for their families, and level the playing field for responsible employers.