Brooklyn workers headed to trial in Atlantic Yards case
A federal judge has issued a decision denying building developer Forest City Ratner and now defunct organization Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) summary judgment on a case involving claims of unpaid wages and false promises of employment.
Ratner is known for developing the Barclays Center and the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. BUILD was responsible for hiring and training workers to work in and around the Atlantic Yards.
According to the suit, plaintiffs were participants in a jobs training program negotiated as part of the Atlantic Yards development. The program, called the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program (PATP), was intended to “train community residents for construction jobs within the arena and project.” The seven plaintiffs participated in the PATP in fall 2010, and several quit jobs to participate. As alleged in the complaint, BUILD and other project officials told participants that they would earn memberships in building trade unions upon completion of the program and would be employed to work within the Atlantic Yards.
Instead, the plaintiffs state, they were employed for two months in the construction of a house in Staten Island — work for which they received no wages or other compensation.
“We believed them when they said that this was a path to union membership and union jobs. They even told us that they had seen the union books that were reserved for us,” said plaintiff Kathleen Noreiga.
In a ruling last week, Brooklyn federal judge John Gleeson held that a jury will weigh whether the Ratner and BUILD promised Noreiga and the other participants union memberships and jobs in order to secure their participation in the program. A jury will also decide whether the defendants engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of the New York General Business Law.
“We are delighted that our clients will finally have their day in court,” said Sarah Dranoff, director of the Workers’ Rights and Benefits Unit at Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program.
“The decision from U.S. District Judge John Gleeson represents a significant victory for the individuals who did not receive payment for the pre-apprenticeship training, or ultimately the project jobs, promised by Forest City Ratner,” said Letitia James, public advocate for New York City.
Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program and the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady represent the workers.
Gleeson dismissed the claims against Bruce Ratner individually.
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