To gentrify Queens, de Blasio adopts pattern of promising jobs to support development

Attendees of a workforce development community event in Long Island City on Thursday night mainly attracted City officials, table participants, reporters, and activists, according to information received by Progress Queens. The New York City Department of City Planning is hosting community events, promising jobs creation, to induce area residents to support the neighborhood rezoning of Long Island City. Source : Queens Anti-Gentrification Project/Used With Permission

Attendees of a workforce development community event in Long Island City on Thursday night mainly attracted City officials, table participants, reporters, and activists, according to information received by Progress Queens. The New York City Department of City Planning is hosting community events, promising jobs creation, to induce area residents to support the neighborhood rezoning of Long Island City. Source : Queens Anti-Gentrification Project/Used With Permission

By LOUIS FLORES

On Thursday night, officials with the New York City Department of City Planning held a community event about the potential for jobs creation to promote the de Blasio administration's plan for the neighborhood rezoning for Long Island City, Queens. The jobs event was held at the Long Island City Community Library, a few blocks away from the Queensbridge Houses, a public housing development. The jobs event was not well-attended, and no youth from nearby public housing apartment buildings made the trek to the community event, according to information obtained by Progress Queens.

The public appears to be wising up to the false promise of jobs. In the past, real estate developers, notably Forest City Ratner, have made promises about jobs creation in order win community approval for zone-busting construction projects, such as those promises that were made in a Community Benefits Agreement in order to win approval for the construction of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards project, which includes the Barclays Center, was later renamed as Pacific Park. In 2011, a report published by The Village Voice noted that community activists were angry that the promised jobs in Atlantic Yards were never delivered. And in 2016, a report published by The New York Daily News revealed that promises of "full-time jobs" at Atlantic Yards turned into a "part-time reality," noting that approximately 12 per cent. of the 2,500 employees working at the Barclays Center arena were full-time employees. The report published by The New York Daily News added that in its first year of operation, 30,000 people applied for jobs, showing that there was such a great demand for jobs that the developers were never going to be able to realistically meet. Moreover, the kinds of jobs that are typically created by a sports arena -- like ushers and security guards -- earn an income in the range of $12 to $15 per hour and generally do not qualify to receive benefits, like health insurance, according to report published by The New York Daily News.

A flyer published by the de Blasio administration that promises jobs creation -- without making any commitments -- in connection with the neighborhood rezoning of Long Island City. Source : Department of City Planning/Public Domain

A flyer published by the de Blasio administration that promises jobs creation -- without making any commitments -- in connection with the neighborhood rezoning of Long Island City. Source : Department of City Planning/Public Domain

To further Mayor de Blasio's proposal to upzone Long Island City, City officials have been promising job creation to induce area residents to support large-scale development projects in the neighborhood, despite the past record being clear that jobs creation promises have either not been fully-kept or that jobs that are created never fully replaced the number of jobs that have sometimes been lost by the razing of existing businesses. (That the de Blasio administration would embrace the making of promises of jobs creation is perplexing to Government reform activists, particularly since some activists have attempted to hold Mayor de Blasio accountable for the promises broken by Forest City Ranter in its Community Benefits Agreement for Atlantic Yards, including the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor.) As if to avoid scrutiny for failing to deliver on jobs creation, the Department of City Planning is using the euphemism of "workforce development" instead of jobs creation, and the literature being published by the Department of City Planning fails to make any commitment to goals in the number of jobs that the de Blasio administration proposes to create.

Typically, the promises of jobs that are made to communities are made by real estate developers in order to win community approval for large-scale construction projects. For example, when St. Vincent's Hospital was closed, local business leaders pointed to the fact that the luxury-condominium conversion of St. Vincent's would create jobs. But the temporary construction jobs would already be staffed by construction companies that have existing, long-term relationships with large real estate developers. Those temporary job, and the estimated 175 jobs as a new urgent care center, paled in comparison to the 3,500 jobs, many of them protected by unions, that were lost when St. Vincent's closed its doors in 2010.

Promises of jobs creation, typically made by developers, are now being made by a de Blasio administrative agency

In the neighborhood rezoning of Long Island City, the promises of jobs creation are being made by a Municipal agency, the Department of City Planning, raising some eyebrows. Despite the making of promises of jobs creation by a Government authority, some community activists have expressed skepticism. At the Department of City Planning community event promoting jobs creation in Long Island City on Thursday night, an activist group, the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, scheduled an event to draw attention to the false promises of jobs creation being used to promote large-scale real estate projects. In the description of their protest event on the Facebook social media Web site, the activist group cast disbelief on the promises of jobs creation, stating that there was no evidence of truth to the promises of the creation of high-technology jobs for area residents, noting that, "Those jobs are not for us. The only jobs we can expect to see will be a handful of service industry jobs that employ low-income communities to serve the rich, deepening the class divide. The city has lied time and time again about jobs. Why believe them now ?," adding that, "Workforce development is the carrot they dangle in front of us, trying to get us to agree to the gentrification of our neighborhoods and our own displacement."

For this report, the City Hall press office did not provide any statistics that were requested by Progress Queens to show the track record of past promises of jobs creation in connection with neighborhood rezonings. The Department of City Planning has announced that community events about jobs creation will continue to into the fall, yet the de Blasio administration is refusing to make any commitments about the number of jobs it intends to create for Long Island City residents. A press official with the Department of City Planning did not immediate answer a press request for information about the record of jobs creation statistics for neighborhood rezonings.

Mayor de Blasio has reportedly been wooing online retailing giant Amazon.com to build its second headquarters in New York City, in part, for its potential for jobs creation, estimated to be as high as 50,000 jobs. The possible location of Amazon.com's second headquarters in New York City has been speculated to possibly involve new construction.

If the constant over-estimation of jobs creation by developers and, now, City officials, go unquestioned, then the quality and actual accessibility of jobs that are created also go unquestioned. Amazon.com has a reputation for providing what has been described as a difficult work environment. In 2015, a bombshell report published by The New York Times revealed that Amazon.com executives had been fostering a bruising work environment that was rife with competition and personal rivalries, which were also interpreted to mean that employees of the online retailer had been forced to revolve around a cult of personality for the online shopping Web site's founder, Jeff Bezos. In a subsequent report, Mr. Bezos rejected the characterisation of Amazon.com as a "a soulless, dystopian workplace." In addition to elected officials seemingly over-looking questions about the quality of their work environment at large, corporate employers, such as Amazon.com, also going over-looked is the reality that New Yorkers most in need for upward economic mobility would not have the employment experience and education to qualify for the valuable that Amazon.com is seeking to create at its second headquarters.

Speculation about New York bidding to host a second headquarters for Amazon.com has one real estate official proposing the site for Sunnyside Yards

 

Feeding speculation that possible new headquarters space for Amazon.com would involve new construction, a real estate official has proposed that Amazon.com's proposed headquarters should be situated in Sunnyside Yards, a large train yard that Mayor de Blasio has been eyeing for development. Officials with New York City's real estate industry are already viewing any possible high-technology employees of Amazon.com's proposed headquarters in Sunnyside Yards as lucrative prospective tenants for the explosion of market-rate housing that has been built in Long Island City, according to a report published by The Queens Tribune.

The disfigurement of New York's neighborhoods for large corporations and for high-income tenants has caused minor tension for Mayor de Blasio, but, as of yet, no political consequence. On Thursday night, residents of Spanish Harlem challenged Mayor de Blasio in person over his false promises to create affordable housing. Many tenant activists have alleged that Mayor de Blasio's construction plans do not provide housing that is truly affordable to low-income New Yorkers, who are most in need for affordable housing. Instead, activists have charged that the de Blasio administration's proposal for or approval of rezonings of neighborhoods or large-scale development projects have led to gentrification that leads to both primary displacement of immediate tenants affected by the construction projects and to secondary displacement of surrounding tenants, over time, due to the relentless upward spiral in the costs of rents after a neighborhood becomes gentrified. On Thursday night, Mayor de Blasio officiated over a town hall as security forces removed approximately a dozen residents, who had accused Mayor de Blasio of backing racist rezoning policies that lead to the displacement of minority communities from their neighborhoods, according to a report of the town hall published by The New York Post.

In March, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim closed the wide-ranging Federal corruption investigation into whether Mayor de Blasio was providing official acts to his supporters in exchange for having reportedly received political contributions to his various campaign committees. In a statement announcing the closure of the investigation, Acting U.S. Attorney Kim said, in relevant part, that Federal prosecutors had observed that, "Mayor de Blasio and others acting on his behalf solicited donations from individuals who sought official favors from the City, after which the Mayor made or directed inquiries to relevant City agencies on behalf of those donors." For example, two real estate developments approved by the de Blasio administration, the luxury condominium conversion of Rivington House and the sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, involved donors to Mayor de Blasio's various campaign committees. Some notable supporters of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, street car service, have also provided financial contributions to the nonprofit lobbying arm that Mayor de Blasio operated right out of City Hall.

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