Community activists once supportive of the Atlantic Yards mega-project today angrily denounced developer Forest City Ratner over what they called a lack of available construction positions for Brooklyn residents.
"We feel like suckers because you made us tell our people something that wasn't true," yelled Martin Allen, a community organizer for People for Political and Economic Empowerment, into a bullhorn just outside the gates to the Barclays Center worksite on Sixth and Atlantic avenues. "Because none of the people are inside this project that supported this project."
Allen helped rally around 100 community activists and workers, many of whom, like Victor Richardson of Crown Heights, have been unemployed for over a year or more.
"They promised us work before they even started and we got nothing yet," said Richardson, a non-union worker who said his last job was at a construction site in The Bronx.
Even by Forest City Ratner's own calculation, the Atlantic Yards project has a long way to go towards creating a promised 15,000 construction jobs.
At a held on May 19, Ratner told community members and elected officials that of the 500 workers currently employed at Atlantic Yards, 60 were from Brooklyn and only 38 from neighborhoods surrounding the project.
That figure had Daniel Morgan, a resident of Atlantic Terrace, a low-income housing project across the street from Barclays Center in Fort Greene, out on the streets calling for residents to turn their back on Ratner.
"People who live across the street from the stadium can't get jobs because they don't have union books," Morgan said. "But if they aren't working, how are they going to get into the union?"
Wednesday's rally at the Barclays Center and march to various building sites across Atlantic Avenue in Fort Greene pitted mostly unemployed, non-union Brooklynites against the union rank-and-file from places like Long Island inside the construction gates—many of whom were on their mid-day break.
"They all eating lunch over there," Allen said as he led his group across Atlantic Avenue. "They are eating lovely over there."
Despite the occasional taunts, the union workers mostly ignored the protest—all except Tony Ippolito of Brooklyn, a worker at a construction site at 231 Ashland Place owned by the .
For Ippolito, the issue was one of union membership, and not geography.
"As long as they're union they are welcome to the job," he said. "It doesn't matter where they come from."
However, according to protestor Michael Lyons of Fort Greene, the people living closest to the gigantic project financed with $300 million in state and city funds were the least likely to see the benefits.
"We're being locked out," Lyons said. "They broke their promise to us."