802 to Chair Affordable Housing Committee,
Partner With Jets on Arts Education Initiative.
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On June 1, Local 802 formally accepted an invitation to join the Hudson Yards Coalition. The Hudson Yards’ plans for Manhattan’s Far West Side call for the expansion of the Jacob Javits Center, the construction of the New York Sports and Convention Center (the stadium), the creation of affordable housing and over 20 acres of open space and parkland. Local 802’s role will include chairing the Affordable Housing Committee of the Hudson Yards as well as a partnership with the New York Jets on a joint program to reinvigorate arts education in the NYC public schools.
Over the past several weeks, the invitation from the Hudson Yards Coalition has been the subject of much discussion and debate at the Local 802 Executive Board. The advantage of working closely with the mayor’s office to address any concerns over the project was weighed against concerns over the impact of such a mass development project so close to midtown Manhattan’s theatre district.
If 802 was to even consider endorsing the project, we needed assurances that issues of great concern to our membership would be meaningfully addressed.
A series of discussions and negotiations with the Hudson Yards Coalition ensued regarding the impact the proposed sports and convention facility would have on the residents and businesses of the Far West Side neighborhood, Broadway, and other live music venues.
The Executive Board then set out to create a list of priority concerns that needed to be addressed if 802 was to consider participation.
First, we sought the mayor’s assistance in protecting the current affordable rent structure for the artists/tenants of Manhattan Plaza.
Second, in the reconfiguration of the neighborhood, 802 needed assurances of the protection and preservation of Right Track Studios, an invaluable resource for recording musicians.
Third, we insisted on a meaningful role in the decision-making process regarding future plans for affordable housing at the Hudson Yards.
And last, but certainly not least, we proposed a commitment of resources from the Jets to reinvigorate arts education in the New York City public schools.
Through our negotiations with the mayor’s office and the New York Jets, we were able to achieve each of these goals. Moreover, we believe that ultimately the interests and concerns of our membership will be best addressed if 802 is a player on the inside, rather than an objector from the outside. That is why the Executive Board unanimously approved our inclusion in the coalition.
DETAILS OF THE DEAL
Manhattan Plaza is a vibrant, distinctive, affordable residence dedicated to New York’s performing artists. The tenants of Manhattan Plaza pioneered the site and the complete revitalization of the Chelsea/Clinton neighborhood. By encouraging performing artists of all income levels to move into Manhattan Plaza, unions helped to implement economic diversity within the building. That diversity stabilized the complex, the immediate neighborhood and the entire West Side.
Recently, however, Manhattan Plaza was sold to an owner whose proposed “mark up to market” initiative has been the source of grave concern to the tenants, many of whom are members of Local 802 or of our sister unions in the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds (COBUG).
Local 802, therefore, sought assurance that the coalition and the mayor’s office would advocate for the protection of the tenants’ current affordable rent structure at Manhattan Plaza. Furthermore, 802 obtained the assistance of the mayor’s office to advocate for Manhattan Plaza tenants at both the state and federal levels.
As part of our participation in the coalition, Local 802 will chair the Affordable Housing Committee of the Hudson Yards Coalition. The committee will include as many arts and entertainment unions, and other related organizations, as possible. The committee will work directly with the mayor’s office and other city officials to provide meaningful input in decisions relating to all aspects of affordable housing at the Hudson Yards.
Right Track Studios
Early on, many 802 members expressed concern over the impact the plans for the reconfiguration of the neighborhood would have on one of New York’s major recording studios, Right Track, located on West 38th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. 802 was able to secure the protection and preservation of Right Track and will facilitate a meeting between Right Track and the Hudson Yards Coalition to ensure its permanent place in the neighborhood. Right Track will also be included in the Hudson Yards environmental impact review process.
A COMMON POSITION BETWEEN UNCOMMON ALLIES
Funding for Arts Education
Perhaps the point of greatest contention surrounding the Jets stadium and proposed expansion of the Javits Center is the use of public monies, in addition to private funding, to support this project.
Although there is evidence to suggest that the public monies invested in the creation of the Sports and Convention facility will show a return of approximately $12 million a year to the city once the facility is in operation, sadly, but all too often, the appropriation of such revenue is not applied where it is most sorely needed — for example, in the New York City public school system.
For years New York City schools have seen the erosion, and in many cases the elimination, of arts education. The future of live music lies within the next generations of musicians. Local 802 has an interest, and indeed an obligation, to get involved and reinvigorate arts education for our city’s youth. The New York Jets have also demonstrated a commitment to education through their existing Jets Academy, an after-school program that provides supplemental instruction to students in disadvantaged communities.
It is in that common interest that Local 802 and the Jets were able to find common ground. We are pleased to announce that 802 and the New York Jets will be partnering to create and develop an arts education program in the New York City public schools.
802 has secured a commitment from the Jets to provide the funding necessary to establish and develop a program of mentoring, coaching and exposure to the performing arts to the students of the New York City public schools.
Our mutual goal is to expand this program into as many public schools in New York City as possible, and to seek additional sources of funding in order to realize our shared vision. The Jets and 802 will establish a joint committee to oversee the program and 802 will provide the necessary personnel and administrative services.
The mayor’s office has already arranged for the Department of Education to work with us on the pilot program that will incorporate 802 members and leadership into a mentorship program with NYC music students.
The plan, put forward by the city and state of New York, has not been without controversy.
Indeed, the decision whether or not to take a position on Hudson Yards has been the subject of much debate. Opinion has been divided within the labor movement, the theatre community and the city itself.
Early on it became clear that common allies might very well take uncommon positions. On labor’s side, the state AFL-CIO and the Central Labor Council have endorsed the project. IATSE, on the other hand, has come out against it. In the theatre community, COBUG has decided not to take a position for or against, and COBUG members will decide on individual positions as each union sees fit.
Likewise, on the side of the producers and theatre owners, some members of the League have taken public positions, most notably the Nederlanders in favor and Jujamcyn and the Shubert
Organization against. The League itself, however, has not taken a formal position as of yet.
The plans project the creation of 18,000 construction jobs and 6,900 new permanent jobs.
The Javits Convention Center expansion and the creation of the New York Sports and Convention Center will contribute $70 million in additional tax revenues annually to the city and state.
The plans will foster 20 acres of open space, the creation of affordable housing, and permit the construction of 28 million square feet of new commercial space. The Sports and Convention Center will not displace a person or a business. Comprehensive plans will be instituted to limit the flow of traffic during game days.
As we move into the 21st century, it is of paramount importance to Local 802 that we seize every opportunity to increase our involvement and influence in our great city, not only in the labor movement and arts community, but in the political arena as well. We must venture outside of our own backyard if we are to be a player that has influence in the decisions that will ultimately affect us all.
HUDSON YARDS UPDATE
Through our relationship with the mayor’s office, Local 802 was instrumental in assuring that a rent concession plan, put forward by Related Companies to the federal government, and advocated by Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association and Manhattan Plaza Policy Committee, was approved by the city of New York’s Department of Housing
Preservation and Development (HPD) and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There are still some final stages that the federal government must approve, but the guaranteed outcome will be maintaining the affordability of Manhattan Plaza for our members and other performing arts union members, including present and future residents, now and for the next 20 years.
As Allegro goes to press, meetings have already begun between Local 802 and the New York City Department of Education laying the groundwork for our Music Mentorship Initiative.
Independent Study Shows Job and Fiscal Growth
Although there have been varied projections on the number of jobs and the fiscal impact that the New York Sports and Convention Center will create, even organizations whose studies have been critical of the project, such as the Independent Budget Office (IBO), acknowledge a substantial creation of jobs and fiscal gain generated by the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center. The IBO provided the baseline estimate for employment at 3,586 jobs and the baseline estimate for the total fiscal impact at $54.5 million.