The Labor Community Advocacy Network for Rebuilding New York

Guest Commentary

Volume CII, No. 7/8July, 2002

Jeremy M. Reiss, Consortium for Worker Education

Decisions regarding the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and the region are being made at a rapid pace. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) – the quasi-government agency whose board members were appointed by Governor Pataki (eight), Mayor Giuliani (four), and Mayor Bloomberg (four) – is charged with developing the 16-acre site commonly known as Ground Zero. It faces the challenge of collaborating with a number of disparate entities vying for influence: the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the MTA, NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Department of City Planning, among others.

Also seeking to influence the decision-making process are civic groups and coalitions formed with a number of special interests in mind, ranging from pro-business groups advocating for business assistance of all sorts, to family groups opposing redevelopment of the site and instead seeking the creation of a large-scale memorial that honors the victims, to neighborhood groups calling for increased aid to residents of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and to resident groups seeking privacy and compensation for their losses.

Included in this landscape is the Labor Community Advocacy Network (LCAN), convened by the New York City Central Labor Council and the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed think tank.

LCAN is working to ensure that union members, community organizations and other sectors of civil society have a role in the decisions that are made about how to rebuild the city. A network of representatives from over 50 New York labor unions, community groups, research and advocacy organizations and service providers have participated in LCAN meetings and events since shortly after the tragedy. In April, LCAN released its visionary Policy Statement (, which endorses the following principles:

  • The rebuilding decision-making process must be broad-based, open and inclusive.
  • Rebuilding must be linked to all the people, businesses and communities damaged by Sept. 11 – not just to those in Lower Manhattan or in high-wage industries.
  • Redevelopment resources should be concentrated on infrastructure, not on corporate subsidies.
  • We must rebuild for social, economic and environmental sustainability.
  • Public revenues must match public needs, even if this means raising taxes.


LCAN points out that the comparative advantage of New York is the high value of being located within range of a large and diverse workforce, being near an array of other businesses, and being in a cultural, financial and media center. It argues that building on this comparative advantage by investing in the city’s infrastructure is a better use of resources than using tax incentives to try to compete with regions that have lower costs.

Public transportation should be rebuilt and expanded so that it provides better and more accessible transportation options for people in under-served city neighborhoods as well as in the suburbs. Large buildings should have their own small electric generators, moving them toward electrical independence and security. And in addition to an infrastructure to support the location of business, a good business climate requires sustaining the places where employees live. That means good public schools, affordable housing and livable communities.

Wherever tax subsidies and other aid are given, LCAN stresses, should come with a strong set of enforceable commitments. Any jobs at or jobs contracted out by firms receiving subsidies should pay at least a living wage. Job stability, benefits, apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and agreements not to interfere in union organizing, should also be conditions of receiving public subsidies. Construction jobs generated by publicly-subsidized projects should be used to launch low-income New Yorkers on careers in the unionized construction trades.


The transitional job section of the LCAN statement urges officials to consider workforce development an economic development strategy for the region. It urges decision-makers to create an additional 50,000 private-sector jobs by adopting a strategy that builds on the employment stabilization packages offered by the Emergency Employment Clearinghouse operated by the Consortium for Worker Education. LCAN urges that all the jobs created must be viable and sustainable – they must include education and training, pay living wages, and link to career ladders that lead to middle-income positions. It is estimated that such a project would cost $1 billion. With $21 billion devoted to rebuilding, the group feels that this project must be a priority.

The LCAN plan also calls for creating 25,000 short-term public sector jobs that would enhance the city’s social capital and public infrastructure – such as counseling and other social services needed during recovery, expanded service to deteriorated public parks, or repainting and temporary aides for city schools.


Leaders of LCAN have met with Senator Hillary Clinton and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, and have spoken about LCAN at a number of public forums. As Ed Ott, CLC Policy Director, commented, “Our objective is to engage the public around the document.” LCAN members will shortly be meeting with Governor Pataki’s office, as well as other local, state and federal officials, and editorial boards. LCAN members are also advancing their agenda through leadership positions on the Civic Alliance and Rebuild with a Spotlight on the Poor, two other civic groups with some overlapping objectives.

For more information about LCAN – such as how to become involved and attend meetings, share information, endorse the policy statement, etc. – contact David Kallick, LCAN Coordinator, at (212) 414-9660 or, or Jeremy M. Reiss, Policy Analyst, Consortium for Worker Education/NYC Central Labor Council, at (212) 929-3053, ext. 336, or