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For Theater Project, It’s All About Jobs

September 6th, 2017 · 22 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, City Politics, Development and Zoning, News and Events

Glenn Marshall

Carpenters Union official Glenn Marshall addresses City Council

Union jobs, open shop jobs, hey, any kind of jobs. That was the message that dominated the City Council public hearing Tuesday night for New York-based Exact Capitol’s $410 million proposal to resurrect two shuttered Downtown theaters as well as building more than 800 housing units occupying nearby streets including two residential towers to become the tallest buildings in the central business district. Dozens of speakers addressed the City Council among the more than 100 in attendance at Geraldine Johnson School, the majority union members and students from the University of Bridgeport, transported by shuttle, some of whom are students of Mayor Joe Ganim’s evening lectures on government.

Peter Carroll

Peter Carroll, president of the Fairfield County Building Trades.

For many older city residents the Poli and Majestic theaters represent the city’s heyday as a magnet for New York’s theater and pageantry, but the night was less nostalgic and more about jobs, especially Bridgeport jobs for Bridgeport people.

Prior to the formal public hearing Glenn Marshall, an official of the New England Council of Carpenters Local 2010, backed by dozens of his members, addressed the council during the public speaking portion of the regular meeting with an urge for the council to adopt a Project Labor Agreement similar to other city projects such as Bass Prop Shops on the East Side.

“We ask you to make sure there’s a local hiring effort because if you don’t … chances are it won’t” get done, said Marshall.

Ganim kicked off the formal public hearing in Geraldine Johnson School auditorium (City Council Chambers is undergoing renovations) noting the project will “dramatically transform Downtown to create opportunities.” He also lent his support to a Project Labor Agreement “that’s good public policy … it’s local hiring, minority hiring and second-chance hiring.” Ganim, exploring a run for governor, will need organized labor support for his candidacy to gain traction. Project Labor Agreements guarantee union jobs at prevailing wages and benefits. It’s unclear yet if Exact Capital will embrace a PLA.

Former State Senator Ernie Newton, seeking his old council seat in the East End, urged a formula for union and nonunion (many constituents aren’t in a union) but most especially minorities.

“If you don’t put teeth into something you leave it up to them (the developer) to do nothing,” declared Newton.

Republican school board campaigner and 2015 petitioning candidate for mayor Chris Taylor made two specific points: no tax breaks for the developer and a donation from the developer to Harding High School sports teams.

James Logan, pastor of Messiah Baptist Church, has a particular interest in the development, his church on Congress Street abuts the back side of the vacant theaters. He asked for the church to have a seat at the table to address development logistics such as parking.

Peter Carroll, president of the Fairfield County Building Trades, backed by dozens of his members, echoed a Project Labor Agreement, emphasizing his organization has met “every single hiring goal” with money that’s put back into the community.

Jordan Mathis, a union apprentice who attended Bullard Havens on the East Side, said she worked on behalf of Project Labor Agreements at Bass Pro Shops and Black Rock School. “It’s a family,” she said.

Sitting quietly, but notably, were dozens of University of Bridgeport students shuttled to the public hearing. One student addressed the council, declaring he attended one of the mayor’s classes. “This project will bring life to the city,” he said. Ganim attended law school at the university. In his return as mayor, he also moonlights as a UB lecturer.

Government cynics who argue the Ganim administration is pushing for quick passage of the Land Development Agreement were also represented such as City Council candidate from Black Rock Pete Spain, Downtown merchant Kelvin Ayala and former City Councilman Bob Halstead, a supporter of historic preservation.

See Land Development contract, that does not include a Project Labor Agreement, submitted to the council last month here.

Exact Capital and affiliates propose to transform the closed Poli and Majestic theaters and 200-room Savoy Hotel into a $400 million multi-purpose performing arts center involving high-rise residential towers on several Downtown parcels including Main, Water, Golden Hill, Gold, Middle and Housatonic. The Planning and Zoning Commission has approved sale of the multiple parcels associated with the project.

Ganim wants the council to approve the development agreement at its next September meeting, but certainly before the end of the legislative session in November. Come December a new City Council will be in place, following September 12 Democratic primaries and the November general election. If the contract is not approved within the current configuration of council members, the process starts anew.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Change is in the air. That spells opportunity for some folks. And reminders to others that they have not followed the paths that they blazed in their own rulebook.

    Lennie terms Spain, Ayala and Halstead as “cynics”!! Not at all, Lennie. They are merely ‘public safety officers’, pointing out rules not followed for so long that those in power have forgotten the process. (If Tom McCarthy has seen his last Council meeting as leader, who will keep the DTC team honest, playing by all of the rules?)
    Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, has just written The Vanishing American Adult. On page 224, the comment: “In a republic, there is a perpetual danger that citizens will neglect our responsibilities and take our liberties for granted–or that the up-and-coming generation of Americans won’t even understand why these freedoms exist or the purposes they serve. There is a danger that we will forget our history, our shared story.”

    Is that playing out currently in Bridgeport, in Hartford with major fiscal dangers (that Steve Stafstrom holds out as a major potential savior for Bridgeport in endorsing ‘pragmatism’) and on our “national stage”?

    Get into the weeds-the facts and numbers that those in power steer you away from. Ask questions. Take your time to get a consensus opinion that everyone understands and can remember one week later!! Who will defend public spending decisions that cover 30 years, go off the track, and spend ONE BILLION or more of public funds?? Do we need to do this twice in a century? Time will tell.

  • Steven Auerbach

    I went to the meeting expecting to hear the developers plans and speak in support of this project. Instead, It was great hearing the support by the majority of people that will ultimately work on this project. Union people. Woman and people of color. The benefits of this project are immense. The benefit to the city is too great to even fathom. The perception of Downtown would be changed forever. Tax abatements? I can not imagine not giving some benefits to developers building a project of this magnitude. 400 million. People need to be reminded that we lost Bob Scinto as a developer with the non support of incentives. Bob Scinto went on to re imagine Shelton.

    Bob Halsteads point about tax credits for historic properties is truly a benefit to the developer if they are looking to re-develop the theaters to their original glory as in Waterbury. That may not be the goal at all! These theaters have been shuttered and derelict for 50 years. There are thousands of Bridgeport residents excited about a project of this magnitude and to see their memories come back to life. 18 story highrise apartments in a downtown f the states largest city in the wealthiest county in the country can only enhance the culture of downtown and help local business’s thrive. Tax payers know that this type of development can only help stimulate other development that can not only provide building jobs but bring life to a rather bleak area in downtown north. Taxpayers , especially those in Black Rock know that without massive development, their taxes like the rest of the city will continue to rise. The “cynics ” will always be there. To some they are hero’s. To others they are the reason for a slow drip drip drip of development in a city so desperate for an explosion of economic growth.
    This project is not just a homerun for the Mayor and the council.This project is a homerun for the entire city. This will attract young people to our downtown and make it an attractive place to live, work and play. I hope this project can move forward at lightening speed to get housing built as soon as possible.

  • Bob Walsh

    Dumb ass!
    The developer already said there will be no PLA.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Steve.
    As long as the City can pass compensation agreements that can cost the public ONE BILLION and more when calculations are compared at usual and customary rates of return for borrowing and earning, it will not be attractive. Why no comments on GANIM1 first Billion Dollar Bonding concept that fell off the tracks, and GANIM2 current pass at what is likely to be another ONE BILLION DOLLAR fiasco? Is this loyalty offered in a “head in the sand” position? Time will tell.

  • Donald Day

    If this project comes to fruition the City should demand that those union jobs for this $400 million dollar project be representative of the racial make-up of Bridgeport. Bridgeport is 74% Black and Latino and 74% of those high paying union jobs should representative of that demographic. This served two purposes, it give people of color a chance to make some real money, but more importantly it opens those trade unions to people that historically have a hard time entering those trade unions.

    You want the contract, fine just make sure that your employees are just as diverse as the City of Bridgeport and not just stick City residents with those low paying service jobs once the project is complete while giving the real transformative jobs to white males from other communities like the police and fire departments.

    • OlofsonD

      where did you get your figures of 74%?

    • Andrew C Fardy

      Day where are these jobs come from that you say should go to residents. You just cant get residents . give them a hammer and say zap you are a carpenter or zap you are an electrician.
      The unions want the PLA so they can guarantee that what ever is being built is by the unions/ They could care less about how many workers are from Bridgeport. One of the biggest phonies are the electricians union run by the Carroll family. They show up at the poll telling voters what a great city Bridgeport is yet they built a new union office in Monroe. Talk about 2 faced.
      Day there is no judge that will wave apprentice programs. Most unions require 5 year apprenticeships so the bull shit about hiring residents is just that bull shit.

  • Bob Walsh

    Pete Spain is a government cynic?
    As a little bit of history, the rule that Pete was referring to was proposed by none other than the greatest c\government cynic TOM McCARTHY!!!
    It has been so long ago I cannot remember exactly but it was something along the lines of “We (the city council) should have a summary of any item which has a cost associated showing yadda, yadda, yadda”

  • Bob Walsh

    Joe,
    If the idea of a PLA good public policy than why wan’t it included in the RFP to begin with?
    Did Tom Gill override you on this one? I think not.

  • Jimfox

    Last nights meeting was “just a big nothing burger” Ganim pull off a Hoax!
    The Unions as well as the City Council swallowed it hook line and sinker!
    Not one person from the Ganim team stood up to give a presentation on the validity of this project, not even Joe Ganim.
    A $410 million project and Joe Ganim goes mute?

    We should change the name of this City project to Hoax North!

  • Bob Halstead

    Who is waving the magic wand to make $410 million magically appear? Is the City going to build its own mint??

    How in the world could the City have allowed 109 porcelain.pedestal sinks in 109 Savoy Hotel rooms to be smashed up by scrap thieves? They must have had a punch in time clock in the hotel lobby? Not to mention that the ornate cast iron balustrades in the Majestic lobby were removed

  • Tom White

    Pete Spain has reasonable expectations that the city council would follow its own rules for their review of a proposal.

    The last revision of council rules was in 2011, so this requirement is not new. They voted at the beginning of this session to adopt these rules.

    I doubt that any members of this council are aware of such a requirement or they simply do not care. They have more important things to do such as attending fund raisers, posing with the mayor at media events and attending taxpayer funded junkets.

    It would be appropriate for a council member to call for a reconsideration of the committee’s vote, table it and reschedule a meeting with the compliance to the council rules specified as the agenda item.

    Given that this council session ends soon and all matters before it die if not acted on, and the Ganim administration is anxious to show something that could be portrayed as his success as Mayor, well, ………………
    All in favor? Aye! Motion to adjourn.

  • Tom White

    Ok. Now for cynicism.

    The museum of wishful thinking will need a new wing to display the renderings from this ‘proposal’.

    I expect that within six months the developer will be looking for extensive tax breaks to compensate for the demands for prevailing wage hiring and other higher cost factors.

    I expect that about one year from now, you will see Exact Capital bring in more partners who will demand more taxpayer funded incentives.

    Ultimately, after a court battle, they will withdraw their ‘proposal’.

    Steve, the unions are pushing for use of union trade members at prevailing wages. They don’t care that it is a Bridgeport project. They would be supporting a deal if it was a concentration camp that was proposed.

    Lennie, maybe a poll is in order for OIB readers to vote on how long this ‘proposal’ will be alive.

  • Tom White

    Oh, I forgot to mention that about twenty years ago, Bob Scinto explained to me (one on one) way he would (did) not develop in Bridgeport. I am sure he shared the same frank message with many people.

  • Jimfox

    Bob moved Bridgeport to Shelton.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Joe is trying to play both sides with this,Exact has come out and said they don’t use union workers,I’m sure they have expressed this to Joe before the bid was announced,and Joe agreed.But this whole project isn’t about Bridgeport,it’s about Joe trying to help himself(that’s all it’s ever about with him),he sat there and “supported”a PLA,but wouldn’t say he would require one.He’s walking a fine line,trying to not anger the unions,and appeasing Exact…
    Personally,you are starting to see the writing on the wall,this project will never get off the ground.First off,if Exact was really behind this project full bore,wouldn’t you think they would send a few of their people to this public hearing?,if they were really behind this,they would sit up there with Joe and answer the many,many unanswered questions,I mean this is a $410 million development,and they are a no show at a public hearing???.There are still no answers about financing,tax abatements etc….This is all smoke and mirrors by Joe,and his ridiculous quest to be governor.

  • Frank Gyure

    LOL..there are no jobs here because none of this will happen.

  • Frank Gyure

    Steelepoint is at a standstill. Christoph says they are building one building—some unnamed seafood restaurants and the rest will be the new offices for the Christophs. So,the Christophs will move out of their Middle Street Offices,leave that vacant and move into their new digs on Steelepoint. The theaters at Steelpointe are GONE. The hotel at Steelepointe are GONE. Dave and Busters are gone to the MIlford Mall. I have not heard of anything going on beyond that. The Christophs say that Bricks-and-mortar retailing is shutting doors and so Steelpoint will become more residential. Is it going to be the same strategy. Mix of a larger percentage affordable housing and “standard-market” housing/prices and where the standard-market will walk away from living with affordable housing.

    • Bob Walsh

      Frank,
      You’re being toooo negative. Bass Pro is built. Phase II or is it Phase III, depending on if a T-Mobile, Starbucks and Chipolte are a Phase unto themselves, may take another 20 years but it will be well worth the wait.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        Steele Pointe was a who,e lot of not much. Bass Pro is a great anchor but the hotel and theaters are dead in the water. The city spent years and lots of money to acquire the kand is not seeing any tangible benefit. Is anyone buying the bill of goods Being promoted by Exact Capital? The way this is being presented looks like another cynical dog-and-pony show.

      • Frank Gyure

        Bob..Thank you and I will try to be more positive.

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