A Victory in the New York Harbor Community Benefits Campaign

August 28, 2008 -- Partnership for Working Families

By Kate Atkins, GANE Executive Director

With only a few months in existence, GANE kicks off the year by taking on an ambitious Community Benefits campaign around the largest redevelopment project taking place in the New York metropolitan area: the ten billion dollar redevelopment of the former Military Ocean Terminal army base located on prime real estate on New York Harbor in Bayonne, New Jersey. GANE, the Garden State Alliance for a New Economy, is a newly formed coalition of community-based organizations and labor unions, predominantly service-sector unions. GANE is a member of the national Partnership for Working Families, a network that promotes best practices in research, organizing, and advocacy to ensure that economic development serves the needs of working families.

At the height of its economic prosperity, Bayonne was a thriving center of high-quality blue-collar jobs. The parents of many town residents worked at the local Maidenform factory or as longshoremen at the local port.

The redevelopment of the former Bayonne army base presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to spark the local economy and create good middle-class jobs. Without strong leadership and community voice, the army base conversion could result in low-road economic development and the creation of poverty-level jobs. If left in the hands of Manhattan’ economic elite and elected officials unaccountable to working class residents of Bayonne, the former army base could result in the development of a cruise line, five-star hotel, and luxury condominiums with no guarantee that the hundreds of potential service sector jobs created will be good, middle-class jobs that lift families out of poverty.

With strong leadership, the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor Side could represent a model for the new economy. The hundreds of service-sector jobs created at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, and the light industrial jobs also envisioned for the project, can be good-paying jobs with health benefits and job training opportunities that promote upward mobility for Bayonne residents.

And, as Bayonne builds a new community on a piece of land larger than the City of Hoboken, New Jersey, this area could become a model mixed-income community with affordable housing opportunities and other community services; where stockbrokers, nurses and firefighters and housekeepers can prosper and raise their families.

GANE has had early success in promoting a model of development that will bring broadly shared prosperity to Bayonne for generations to come. After six months of educating government officials and the public about the potential for "high road" development, in one-on-one meetings and at public hearings, GANE's proposed language was incorporated into the Request for Proposals that was released early August. Developers are asked to provide information, in detail, about the quality of the jobs their proposals will create and the affordability of the homes they will build.

The several hundred members of GANE's partner unions and community organizations—many of them shop stewards and strike leaders who had never set foot in City Hall until they joined this campaign—are poised to advocate for a redevelopment plan that offers working families an opportunity to live and to thrive.

About GANE Staff

Kate Atkins: Executive Director Kate Atkins has twelve years of experience in community organizing. She was director of New Jersey ACORN for seven years and worked as a community-clergy organizer for SEIU 32BJ. Her interest in organizing started with her work organizing small businesspeople and community residents at the Kensington Joint Action Council (KJAC) in Philadelphia.

Reinaldo Aviles: Community Organizer Reinaldo Aviles has many years of experience as a grassroots political and community activist in his hometown of Perth Amboy, most recently worked as the Field Director on the successful electoral campaign of reform candidate Wilda Diaz.Aviles has also worked with students and congregations, most recently as director of youth ministry at a large Catholic church in Flemington.

Wayne Richardson: Community Organizer Wayne Richardson has been an organizer and activist in his hometown of Newark for many years. Since his first march in the 1970s, he has been an advocate for global issues like the end of apartheid and local issues like expanded opportunities for Newark's youth. He is active in Stand and Deliver, a leadership and communication program for Newark teens. Most recently, he worked as a union organizer for the Laborers union.

Dawrell Rich: Dawrell Rich, GANE's Strategic Researcher, began work with the organization on July 1.Rich hold a degree in Architecture and a Master's in Infrastructure Planning. He most recently worked as Assistant Planner for a consulting firm, advising municipalities on development planning.

For more information on GANE, please contact Kate Atkins at (201) 344-3909.