Modular construction to result in lower worker wages

Steady hours, controlled environment may still appeal to union workers

Atlantic Yards rendering (Credit: SHoP) and Bruce Ratner
Atlantic Yards rendering (Credit: SHoP) and Bruce Ratner

The modular construction approach at Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards will result in slashed wages, but union workers may still look upon it favorably even so, according to a new report.

Forest City stands to benefit from cross-trained union workers inside the modular factory inside Brooklyn Navy Yard, because workers there would be paid less than those on-site. The investment for the 11 towers in the project’s second phase would represent a 22 percent cut from conventional construction costs, a 22 percent wage slash and a 24 percent reduction in revenues for the city, MTA and New York State, according to a new analysis conducted for a court-ordered environmental review.

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Still, the prospect of steady hours and an opportunity to work in a controlled environment year-round may appeal to union leaders, according to the Atlantic Yards Report, despite workers in the factory earning some 25 percent less than the average union construction worker. And if the modular approach proves successful at Atlantic Yards, it could lead to similar projects around the city and additional jobs, according to the report.

The modular approach could also take one-third less time than conventional methods, the report said, though a reduced timeline does not appear to be in the cards for B2, the project’s first tower. Originally slated to take 18 months, the tower is now on track for a December 2014 finish, 24 months after breaking ground. [Atlantic Yards Report] — Julie Strickland