Atlantic Yards Modular Construction to Slash Union Wages

B2 BKLYN Atlantic Yards

When 2014 comes to a close, a new residential building will open in Brooklyn. Located near the convergence of Park Slope, Fort Greene, and Prospect Heights, B2 BKLYN will be the first residential building of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. While Brooklyn is no stranger to new residential development, there’s something unique about Atlantic Yards—modular construction.

When B2 is completed at the end of this year, it will be the tallest modular building in the world. The 32-story building will house 363 apartments for rent, of which 50 percent will be affordable. And with the modular approach, the entire Atlantic Yards project will be more affordable for Forest City as well.

According to a recent court-ordered report, Forest City will pay the union construction workers inside the modular factory, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, less than they would pay the workers on site—22 percent less, at least as far as the second phase of the Atlantic Yards project goes. The first phase of the project, which covers five buildings, including B2, was not assessed in this report, though they are all likely to be built modularly.

Obviously, Forest City stands to benefit, but union workers might actually see a benefit as well, despite the lower wages. Though the union factory workers would earn roughly 25 percent less than the union average, they would accept the trade-off for the steady hours and consistent work throughout the year that the modular factory setting provides.

Though B2 got off to a slow start, originally projected to take 18 months to complete, the apartment building is now expected to take an additional six months to finish, pushing it back to December 2014. Still, the modular format theoretically will take one-third less time than conventional construction, and there are several buildings left to complete.