By now, it’s clear that it will take New York years to recover from the devastation of the COVID pandemic. Unemployment and underemployment continue to be higher here than in other parts of the country. New Yorkers in low-income communities of color are struggling the most to recover. Indeed, these are the same communities where Black and Brown New Yorkers were already faced with an alarming lack of good-paying career opportunities before COVID surged.
In the years ahead, New York must build a stronger, more inclusive, and equitable economy. One major development project that can help achieve those goals and boost New York’s comeback after COVID is a resort casino at 1515 Broadway in Times Square. Recently, SL Green Realty Corp. and Caesars Entertainment put forward a joint redevelopment plan for this site that is both pragmatic and progressive. They propose a thoughtful renovation for 1515 Broadway that can be finished much faster than entirely new construction and with minimal disruption to local communities. Their plan will generate billions in revenue, create thousands of union jobs, and bring more security and new investments that strengthen local businesses and draw more tourists to Times Square.
I urge all elected officials to support this plan. The SL Green-Caesars resort casino would prioritize underserved communities still reeling from COVID for union apprenticeship and employment programs — initiatives that will provide disadvantaged residents with pathways to higher-wage careers. The redevelopment of 1515 Broadway would expand real entry into unionized construction careers for more New Yorkers who have not previously had the opportunity to pursue them.
When construction laborers walk through the doors of my union, Laborers’ Local 79, they are often formerly incarcerated individuals, people of color, immigrants, and women. Construction is one of the few industries where New Yorkers with criminal justice histories can find jobs. They are called “re-entry” workers but that’s a misnomer, because most have yet to enter our economy in a real way. To my union, they bring stories of exploitation from previous low-wage jobs, and we train these New Yorkers for long-term careers in unionized construction, building up neighborhoods across the city.
Construction union apprenticeships at the resort casino proposed for 1515 Broadway will provide underserved New Yorkers with on-the-job training, and they will graduate with zero debt. Apprentices will gain valuable real-world experience in the construction field while earning good wages and access to sustainable career paths. Apprenticeship programs have a proven ability to lift job seekers out of poverty and into the middle class. That’s crucial for COVID recovery. Not only do apprentices receive health insurance once they’ve completed their required work hours–their spouses and children do, too.
Times Square is the beating heart of New York City, and it’s exactly the right place for a resort casino that can transform the lives of struggling New Yorkers who want meaningful, higher-wage careers after COVID. The SL Green-Caesars proposal will provide a massive economic boost not only to these local job seekers from a variety of backgrounds, but also to area theaters, hotels, restaurants, and businesses, while increasing funding for neighborhood initiatives and amenities. All of this will make Times Square a much more attractive destination for city residents and visitors from around the world.
This economic development plan for 1515 Broadway will be a win for everyone in New York. Elected officials, the business community, labor unions, and civic groups should work together to make it a reality as quickly as possible. Let’s get it done.
Mike Prohaska is the Business Manager of Laborers’ Local 79.