Shulman, labor leaders hold rally ahead of hearing

Claire Shulman (c.) joins labor leaders for a rally ahead of the Willets Point hearing.

Claire Shulman (c.) joins labor leaders for a rally ahead of the Willets Point hearing.

Things are getting underway at the City Council’s hearing on Willets Point. The Council chambers are quickly filling up with advocates both for and against the project, including former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., Central Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, former Borough President Claire Shulman and members of the Willets Point Business Association and ACORN.

A bit earlier, Shulman and Ott were joined by other labor leaders for a rally in support of the city’s vision for redeveloping Willets Point on the City Hall steps.

While critics of the plan have argued that the economic turmoil plaguing the country would kill the project, following the rally Ott said the opposite was true.

“To put this project forward as soon as possible will send the strongest message that this city can pull itself out of this economic crisis, create jobs and move forward and grow as a city,” Ott said. “Frankly, it would send the right signal of confidence to everyone.”

Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the labor agreement Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed promising the inclusion of union labor at every level of the project is crucial to its success and the future success of the city.

“It sets values for what economic development in this city should be about,” Applebaum said. “Look at the Great Depression. What was the response of the country? It was to create jobs. It was to create opportunity. We need to be doing this right now. It would be a horrible mess.”

The news conference managed to miss the parade of trucks from the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, which rolled through about 20 minutes after the rally.

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