By Caspar Gajewski
The 73-acre South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will be transformed by energy titans Equinor and BP into an operations hub for the vast offshore wind farms they’ve been contracted to build. According to a company spokesperson, when that happens it will bring “over 1,000 jobs to the area.”
The area in question is Sunset Park, a diasporic, post-industrial, perennially-polluted neighborhood peopled by Asian, Latinx and immigrant communities. An influx of green jobs would certainly be welcome there. But exactly how many jobs are we talking about? It depends on who you ask.
Lauren Shane, senior communications manager for Equinor Wind US, said it would be more than 1,000. At a community meeting Equinor hosted in February, a different company representative said the port upgrades would create 1,500 short-term jobs and 500 long-term jobs. Bklyner reported “1,000 short-term and 200 long-term jobs within the Sunset Park community and 5,200 jobs overall.” Mayor Eric Adams said the offshore wind industry will bring “13,000 local jobs over time,” when he announced the SBMT port transformation agreement in January.
“There are not that many jobs for folks of this community in the wind facility itself. There are ancillary jobs they’re looking to advertise locally: maintenance and janitorial. They need to staff the facility. Hopefully there will be local outreach,” Jeremy Laufer, the district manager for Community Board Seven, which represents Sunset Park, said.
“This community vision of taking the industrial waterfront so that it could start building for climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience is not new,” Elizabeth Yeampierre, the executive director of UPROSE, told Bklyner. “These are victories that don’t happen overnight.”
Sunset Park community organizations like UPROSE have for decades centered environmental justice in their fight for green-manufacturing jobs. Community Board Seven, which represents Sunset Park, has, too.
The SBMT deal was finalized by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and included several provisos. Equinor has agreed to contract with minority- and women-owned business enterprises for at least 30 percent of its supply chain needs. Furthermore, it will invest $5 million into an ecosystem fund that will “bring more New York City residents into offshore wind careers, propel offshore wind innovation, and support a just transition,” according to a mayoral press release.
The company has stated it will work towards opening an offshore wind learning center in Sunset Park, although it is not required to do so.
UPROSE in partnership with Community Board Seven and others led a successful 2019 opposition campaign against Industry City’s rezoning proposal for the SBMT, which is the city’s largest industrial waterfront, that the group and others believed would accelerate gentrification, displacement and economic inequality.
The organization wanted to maintain the waterfront’s industrial identity not least because, according to a report by former New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, 11.3 percent of private-sector jobs in Sunset Park are manufacturing related, the highest for any community in NYC.
“We recognize everything the community has fought for,” Shane, the senior communications manager, said.
But that doesn’t guarantee Sunset Park residents jobs or local businesses contracts with Equinor’s main suppliers.
Equinor has held three supply-chain expos since its bid for the Empire and Beacon Wind projects was approved in 2022.
“Our purpose is to bring in local companies,” Shane said, but when asked if Equinor requires Vestas, its turbine supplier, and Skanska USA, its construction manager, to work locally where possible, she said, “No.”
“It’s an ongoing collaboration,” Shane said.
It’s uncertain to whom jobs and supply-chain contracts will be given, but the work will vary.
Short-term jobs at SBMT will primarily include construction and staging, which is a term that describes the assembly of wind turbines.
Not all jobs will be short-term. “The wind farms will last at least 25 years,” Shane said.
Long-term jobs, though fewer in number, will include warehouse staff, control room operators and turbine technicians.
Many of the long-term jobs are expected to be union jobs.
“I want to see the unions recruiting in the neighborhood,” Laufer, the district manager, said.