The sounds were the voices of hundreds of newly organized, unionized construction workers gathered to protest Acadia Realty Trust's recent receipt of $20 million in public subsidies for the City Point development project, according to the Coalition for Better Brooklyn.
They say the project doesn't pay labor union wages or offer benefits.
Construction workers like Terry Moore, business manager of the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46, say the deal is simply unfair in an age when unions have already done so much for tackling these issues.
"Acadia Realty Trust has turned its back on our workers and our community by refusing to pay fair wages and benefits," Moore said. "It has to stop."
Tom Montvel-Cohen, developer representative for the City Point project, said that builders have used an “open shop” approach, hiring both union and non-unionized construction workers.
“The reason for the protest, and I’m sure there will be more, is the fact that builders are going with the open shop approach to keep costs under control,” Montvel-Cohen explained. “The only subsidy in the project is city funding, which is being used to create the affordable housing."
He assured that the project was in fact treating workers fairly, and that they have no plans to stop work.
"Since the project's inception, the City Point team has been committed to community participation through minority and local business contracting, employment and the creation of 120 units of affordable housing,” he said. “This commitment will continue through the duration of construction and in the hiring of permanent employees once the project is open."
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery showed her support for the movement, which began just one week ago, stressing that affordable housing should be built by unionized labor to ensure fair wages and job security.
"You are fighting to hold up the principles of America," Montgomery said at the rally. "I think it is abominable. This is government at its worst and it leaves us without opportunity."
Raynier Gamboa, construction worker with Carpenters Union Local 2790, is hopeful that the protest is a step in the right direction for unions.
"We need to take care of our families just like we need to take care of our workers," Gamboa chanted to the protesters. "My daughter goes to college next year and I want her to continue going down the road that she is on."
He explained that deals like this one have put construction workers in a desperate place, and that everyone deserves their fair shot to live in the city which they helped to build.
"We are a country where the middle class deserves to live," he said. "We want a piece of the American dream."