A group of unions, community groups and local politicians has sued New York City officials and City Point developers over wages at the construction site, The New York Daily News reported. The suit asks for a halt to construction and a study of the “impact of construction workers’ low wages on on the economy in nearby neighborhoods,” said the story. Mayor Bloomberg, Acadia Realty Trust, city housing agencies, and other real estate firms were among those being sued. The filing alleges workers are paid $15 per hour with no benefits. State Assemblyman Walter Mosley and City Councilwoman Letitia James were part of the lawsuit, said the story. The city owns the land and leases it to City Point. The story said City Point developers declined comment. Coalition Sues City and Developers to Halt City Point Construction [NY Daily News] Photo by New York Daily News
Trouble is brewing at the Arias Park Slope at 150 4th Avenue after management fired two concierges there “in retaliation for trying to organize their workplace,” according to a release put out today by service workers union 32BJ SEIU. More than a hundred workers, supporters and elected officials plan to protest there tonight at 6:30 against luxury buildings that get tax exemptions but don’t live up to their obligation to provide affordable housing and prevailing wages and benefits, according to the group. They are also asking Arias management to rehire the two concierges. Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio plan to attend. “A 32BJ SEI investigation has found buildings in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan in clear violation of the rule in the 421-a program that employers provide the prevailing wage and paid benefits,” said the release. “A further survey of more buildings receiving the tax exemptions, which cost New York City more than $1 billion in annual tax revenues, showed the violations to be widespread and systemic.”
Unions and community groups are demanding Bloomberg stop construction at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn and study the impact of low wages there, The New York Daily News reported. They allege that construction workers are being paid $15 an hour instead of higher union wages, up to $47 an hour. A Bloomberg spokeswoman said City Point is “a linchpin for revitalization in downtown Brooklyn” and has had a positive impact on jobs here. The project has created more than 180 construction jobs, some union and some not, and of those employees, “82 percent were minorities and 41 percent were local residents, more than doubling target goals,” she said. The City owns the site and “has provided more than $20 million in taxpayer-funded bonds” for its development, said the story. Councilman Steve Levin said he supports the call for a stop-work order and competitive wages, according to the Daily News. Coalition Calls for Halt to City Point Project [NY Daily News]
The Communication Workers of America last week released a report condemning Cablevision’s Internet service in Brooklyn. In many Brooklyn neighborhoods, Cablevision is the only option for cable Internet service. Cablevision’s approximately 300 technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn are members of the CWA. The report contends that service in Brooklyn is significantly slower than Cablevision’s service in the Bronx, based on testing data, and that Brooklyn is dotted with faulty and outmoded equipment. The report claims Cablevision is purposefully “leaving Brooklyn behind” to break the union. Above, a photo purportedly showing some broken cable equipment held together with duct tape and hanging no higher than six feet off the ground at 2022 Jerome Avenue in Brooklyn, according to CWA. In December, before the report came out, Cablevision sued CWA for defamation, saying the union was making false claims about the speed and quality of its service in Brooklyn, New York Business Journal reported. Photo by CWA
Walmart’s controversial plan to open its first New York store in East New York is no more, Crain’s reported. The huge retailer and developer Related Cos. could not come to terms. The talks “broke down over financial issues,” said the Journal. Instead, ShopRite grocery, a New Jersey-based cooperative with union employees, struck a deal Friday to move into the space. The planned Gateway II shopping center will be 630,000 square feet. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 applauded the development. ”ShopRite will bring quality food to this area of Brooklyn as well as good jobs with an economic impact that will be felt throughout the five boroughs. I welcome this company’s newest location with its history of responsible business practices, supporting its workers and the communities they serve,” the Journal story quoted Christine Quinn, city council speaker, as saying. For its part, Walmart said it “remains committed” to opening locations in New York City. ShopRite Deal Means No Walmart [Crain's] Brooklyn Walmart Taken off the Table [WSJ] ShopRite Takes Walmart’s Rumored Location [TRD] Rendering of Gateway II Mall Via TRD
The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP) announced a pretty cool program they are undertaking that creates local jobs and prompts historic preservation in the neighborhood. Basically, MARP is aiming to create a local job training program for unemployed or underemployed residents that trains them to restore or rehabilite the area’s historic homes. The training would focus on the wood-frame homes which make up much of Wallabout (pictured), an area just landmarked last year. MARP is using the Preservation League of New York State to study the feasibility of this program. The PLNYS will develop a recommended program framework over the next several months and MARP will announce the program’s next steps in the spring of 2013.
That’s right, the Borough of Kings is willing to go toe to toe with Manhattan for jobs, reports the NY Post, the same day that the NY Times reports the city is gearing up for a 165,000 job loss. “Taking advantage of the slumping economy, the public-private Downtown Brooklyn Partnership plans to kick off an aggressive marketing campaign early next year to attract Manhattan and New Jersey businesses to the cheaper rents in Brooklyn’s business district,” they write. No word on specifics of the campaign, though Marty Markowitz did offer some suggestions concerning the “Brooklyn Renaissance.” Not everyone thinks we should be poaching business from Manhattan, though. Congressmen Alan Gerson told the paper: “Brooklyn and Manhattan should be working together to come up with common marketing strategies to keep businesses in New York rather than trying to steal from one another.” Brooklyn Is Going Fishing [NY Post] Photo by lookwithyoureyes.
A right-wing think tank has issued a big report that, according to the Sun, says affordable housing construction would be sped up by the use of nonunion labor. The Manhattan Institute isnot surprisinglyarguing that soaring construction costs are slowing development, and a big part of that slowdown is caused by unions that demand a prevailing wage for their workers. Also not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with the report’s findings. “This is a valid area of investigation, but I would not support this recommendation,” says Richard Anderson, the president of the New York Building Congress. And Louis Colletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, said the recommendation was “absurd” and the use of nonunion labor results in “substandard housing in terms of quality and safety.” Of course, some affordable housing developers in Brooklyn, like the Fifth Avenue Committee, acknowledge that it’s very difficult for them to use union labor because of its higher costs, and the rapidly rising Toren is basically a textbook example of how quickly you can build when you leave unions behind. (The skyscraper has 42 affordable units.) Where do you stand on the issue? Report Urges Nonunion Labor Use [NY Sun] Photo by arecee.