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.”
The Times and WNYC have stories today about the proposed extension of the 421-a tax abatement, which gives developers tax breaks on new construction. Real estate interests, of course, think the abatement should be extended in order to spur development, as does Housing Commissioner Rafael Cestero, who tells WNYC extending the tax break will bring jobs and go a long way toward reversing bust-induced blight. On the other hand, Cestero tells the Times that “his agency was granting many individual developers extensions anyway, and that this change merely extended benefits that the developers would have taken advantage of had the market never crashed.” Councilman Brad Lander is a critic of the proposed three-year extension, which there’s supposed to be a hearing about today, noting “the extension could cost the city $420 million in tax revenue, presuming that the extension would lead to the construction of 7,000 units” and saying We don’t need to be giving a huge bailout tax break to assist vacant sites to become the next luxury projects.” The best quote, though, is from one of Brooklyn’s biggest developers, Isaac Katan: “A lot of proposed construction projects, especially in the outer boroughs, do not make any economic sense even with a tax abatement in place…In the majority of cases, removing the tax abatement is just the straw breaking the camel’s back.” The logic on both sides of this one is getting a bit difficult to follow.
City Weighs Extending a Tax-Break Deadline [NY Times]
City Proposes Extending Tax Breaks For Developers [WNYC]