August 24, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – Members of the Building & Construction Trades of Greater New York (BCTC) are calling for the construction of two giant residential towers in Long Island City to be halted this week, saying that the site’s developer flat out reneged on promises to build union after securing required variances from city government.
Angry trade unionists taking a break from area construction sites around Long Island City on Tuesday afternoon, continually vilified developer Jerry Wolkoff outside the 45-46 Davis Street site as a “liar” and a “piece of s—t.”
“He made commitments to me personally on behalf of the Building Trades that he was going to build this all one-hundred percent Building Trades unions,” BCTC President Gary LaBarbera told LaborPress. “He made commitments and produced writing to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer that he was going to build this all with Building Trades affiliates. But once he got his variance he’s gone back on his word. So, he’s a complete liar.”
Construction on the 1.2 million square foot, 1,000 unit luxury development is well underway using non-union labor. The massive project supplanted the popular 5 Pointz graffiti mecca that had previously stood on the site.
Council Member Van Bramer [D-25th District] said that Wolkoff not only lied to him and LaBarbera, but “every single New Yorker” as well — and that he would never again vote in favor of another Wolkoff project.
“I will never believe another word that you say,” Council Member Van Bramer said. “Nor will I ever vote any other project you ever want to build in my district or this city. If he’s lied to us before, he will lie every single time.”
Trade unionists say that this week's action is only the first salvo in thier battle against Wolkoff. Steamfitters Local 638 President Pat Dolan, Jr. suggested that Wolkoff should actually be charged with perjury and called on city government to investigate the developer for possible wage theft at the Davis Street site.
“These poor workers are being exploited,” Dolan insisted.
The roughly $400 million development was supposed to yield 800 union construction jobs, as wells as another 200 permanent jobs — all of them unionized as well. Two accidents, one involving a pedestrian, reportedly occurred on the site earlier this month.
“This is just an example of another irresponsible developer that is putting profits before people,” LaBarbera said. “There’s been several accidents on this site already. He’s paying workers low wages — typical exploitation, typical greed. And we’re seeing more and more of this.”
In addition to fighting for good jobs that pay middle-class wages and benefits right here in New York, the BCTC is also aware that what happens here in the Empire State, has a tremendous impact on the rest of the country.
“There’s no doubt that as New York goes, so goes the country,” LaBarbera said. “We still have the strongest labor market in the country. We know that we are the last bastion. So, it’s our responsibility to continue the fight and stand up for good jobs.”
Wolkoff could not be reached for comment. In a July 1 issue of the Times Ledger, however, Wolkoff said he has nothing against unions — but that utilizing organized labor “gets silly.”