Building Trades

AFL-CIO Dollars Put the Building Trades to Work

September 29, 2014
By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY—On Manhattan’s West End another residential building is going up, but it’ll stand out from competing towers in the skyline because this one, the Riverside Center, is being funded by the AFL-CIO.

On Friday afternoon, tradesmen and tradeswomen working to build the new $420 million, 40-story tall building were honored for their work at an AFL-CIO Worker Appreciation Event on West 59th Street and Riverside Drive.

When completed, the building will boast 750,000 square feet of residential and retail space. Eighty percent of the units will be priced at market-rate, and 20 percent will be priced for affordable housing. And the first five floors will house a new public school.

Mike Stotz is the president of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, which is financing the project. In the accompanying video interview, we asked Stotz about the significance of leveraging AFL-CIO dollars on a project of this scope.

“We have 200 investors, all union pension funds, that are investing in the project. We take that money and we put it into the trust. We then go around the country to find responsible real estate with an eye towards building and constructing that real estate because the byproduct is union jobs are being created,” said Stotz. “It’s truly a great model for labor.”

The AFL-CIO investment trust began operations in 1988 that originally invested in real estate-related debt. Its investment strategy has been evolving since that time, but its main focus is funding primarily real estate properties around the country.

“We have other projects in other strong markets around the country, such as the Wolf Point project in Chicago. We also have two projects in California and just finished up two apartment buildings in Minneapolis,” Stotz said. “We have $1.2 billion under construction across the United States, and I expect that number to go to $1.5 billion in the next four months."

As Congress has been unable to authorize a multi-year transportation bill, we asked Stotz whether AFL-CIO dollars could be invested in projects other than real estate.

“We are relegated strictly to real estate; it’s a commercial real estate group trust. Having said that, I have met with many international presidents recently and the leadership of the AFL-CIO and the leadership of the AFL-CIO capital strategies group because we want to identify other funds that we can start and grow that can do the same thing for the investment trust for transportation workers and for infrastructure workers,” Stotz said.

We had the opportunity to interview in the accompanying video one of the building tradesmen working on the project; he is one of 2,000 tradesmen and tradeswomen working at the site.

Frederick Civers is a three-year apprentice ironworker with the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46. He said he’s proud to be constructing the Riverside Center with AFL-CIO dollars.

“It’s awesome. It’s creating a lot of opportunities for union workers, which in turn helps the city and state. We’re going to do a great job, on time and with great quality. This is what we do, and we’re going to keep on doing it,” said Civers.

@marcbuss marc@laborpress.org

September 29, 2014

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