Charter/Spectrum Strike Drags On As Queens Residents Sound Alarm Over Dangerously Bad Service
Building Trades, Features, Law and Politics, New York

Charter/Spectrum Strike Drags On As Queens Residents Sound Alarm Over Dangerously Bad Service

January 15, 2019

By Joe Maniscalco

New York, NY – When Queens residents allied with the Building Trades #CountMeIn campaign complain about Charter/Spectrum’s dangerously shoddy cable TV and phone service, they sound a lot like striking IBEW Local 3 workers who say, yes, service is poor — and has only gotten worse as their nearly two-year-old strike against the wealthy corp. has been allowed to drag on. 

NYC trade unionist rally in front of Charter/Spectrum headquarters late last year in support of striking IBEW Local 3 workers.

Marine Terrace tentant Deborah Pawluk, 62, told LaborPress that landline service at her 444-unit Astoria apartment complex is so bad, residents in need of medical help have “almost died.”

“Our service goes out constantly,” Pawluk said following a tenants meeting with #CountMeIn organizers last month. “You have an elderly person and the only landline they have is Spectrum and your wires are down — how do they call 911? Spectrum workers are here every other day, that’s how often [the service] is down.”

The Building Trades’ #CountMeIn remains locked in a battle with Related Cos. and its founder Stephen Ross over the future of so-called “open shop” development at the massive Hudson Yards project on Manhattan’s West Side. Marine Terrace in Queens is a major component of a more than 45,000-unit affordable housing portfolio that Related — according to the Wall Street Journal — relies on to mitigate the risks of constructing multi-billion-dollar projects including Hudson Yards. 

About 1,800 IBEW Local 3 technicians  — many with years of cable-TV experience that eclipses Charter/Spectrum’s debut in New York by decades — went on strike back on March 28, 2017, in an effort to preserve union pensions and medical benefits.

According to Pawluk, an elderly Marine Terrace neighbor with a bedridden spouse and wonky Charter/Spectrum phone service only narrowly averted disaster last year, after her son just happened to visit her while she was having a medical emergency. 

“He had to carry her down three flights of stairs, throw her in his car and take her to the hospital,” Pawluk said. “Within a half-hour, she was in the OR getting a pacemaker because she had no landline to call 911 — it’s really horrible. [Charter/Spectrum] still wants the full price [for service], of course.”

“He had to carry her down three flights of stairs, throw her in his car and take her to the hospital,” Pawluk said. “Within a half hour, she was in the OR getting a pacemaker because she had no landline to call 911 — it’s really horrible. — Marine Terrace tenant Deborah Pawluk

Another longtime Marine Terrace neighbor who asked to remain anonymous fearing eviction, told LaborPress that she, too, is fed up with poor Charter/Spectrum service, but frustrated that Related Cos. makes choosing another cable TV and phone company impossible. 

“This is ridiculous,” the 62-year-old tenant said. “We cannot have anybody else — it’s a monopoly.  We have a lot of problems. I want to choose the company that I want to choose.”

Local 3 strikers insist that the so-called “contractors” Charter/Spectrum has brought in to try and maintain service during the nearly two-year-old strike are unqualified and failing New York City customers miserably.

Charter Communications spokesperson John Bonomo told LaborPress that Marine Terrace’s problems have been due to ongoing work being performed at the Section 8 apartment complex. 

“As part of our commitment to bring advanced services to all of our customers in Queens and across our New York City service area, we have been doing an unprecedented amount of network construction in this complex – at the builder’s request,” Bonomo said in an email. “On several occasions, our services have been affected when our cables and other facilities have been severed by building and other construction contractors at the complex. Each time we have repaired the cables in an expedited manner.”

Related Cos. has not yet reposted to requests for comment, but Pawluk said that she is frustrated because Related failed to coordinate with Charter/Spectrum before commencing with renovations after purchasing the buildings two years ago. 

“Before the renovations, I told them, work with Spectrum now. You’ve got everything ripped up;  it would be really easy for Spectrum to come in and bury the wires since you’ve got the walls open. They wouldn’t listen then — now, that it’s going to cost a few million, no one wants to pay for it.”

Cable and phone service at Marine Terrace isn’t cheap — Pawluk says she was able to reduce her hefty $195 monthly bill down to $125 — but only after complaining extensively about the dangerously poor service. 

The #CountMeIn campaign has been working since last summer to help Marine Terrace residents get organized and force Related to address tenants’ concerns about a myriad of outstanding issues at the Astoria complex. The next meeting will be held on January 9, at the Astoria World Manor on Astoria Blvd. at 6 p.m. 

Local 3’s ongoing strike against Charter/Spectrum remains unsettled despite mounting complaints against the telecom giant and widespread calls for the standoff to end.

January 15, 2019

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