Building Trades

In Search of Affordable Housing and Good Jobs in NYC

August 5, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Union rally outside City Point apts. this week.

Union rally outside City Point apts. this week.

Brooklyn, NY – Talk about “A tale of two cities” — property service workers at Acadia Realty Trust’s City Point residential development in Downtown Brooklyn are, in some cases, earning half of what their counterparts earn right next door doing the very same jobs.  

Standard pay for property service workers range anywhere between $17- to $24-an-hour, plus benefits. But the doormen, porters, handymen and the like who began working at 70 Fleet Street back in March, are earning poverty-wage salaries as low as $12-an-hour with zero benefits. Workers at the neighboring Brodsky residential development, in contrast, are reportedly making union comparable wages of $18-an hour or more, plus benefits. 

“You can’t just build your way out of an affordable housing crisis — people in this city also need good jobs so that they can afford to live here,” 32BJ spokesperson Rachel Cohen told LaborPress outside City Point this week. “Those things can go hand in hand. We’ve seen this in many developments across this city that have both affordable housing and provide good jobs for the workers who work in those buildings.”

Acadia Realty Trust is a major residential developer in New York City and currently has its sights set on property in Inwood where it is seeking rezoning to build a 23-story, 335-unit mixed-use project similar to City Point. Acadia, however, deals exclusively with irresponsible contractors who pay employees poverty wages, according to 32BJ.

“We had to give up our old apartment to live with my mother-in-law because we couldn’t afford where we were living in East New York,” City Point concierge Quetcy Ramirez told LaborPress. “I’m upset, but I’ve got to keep a job.”

Workers staffing Acadia’s City Point development have signed a petition telling management they want fair pay, essential benefits and the right to organize without intimidation or fear of retaliation. 

“We are good workers and we work hard,” 59-year-old handyman and porter Carlos Salazar said. “We cannot afford to live on what we have right now.” 

Building workers in Brooklyn can't afford to meet basic living expenses.

Building workers in Brooklyn can’t afford to meet basic living expenses.

The Queens father of four said that his duties at City Point have expanded over the six months he’s been on the job — but that he is still left with as little as $200 a month after paying housing expenses. 

Assembly Member Walter Mosley [D-57th District] said that he is standing “shoulder to shoulder with the hard-working families” of his district, and called on Acadia to start paying workers fairly. 

“It pains me to see a luxury developer not paying a living wage to building workers,” the Brooklyn legislator said this week. “I am calling on Acadia to ensure good jobs and fair wages for workers in its building.” 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams demanded that hard-pressed property service workers like Ramirez and Salazar not be ignored. 

“The working families in our community deserve to earn wages and benefits that honor the dignity of their labor and allow them to put food on the table and pay the rent,” the borough president said in a statement.

Acadia has not responded to requests for comment. 

In an email to LaborPress, mayoral spokesperson Austin Finan reiterated his argument that the de Blasio administration is looking out for working men and women.

"Whether increasing and expanding the living wage, promoting local hiring through HireNYC, or protecting workers rights, we're raising the bar for taxpayer-funded projects and lifting up working families," Finan said. "We're setting high standards that ensure public resources incentivize high-road employers."

Apartments at Acadia's City Point development reportedly rent between $500 and $2,455 per month. 

 

August 4, 2016

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