Building Trades

The Right Rx For Sandy Recovery?

December 23, 2013

By Joe Maniscalco

Councilman Donovan Richards.

New York, NY – Laborers, some of whom were among the first called in to clean up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last year, are hailing the passage of a new bill which promises to track the billions of dollars in federal disaster aid being pumped into the city.

Once enacted, the “Sandy Tracker bill” will require contractors and other recipients of Hurricane Sandy relief funds to demonstrate compliance with numerous worker protections including prevailing wage, health benefits and more.

“We strongly believe that the money should be used to create good jobs for New Yorkers,” said Javier Gallardo of the Workers Justice Project. “This bill will begin the process of transparency and accountability.

New York City Council Members Donovan Richards and Brad Lander co-sponsored Into. 1040-A, also known as the “Sandy Tracker bill,” earlier this year. It calls for the establishment of an online database meant to keeps tabs on how Hurricane Sandy funds are actually being spent.

“Workers should not work on sites for $3 an hour,” Councilman Donovan Richards said Thursday on the steps of City Hall. “We refuse to have any work coming through our community that is not going to earn a prevailing wage for people in our community.”

Strong support from community based organizations and organized labor helped put the “Sandy Tracker bill” over the top.

According to Natalie Alegre, coordinator for the Alliance of a Just Rebuilding, efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy’s devastation continue in hard-hit communities throughout the city.

“We are really excited about the passage of the bill, but survivors are still suffering,” Alegre said.  “We want to see real leadership from the new administration.”

Supporters of the “Sandy Tracker bill” echoed those sentiments chanting, “Moldy homes, jacked up rents, show us where the money’s spent.”

Councilman Richards, who represents the battered community of Far Rockaway in Queens, said that shady contractors who failed to clean up properly after the storm “duped” many of his constituents.

“People’s mold would come back after they came in and supposedly fixed their homes,” Councilman Richards said. “This legislation would require contractors and subcontractors to be online – and if they had any misdeeds on their record, it would be publicly stated, so that we know that the money is going to good contractors.”

Bettina Damiani, project director at Good Jobs New York, is also urging Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, to use his executive authority to apply community-hire standards to all Community Development Block Grants so that 30 percent of all wages for Sandy jobs go to workers hired from low-income communities.

“Unions and companies have been doing training programs for 50, 60 years,” Damiani said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel – these kinds of relationships have existed in the past. It’s not about creating it from scratch.”

December 20, 2013

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