February 27, 2013
By Neal Tepel and Stephanie West
Photos by Stephanie West
New York, NY – Over Five Thousand New Yorkers took to the streets of Midtown Manhattan on 54th Street and Eighth Avenue in protest of real estate developer Starwood Capital yesterday, February 26, 2013. Starwood Capital is currently developing several projects.
These include a Hilton hotel at 237 West 54th Street and a mixed use construction project at Pier 1 next to Brooklyn Bridge Park that includes a hotel and a high rise residential tower. At the demonstration, 54th Street in front of Starwood Development was symbolically renamed "The road to ruin."
Speakers at the rally included President of Build Up NYC Gary LaBarbara, President of 32BJ SEIU Hector Figueroa, Ironworkers New York State President Ed Walsh, Ironworkers Local 46 Business Manager Terry Moore, Ironworkers
Local 580 Business Manager Jim Mahoney, Steamfitters Local 638 Business Manager Pat Dolan, Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward, and many other union officials and legislators.
"Today we are shinning a spotlight on Starwood Capital for its failure to live up to its responsibility to those New Yorkers who make its success possible," said Build Up NYC President Gary LaBarbara. Starwood is taking the low road on development which is a road to ruins for tenants, communities and workers."
Starwood has over $22 billion in assets under management, much of that raised through public pension funds including New York funds, said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. "Companies that eagerly solicit and receive money from public pension funds have a responsibility to create good jobs with retirement benefits that support strong communities," continued Figueroa. "Public dollars should not be used to create poverty level jobs or increase the burden on our public health system because workers and their families do not have health care benefits," concluded President Figueroa.
"New York City is a world class city. We attract tens of millions of tourists and visitors from around the world. Our communities and the workers who build for and serve our visitors deserve fair wages, benefits and protections," said New York Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward. "Public dollars should not be used to undercut the wages and benefits of tens of thousands of middle class New Yorkers."
Safety problems have plagued the construction of 237 West 54th Street. New York City Building Inspectors have shut the project down several times citing significant safety violations that threatened the neighbors, those walking nearby, and workers on the site.
Several legislators including City Council members Gale Brewer, Steve Levin, and Jessica Lappin were present at the event as well as State Senator Daniel Squadron.
Note: Special thanks to Gary LaBarbara for his kind words about LaborPress at the demonstration.