December 17, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The City of New York’s continued reliance on large-scale housing developers who hire problematic building contractors brought an angry response from organized labor last week, when the Building and Construction Trades Council [BCTC] coordinated a vocal rally at 111 West 57th Street, site of a new 1,400 foot tall, 45-unit luxury skyscraper being erected by the JDS Construction Group.
Thousands of BCTC protesters last demonstrated against the JDS Construction Group project in October, citing the kinds of unsafe conditions that have even proven fatal for workers.
“We are back out in front of JDS' 57th Street project because this developer and its contractors have a history of recklessly ignoring the safety and well-being of their workers across New York City and they must be held accountable,” BCTC Presdient Gary LaBarbera said. “We will continue to protest JDS on this street and across this city until they put worker safety above their bottom line.”
JDS Construction Group is the same development team behind a $600 million, 761-unit luxury residential project at 626 First Avenue.
The 840,000 square-foot development consisting of two soaring towers, is geared towards luxury housing, but 20 percent of that project is slated to be affordable, and eligible for a 20-year 421 tax abatement.
That, however, hasn’t precluded the participation of builders who have a long and checkered history involving tax fraud, wage theft, racism and sexual harassment.
Thomas Auringer, one of the builders attached to the JDS Development Group team, was actually debarred from public works projects in 2003, when he served as president of a construction company with the unfortunate title of “Cavalier.”
Striking ironworker Carol Turner, 52, worked for an Auringer company back in 2004, when a breakaway tower structure crushed his hand.
“My finger was broken in two places and my cuts were bleeding all over the place when my supervisor told me, ‘Don’t sue the company, the owner will take care of you,’” Turner said.
At the time, Turner, a non-union worker, who wasn't aware of Workmen’s Compensation, and didn’t balk when the project foreman personally drove him to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance, also mistakenly accepted assurances from his boss that he would be “taken care of.”
“They set my finger and stitched up my cuts,” Tuner said. “To this day my finger is deformed. I have a fear of heights, and I have flashbacks each time I ride a construction hoist. Whenever it gets cold I have pain in my hand. The owner’s idea of ‘taking care of me’ came to about $750 dollars after taxes."
JDS has also tapped an outfit called Park Side Construction to pour concrete at the West 57th Street project. Park Side Construction is currently under OSHA investigation in relation to the death of a 27-year-old construction worker crushed to death at 236 West 37th Street, last September,
Wilson B., a former Park Side Construction employee who preferred not to reveal his full name, said it's not fair that the city allows Park Side Construction to continue doing business "like nothing happened."
“It could have been me or any one of you that lost their life," Wilson said.
Mario F., another non-union construction worker fed up with being ripped off and put in jeopardy on the job, said that Park Side Construction is “the worst.”
“I remember one time we worked more than fifty-eight hours and were paid regular time,” Mario said. "When we complained to the boss he said, ‘That's how it is. If you don't like it, you can leave.’”