July 22, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
Bronx, NY – A Bronx father of two who last week suffered a vicious assault at a construction site located just a block away from Trump Tower in Manhattan, is now speaking out about the horrific attack that shattered his lower right leg and thrust his continued career as an ironworker in serious jeopardy.
Juan Paulino, 30, can barely move within his modest 1-bedroom Bronx apartment without waves of excruciating pain shooting up his injured leg. But he’s still had to spend the better part of this past week attempting to chase down the unpaid wages he earned helping to construct JDS Development Group’s 82-story luxury skyscraper at 111 West 57th Street.
The young emigre from the Dominican Republic started working for Park Side Construction — a sub-contractor on the tony apartment project — back on July 1. Two weeks later, when he still hadn’t been paid, Paulino says he approached a Park Side Construction foreman to inquire about the missing paychecks. Instead of being paid, however, Paulino says he was spat upon, struck in the head and ultimately tacked to the ground, snapping his lower right leg.
“It was incredible,” Paulino told LaborPress. “We are like family. The foreman is supposed to protect us. I don’t know why he treated me like this.”
The same foreman also told Paulino he was “fired.”
JDS and Park Side both share a history of labor abuses in New York City. Over the years, Thomas Auringer, one of the development group’s major players, has been the subject of numerous class action lawsuits by workers alleging systemic wage theft and overtime violations. In 2003, Auringer was debarred from public works projects while serving as president of a construction outfit called “Cavalier.”
Park Side Construction, meanwhile, recently found itself under OSHA investigation in relation to the death of a 27-year-old construction worker fatally crushed in 2014.
Last month, Edgar Joshua Melendez joined more than 30 other non-union construction workers striking against the Auringer family of construction companies when he walked off the West 57th Street job site protesting stolen wages and unsafe working conditions.
“Maybe I’m not going to work for a long time,” Paulino said this week. “Maybe in three years, maybe not — I can’t answer that question.”
According to Paulino, not only was he forced to call for his own ambulance and drag himself from the fourth floor down to the lobby after he was attacked and co-workers stood by — other managers on the job then also refused to call police and tried to pretend the incident never happened.
“The workers feel scared to talk about what happened to me — they don’t want to lose their jobs,” Paulino said.
On Thursday, Eddie Jorge of the New York State District Council of Ironworkers, was finally able to help Paulino recover his paychecks — which allegedly still do not reflect the total number of hours Paulino actually worked at the West 57th Street site.
The site supervisor who finally handed over Paulino’s paychecks outside another JDS worksite at 40th Street and 6th Avenue, said that he did not witness the July 15, altercation, but is “not happy” about what happened to Paulino. That same supervisor also said that Paulino was never actually fired, and could returned to work if not for his injury.
Paulino doesn’t know for sure if he’ll ever be able to continue life as an ironworker because the smashed lower right leg and ankle he’s now forced to haul up and down three flights of stairs everyday, will require surgery in about five to six weeks. His doctors are reportedly dubious about the outcome.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Paulino said. “Those people hurt me and I’ve got a family. I’ve got to take care of my family.”