December 5, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – This week, the head of the New York City Council Committee on Housing & Buildings told LaborPress that scrutinizing the companies involved in the city’s affordable housing plan is, indeed, an issue for his colleagues – and that hearings on the contracting process could be forthcoming.
“It’s definitely something I want to look into because we need to make sure we use all the tools that we have to make sure we’re not working with contractors who are stiffing employees,” Councilman Jumanne Williams [D-45th District] said.
Councilman Andy King [D-12th Distrct], co-chair of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, recently expressed his concerns that workers’ rights and how they relate to Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build or maintain 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, aren’t being adaquately addressed.
Organized labor, along with other worker advocates, want the administration to crack down on affordable housing developers who continue to engage with shady contractors notorious for ripping off and abusing low-wage workers in the most outrageous ways.
Last month, the NYC Community Alliance for Worker Justice appealed to the Housing & Development Corporation to think twice about granting $145 million in tax exempt bond financing to the developers of the Essex Crossing project slated for the Lower East Side.
The same group later nominated “turkeys” Donald Capoccia, Nicholas Lembo and Arker Companies for its “2014 Awards for Excellence in Exploitive Housing.”
An earlier City Council hearing on Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plan held on November 17, left Councilman Williams frustrated after the head of the Department of Housing Preservation & Development failed to provide an accurate count of units targeted for preservation.
The councilman said he has been similarly perplexed following initial inquires about the overall contracting process.
“Some of the responses have been that they don’t have the ability to cut out [bad contractors], which I’m not sure that I fully understand,” Councilman Williams said.
For months striking ironworkers have rallied against the Auringer family of companies – one of the most successful building contractors in the city – alleging abuses that run the gamut from wage theft to sexual harassment.
In addition to pressing the administration to make sure that the mayor’s affordable housing plan produces good jobs with pathways to real careers, worker advocates also want the city to get tough on developers, and force them to separate the good actors from the bad actors.