February 1, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Union muscle mixed with street theater on the steps of City Hall on January 31, when organized labor and community activists teamed-up to blast “one of the most irresponsible developers in the City of New York,” as well as the present administration’s continuing love affair with greedy developers.
Acadia Realty Trust – developers of the City Point project in Downtown, Brooklyn – was inducted into the “Corporate Tax Dodgers Hall of Shame” as ironworkers and their supporters put Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s Economic Development Corporation on notice that they will not accept building projects like City Point which reap tens of millions of dollars in tax-payer subsidies while offering nothing for the greater community.
“They’ve got over $20 million in our city tax-payer money to develop property in Brooklyn – including the land – and no regulations or specifications as to what happens after they get the money,” said Terry Moore, business manager for the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46. “So, the city says, ‘Here’s the money, you have a good deal.’
The community gets hurt, workers get hurt, contractors get hired under the ruse that minorities get the jobs because they’re minority contractors, but they pay their workers barely or little more than minimum wage.”
Phase two of the controversial City Point project is slated to begin this week, but according to activists, the roughly 176 jobs that Acadia has committed to creating so far, does not compare to the number of jobs that were lost when the old Albee Square Mall located off of Flatbush Avenue was booted out in favor of the new luxury hi-rise development.
“These are the things that go on every day while everybody here goes to work, keeps their heads down, pays their taxes, does the right thing and tries to keep a roof over their heads,” Moore said. “The City of New York enters into deals and sells you out.”
Indeed, as problematic as the City Point project may be, members of the building trades and their community allies view the project as emblematic of a much larger anti-union, pro-corporation agenda presently dominating the halls of power, and manifesting itself in the ongoing school bus drivers strike and the recent mass firings at Cablevision.
“All over the city you are seeing a full frontal assault on unions,” said former police officer and current State Senator Eric Adams. “Don’t allow people to make you feel that what’s happening to the school bus drivers is not impacting you. At 7:30 this morning I was with CWA at their site [in Brooklyn] where 23 of their employees were fired just for asking for a meeting. I didn’t spend 22 years wearing a bulletproof vest standing on the corner as a union member to go to the senate and forget what it means to be part of a union.”
New York City Councilwoman Letitia James told the coalition that they have a rare opportunity to unite like never before.
“The bottom line is all of us need to stand together because we are really one city,” Councilwoman James said. “If you care about the city, and if you care about the trajectory of where the city is going, then we need to join hands and demand good policies in the City of New York – and demand transparency.”
New York City has already granted Acadia access to a deep grab bag of economic goodies that includes tax-exempt recovery zone bonds, a City Council grant, Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program tax credits, and a 421-A affordable housing real estate tax exemption.
“This is a union city,” said Local 580 ironworker Faulyn Messam. “The politicians should see that this city is a union city, and no non-unions should be working here.”
Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said that he has been trying to get an agreement out of Acadia for the last two years, but to no avail as the developers have instead insisted that the they will accept the handsome subsidies and “use who we want, when we want.”
But ironworkers from Local 580 and 361 have remained steadfastly defiant, refusing to start erecting steel on the project until Acadia successfully strikes a deal with the Building and Construction Trades Council.
According to LaBarbera, that show of unity is now starting to pay off with a scheduled sit-down with the City Point developers slated to occur in the next couple of weeks.
“This job is either going to be all good, or all bad,” LaBarbera said. “They’re not going to divide us. They want to pick and choose who they want to use. But we’re not going to be divided. The work that’s gone on to this point, from the unions that are involved in this campaign, has driven Acadia to pick up the phone and call me. And on February 11, I’m sitting down with the CEO of Acadia and I’m going to give him a message from you. I’m going to say, either you deal with us, or the fight continues. And we will never stop.”