Just days after a construction site death in Jamaica, Queens, The Trestle bar and restaurant in Astoria was packed on Wednesday with union members from the Heat and Frost Insulators Local 12 and the IUEC Local 1, who opposed the non-union project.
With less than a month until the Queens Borough President special election, the union decided to back Elizabeth Crowley, the lone female candidate in the race, a former council person and District Council 9 member, who wants to make sure that as more development projects come to the “World’s Borough” — they include union workers and tougher safety regulations.
If elected, Crowley would have an advisory role on ULURPs and could recommend development projects that could benefit the approximately 2.273 million residents of Queens County — the second most populous and geographically largest borough in the city.
Queens is presently the site of several major development projects at Willets Point, Hallets Point, Flushing Commons, Sunnyside Yard and Hunter’s Point South, as well as housing and apartment projects throughout Jamaica.
“When you look around Queens and you see all the development that is happening — Long Island City, Astoria, when you look at Jamaica and Flushing — the vast majority of that work is getting built non-union,” Crowley said. “When you hear about accidents on construction sites, it’s not union construction sites. This is a public safety issue.”
Crowley is supportive of infrastructure upgrades in Queens, but also understands the borough is growing faster than previous predicted and that there have to be standards on how developments are constructed.
“We are growing faster than planners could have ever imagined,” Crowley said. “But we need to build it smart and we need to build it union.”
According to World Population Review, the U.S. Census Bureau site that tracks population growth, Queens’ population is estimated to balloon to 2.29 million by the end of 2020.
Crowley believes her background in studying architecture and urban planning more than qualifies her to lead the development boom in Queens.
“When it comes to land use — not just building buildings, but infrastructure, not just investing in our airports so that people can come here, but trains, so that we can move people in and around the borough,” Crowley said. “There is no coincidence that Astoria and Long Island City have seen great development because of their proximity to transit.”
Lenny Legotte, business manager and president of IUEC Local 1, expressed his proud support of Crowley’s campaign.
“She’s a member of the painter’s union, she is a great representative of ours and she is a labor person through-and-through,” Legotte said. “She’s someone that has always been a great representative of the labor movement and the building construction trades, and she has always been standing right out in front of us.”
With Crowley leading the borough, Local 12 Business Agent Chris Cook anticipates an increase in construction site safety, a prevailing wage and the vetting of non-union contractors .
“We want those contractors vetted like ours are,” said Cook. “We want a level playing field.”
Ryan McCarthy, a Local 12 member and resident of Astoria, is looking forward to casting his vote for Crowley.
“I’m here to support her because she is good for unions and she is a progressive candidate,” he said. “When I get off the train at Queens Borough Plaza and I see all these non-union buildings going up I can’t believe it. I want someone that will fight for worker’s rights and fare wages in the borough.”