July 29, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – More than half of the New York City Council, four out of the five borough presidents and 21 members of the New York State Legislature are publicly calling on the new owners of an Upper East Side apartment house where property service workers have recently seen their middle-class salaries cut in half, to restore the wages and benefits that had allowed doormen and porters to raise their families.
An open letter to property owner and Bonjour Capital Principal Charles Dayan published this week and signed by more than 50 city and state elected officials declares, “This is not the kind of development we need in New York City.”
Dayan, the former designer jeans entrepreneur turned New York real estate mogul with a company portfolio valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, purchased the Hamilton, a 37-story luxury apartment house at 1735 York Avenue, last spring for a reported $150 million.
The ink was barely dry on the bill of sale, however, when the $24-an-hour salaries that many of the tony building’s longtime property service workers had been earning, were knocked down to as little as $12-an-hour with greatly reduced benefits.
Last month, workers responded by staging a brief walkout and strike on Father’s Day.
“The tenants are very supportive,” Hamilton doorman Hang Ley told LaborPress in June. “They feel very bad for us. They know that I have kids, and right now don’t have medical for my daughter. They see us outside here, they buy us drinks and pizza. They keep us going.”
More than a month later, however, Dayan’s Bonjour Capital has yet to restore slashed wages or sign a fair contract with 32 BJ — the union representing Hamilton property service workers.
“Our city needs development that provides good jobs for New Yorkers, not just more luxury apartments for the wealthy,” the open letter to Dayan continues. “We urge you to restore the good jobs for Hamilton workers and commit to providing good jobs at all your developments.”
Many Hamilton property service workers like Ley have worked at the building for over two decades. But when they initially tried to speak out against the draconian cuts to wages and benefits, the new owners immediately attempted to crush them with an iron fist, ordering employees to remove their 32BJ buttons and forbidding them to talk to tenants about their grievances.
“The management told me to take off my buttons and not to talk to my tenants about what’s going on or what we’ve been going through,” Ley told LaborPress last month. “But that’s my freedom of speech, you know?”
Apartments at the Hamilton rent for more than $7,000 a month.