November 19, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Workers citing a history of on-the-job abuse at the hands of irresponsible contractors are calling on the city to withhold $145 million in tax exempt bond financing from the development team poised to start building a massive nine-acre housing and commercial project on the Lower East Side.
Delancey Street Associates – an outfit consisting of L&M Development Partners, BFC Partners and Taconic Investment Partners – hopes to break ground on the 1.9 million square foot Essex Crossing by next spring.
But the Concrete Industry Coalition, a group representing approximately 50,000 construction workers around the city, says that Delancey group members are a poor choice to receive public help because they continue to work with RNC Industry and U.S. Crane & Rigging – two shady contractors notorious for everything from wage theft to sexual harassment.
“There is no benefit for us, no health insurance, nothing,” construction worker Carrol Turner told a NYC Housing Development Corporation [HDC] panel on November 17. “I’m begging you, show Auringer family-associated companies the door.”
U.S. Crane & Rigging is just one of a host of companies owned and operated by Thomas Auringer and his family. The companies are currently involved in a class action lawsuit involving some 60 workers alleging wage theft and other abuses.
John Skinner, president, Metal Lathers & Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46, said that both RNC Industry, as well as U.S. Crane & Rigging, have documented track records of illegal behavior that puts “workers, the general public and investors at risk.”
“Local 46 and the Concrete Industry Coalition feel strongly that New York City Housing Development Corporation tax exempt bond financing should not fund projects that employ irresponsible contractors who break the law, violate workers’ rights and who create unnecessary legal risks for developers and investors alike,” Skinner said. “Before the Housing Development Corporation authorizes any tax exempt bond financing for Essex Crossing, we urge you to ensure that only responsible contractors who follow the law are employed on this project.”
Tammy Rivera, an organizer with the New York City District Council of Carpenters, said that the she was “devastated” to learn just how poorly her non-union counterparts were faring on RNC and Auringer-related jobs.
“We build New York City,” Rivera told the HDC board. “We risk our lives. We risk our health. I’ve been in this for 20 years, and have had a rotator cuff injury, shoulder and knee surgery. And it’s all due to what I do. But how is somebody who makes $15 and $20 an hour, with no benefits, able to take care of themselves when they are sick – let alone take care of their families?”
Isaac Henderson, spokesperson for the Delancey Street Association, called the impassioned testimony of workers “informative,” but declined to comment on the kind of criteria the developers consider when hiring a contractor.
“I’m not prepared to talk about that right now,” Henderson said.
The first phase of the Essex Crossing development project will include two sites – one at 115 Delancey Street, and another at 195 Clinton Street. Only about half of the roughly 400 to 500 projected units of new housing are considered “affordable.” The first phase of the plan has a 2023 completion date, and also includes construction of the new 40,000 square foot Essex Street Market.
Worker advocates, however, are hoping that a progressive mayor and city council will not let that happen without first considering workers’ rights.
“We’re asking HDC to withhold funding for Essex Crossing until there is a guarantee of responsible sub-contractors who offer longterm, quality careers,” said Melissa Shetler, campaign coordinator, Laborers-Employers Cooperation And Education Trust [LECET].