A developer who plans to transform the banks of Brooklyn’s Lavender Lake into a designer subdivision called Gowanus Village is facing a state investigation and legal complaints from construction workers and dozens of disgruntled condo owners.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is examining a claim by 200 construction workers that developer Shaya Boymelgreen failed to pay overtime for the past three years — the same charge that is being heard in a separate class-action suit at state Supreme Court, — a source in Spitzer’s office said.
Spitzer’s lawyers are also arbitrating complaints from Park Slope condo owners who bought Boymelgreen apartments only to discover that the windows didn’t keep out the rain, walls weren’t properly insulated and bad engineering meant moldy cellars.
“It was a little shocking to see all the problems in the home we bought,” said Scott Sucher, president of the Park Slope Estates condo board.
Sucher was surprised mostly because Boymelgreen’s name is increasingly attached to high-end real-estate.
The developer has been banking on the market power of Brooklyn’s stroller revolution since the late 1990s, snapping up gritty residential blocks and remaking them. With Park Slope Estates and two other bucolically named condo developments on Second and Third streets between Fourth and Fifth avenues, he introduced bigger, luxury-styled condos to what was then a fringe of Park Slope.
This year, he expects to finish construction on the 12-story luxury Park Slope Tower on Fourth Avenue at Fifth Street as well as another apartment tower on Second Street and Fourth Avenue, and a condo-hotel at 75 Smith St., at Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill.
Over the next decade, he plans to bring the same family friendly luxury living to a four-acre parcel he owns on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
And he’s a big player in DUMBO, where his 23-story Beacon Tower and a 12-story building a few blocks away would add 135 units of luxury housing to the hot neighborhood one subway stop from Manhattan.
He’s been the target of protest by labor unions that have demonstrated near his sites with an inflatable rat. Now, not only construction workers are paying attention.
“Our resident manager is going into apartments and finding out the pipes [Boymelgreen] put in were old and the plumbing was not correct,” said Rob Puca, secretary of the condo board at Newswalk, a Boymelgreen building in Prospect Heights that sits just outside Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards footprint.
Boymelgreen’s company concedes that it has had some construction problems at Park Slope Estates, Newswalk and at nearby City View Gardens, where workers had installed the wrong air-conditioning system. He claims that any problems have been remedied, blaming the law of averages.
“We’ve done almost 300 units in the area and had one poor subcontractor,” said Boymelgreen’s director of development Israel Vranesky. “As soon as we found out, we replaced everything.”
Yet Boymelgreen’s own workforce believes that more fixes will be needed if Boymelgreen doesn’t reform his labor practices.
“The supervisors want everything done fast so if a contractor doesn’t finish something then [the supervisor] will just tell whoever is on the site to finish it up, even if we’ve never done it before,” said a Boymelgreen laborer, one of dozens who submitted his pay records in the class-action complaint now before Spitzer.
The worker earns $10 an hour — a third of what a union member takes home. He says he is owed thousands in back overtime pay.
Despite the cloud hanging over him, his work and his labor practices, in June, Boymelgreen announced that he would begin turning his attention on burgeoning residential markets in Israel, Europe and India.
“…We’re going global,” he told the Wall Street Journal last month.