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Unions rally against Downtown’s City Point development

The Brooklyn Paper
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Hundreds of union workers rallied at the under-construction City Point development in Downtown on Tuesday and accused developer Acadia Realty Trust of short-changing the non-union laborers building the massive housing and retail complex — which received a $20-million federal bailout in 2009.

A coalition of unions including sheet metal workers and carpenters argued they should have been tapped for the job and claimed project officials had no excuse for not paying higher wages to the non-union construction crew employed at the Dekalb Avenue site because the development received the tax-exempt stimulus funds.

Rally-goers — including politicians and members of the Brooklyn-based community group Families United for Racial and Economic Equality — chanted, blew whistles, and carried signs that read: “Acadia got bailed out; Brooklyn got sold out!”

“The only reason they’re not using union workers is because they don’t want to pay a fair wage,” said Terry Moore, the business manager of the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers for Local 46.

A City Point spokesman would not disclose the wages of the 180 workers who built the first part of the project — a four-story retail structure that currently includes an Armani Exchange shop and is slated to host a Century 21 department store — but did say that more than 80 percent of the employees were minorities or Brooklyn residents.

Union members claim City Point workers received as little as $18 per hour with no benefits. The standard wage for a union carpenter is $46.15 per hour, plus $38.88 in benefits, according to the “prevailing wage” set by the comptroller.

City Point spokesman Tom Montvel-Cohen claims union protesters are wrong when they say the federal stimulus money is a taxpayer handout — it’s actually a bond that the developers will pay back in full, with interest.

“They have been saying this all along and it is not so,” said Montvel-Cohen, whose project could wind up being the tallest building in the borough.

“It’s borrowed money … it is still a loan.”

And he claims the only city subsidy going toward the project will be used to create 120 units of below market-rate housing in the development’s second phase, which is slated to begin soon.

Union officials offered a contrary perspective.

“We have to raise the issue with the city of New York and say why our tax dollars are being given to a developer who’s building without us — that’s wrong!” shouted Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

A handful of city officials who spoke at the protest backed the union laborers.

“If you’re going to go through a public process, if you’re going to come before the city or the state and ask for a rezoning, if you’re going to accept tax-breaks, subsidies, or any kind of public benefit, then there is no question at all that your jobs are union, the project includes affordable housing, and the process is democratic with the communities involved — end of story,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), eliciting cheers from the demonstrators.

The unions have taken their campaign against Acadia Realty Trust online, starting a Change.org petition calling for “decent wages” that has received 230 signatures as of press time.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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Reader Feedback

DemoMan from DUMBO says:
Any general demographics available on the unions protesting? Is it comparable or not comparable to the non-union workers?
Dec. 19, 2012, 3:40 pm
round and round says:
Elected officials demanded that this project include affordable housing, now they demand that it be a union job because it is receiving incentives for the affordable housing. I am sure Acadia would be happy to build a market rate project "open shop." Problem solved.
Dec. 19, 2012, 3:58 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Before the anti-union crowd comes here to vilify the protesters, they should try looking at the causes rather than the effects of why they are protesting. It's not that they are against development, they are against broken promises. They are tired of being treated like pawns only to allow for something that won't really go for them in the end. In other words, they want real jobs that are decently paying, not something that would only be temporary or minimum wage. Hearing what the City Point spokesperson said sounds a lot similar to what FCR cronies have said about promises as well. Let's not forget that many developers have a history of avoiding unions just to not pay them a lot otherwise having no need to meet demands for benefits.
Dec. 19, 2012, 5:19 pm
Patrick from Carroll Gardens says:
How is an electrician making $85.03 per hour compatible with building affordable housing? You selfish F N people are hurting the folks you claim to want to help...
Dec. 19, 2012, 6:05 pm
ty from pps says:
I'm far from anti-union... in fact, I'm a union member. However, I do take issue with $90,000 ( benefits) for the "standard" wage for a carpenter. My dad was a carpenter all of his life, so I know the skills and training required... $90k for a highly trained, supervisory (i.e., head carpenter). OK. But as the "standard" wage? I really hope this is just yet another example of the terrible reporting this paper is famous for.
Dec. 19, 2012, 6:15 pm
BigJ from Downtown says:
To ty: If you know anything about the Building Trades, you would know that it is not a full time 52 week a year job. Most Carpenters are lucky to work 6 to 10 months a year. If you are lucky to work all year, being a carpenter is a very physically demanding job, and believe me you earn every penny the boss pays you!
Dec. 19, 2012, 6:38 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
When did labor uniting become a crime - all the reagan babies - uinions forever
Dec. 19, 2012, 11:31 pm
Matt from Downtown says:
Isn't this the time of year that the unions are busy protesting Santa's elves for not being card carrying members?
Dec. 20, 2012, 3:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
"When did labor uniting become a crime - all the reagan babies - uinions forever"

To some big businesses and other conservatives, they consider unions to be similar to communists even if no connection is ever found.
Dec. 20, 2012, 6:52 pm
cooking retired from midwood says:
the greed that infuses the real estate developers has reached such epic levels,the working man has no choice but to become as greedy,selfish and self-righteous.they are all infected with more greed than can be imagined decades ago,when the working class sought a decent living for a modest lifestyle.Now they are demanding more and more and refuse to take no for an answer.Unions have their place in our society,to balance the unbridled greed of capitalists, but unions are clinging to a fast fading existence,and their own greed and fear is destroying them. all parties will perish from their own excesses,as capitalists self-destructed in 2008.
Jan. 1, 2013, 3:02 pm

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