Aug. 23, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Several hundred construction workers and members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York protested outside of the 5Pointz development site in Long Island City today, saying the developer reneged on a promise to use all union labor for the project.
The 5Pointz development, located at 22-44 Jackson Ave, has faced several controversies since its inception, most recently when developers Jerry and David Wolkoff went back on a promise they made when seeking approval from the City Council for the 1,000-unit development.
While negotiating with the City Council, Wolkoff allegedly agreed to use all union labor, along with several other conditions, to receive a special zoning permit in order to build the 41-story and 47-story towers and build 400 more units than was permitted under code, including 210 affordable housing units. However in practice, union workers are saying, Wolkoff did not stick to that promise.
“I come from the school that when you give your word, that’s better than a signed contract. This man was in my office, shook my hand and said I give you my word this will be a union contract. Where are you now, Jerry?” shouted Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
LaBarbera read from a letter that Wolkoff allegedly sent to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer during negotiations on the project.
“Based on your guidance we are pleased to announce that it is our intention to engage contractors which employ individuals represented by labor unions that are affiliated with the Building and Construction Trade Council of Greater New York for construction,” the letter read. “There will be 800 good paying construction jobs, and approximately 200 full time jobs once completed.”
“He signed this letter so not only does his word mean nothing, his signature means nothing,” LaBarbera said.
Van Bramer affirmed LaBarbera’s claims, saying, “Jerry Wolkoff came to me and wanted to build a building here, and I said to him, I will not permit you to build the building you want to build, unless you build one hundred percent union… Only because he did that did we approve this project. So Jerry Wolkoff lied to me, Jerry Wolkoff lied to Gary, Jerry Wolkoff lied to every single New Yorker.”
Wolkoff, however, denies that he ever made that promise. “I never lied. My intention, it still is and was to use all union labor to the best I can, as long as they come in at the right price,” he said.
He explained that while he would like to use union laborers as much as he can, a union contractor can cost up to $20 million more than a non-union contractor. “I have to bring this in at a price to make it so people can afford to live here,” he said.
Wolkoff said that he is using some union labor and some non-union labor on the project, though he would not give exact numbers. “I’m putting people to work who deserve to work, they have the right to work and they’re good workers, even if they don’t have the union seal, they’re not inferior workers, they’re good workers,” he said.
He also made it clear that the protest today would in no way affect the way he hires workers and conducts business moving forward.
This did not sit well with union representatives.
“Right now today, we’re at the ground zero of greed,” said Daniel Walcott from the District Council of Carpenters. “[Wolkoff’s] going to be looking for some big financing on this job, and I want his financiers to look at what he did with our agreement and see where he’s going to go with that and maybe he won’t get that financing.”
“Organized labor is going to take care of organized greed and we’re going to win,” he added.
“Jerry Wolkoff should be brought up on perjury. He lied to elected city officials,” said Patrick Dolan Jr., president of Steamfitters Local 638.
Despite union leaders calling for charges to be brought up against Wolkoff, it is unlikely that those desires will come to fruition, as the promise to use union labor was never in any legal contract.
“We were lied to, we were lied to every single step of the way, and this man cannot be allowed to get away with doing this because it is dangerous, it is wrong, and he is profiting off the backs of New Yorkers and that is not something that we will ever allow him to do again,” Van Bramer declared.
The rally was punctuated throughout with Bruce Springsteen songs and chants of “Who’s a liar” with the response “Jerry,” between every speaker.
Surrounding the work site were large inflatable rats and an inflatable pig wearing a pinstriped suit, as well as many workers holding signs with sayings such as “How much is the 5Pointz job costing the city?”
This controversy is just one of many involving the 5Pointz development.
The site used to be an outdoor art exhibit space, known for its extensive graffiti, and many fought hard against its demolition when the project was first announced, viewing the development as a symbol of gentrification in the area.
Unions aren’t inherently vile, at least no more so than businesses, governments, or any other institution. Institutions are as only as corrupt or just as the people who staff them. Just sayin.
Words are for toilet paper. Business contracts need to be signed, on real paper. With an attorney. Unions need to go away for a little while and regroup. They are vile.
I’m a member of the United Inflatable Animals Local 33 union and just wanted to say that Wolkoff didn’t honor his agreement with us, either. Those are non-union inflatable rats. The inflatable pig is union but he had his suit done by a non-union tailor.
Does that rat do anything other than attract tourists with cameras?
One big rat is not a problem, it is when all the little rats gather around the big one with whistle and signs and act like dumb, spoiled babies. I will never forgive unions after they picketed a job site, with a giant rat, outside my office in Manhattan. They handed out whistles to their big, dumb friends, about a hundred of them, and they blew on them for a couple hours a day. Very thug, very dumb tactics. Pissed of thousands of people not involved in their personal gripe. Try that outside these meatheads apartments or homes and see how they act. Jerks.
come to a rally and I’ll stick a whistle up you’re ass
Are you trying to be a parody caricature? Because all you are doing is proving Brooklynmc right about being a bunch of meathead thugs. We cannot be rid of this organized crime, I mean “labor” (like union members actually work), soon enough.
He is simply proving that men who work with their hands don’t particularly care to be called dumb meat head thugs.
Just because men and woman work blue collar jobs doesn’t mean they are empty above the collar.
My “meathead” is college educated. Just likes to work with his hands as opposed to behind a desk. Not all union workers are lazy and dumb.
I believe that’s “I’ll stick a whistle up YOUR ass.”
Ha ha, toot toot!
The “dumb, meathead,thugs” are really upset that they don’t have your forgiveness.
How on Earth does one make any employment agreement without a written contract?! I’m no Wank-off supporter, but VanBramer and the Union leaders could not have acted more naively. Sheesh.
‘is our intention’ ‘is our intention’?!?!?! How the hell was this language used, and yet and no one saw this coming? God this play was obvious.
I did not write the August 23, 2016 7:32 pm post. Frank, the guy is supposedly on a transcript for using only Union Labor.
Let’s recap. The unions, themselves an extortion racket, cut a deal of votes for JVB in exchange for him restricting how a property owner may develop his land. The property owner I am sure is obeying the letter of the deal with the City, since otherwise there would be a law suit instead of a bunch of bloviating by the union thugs. So, a developer was able to weasel out of a corrupt deal with a corrupt politician who is now in hot water with his cronies, and the unions are facing the reality that they priced themselves out of the market. What’s not to like about this?
This guy sounds like a real Wolk-off to me. I’m torn because obviously an outdoor art exhibit space that the taxpayers pay for is terrible but the only thing worse is a developer. I wonder if those inflatable rats cost $518,000 like the giant pink sculpture from Brooklyn no one asked for. We could have just put up a few of those rats and saved some taxpayer money.