July 6, 2016 By Christian Murray
The developers of the two residential towers that are going up on the former 5 Pointz site are being criticized by union leaders for allegedly going back on their word that union contractors would be hired to build the entire 1,000-apartment unit project.
Developers Jerry and David Wolkoff agreed to use 100 percent union labor as one of the conditions of receiving a special zoning permit in order to build the 41-story and 47-story towers, which allowed them to build an additional 400 units than what is allowed as of right, according to union leaders as well as statements released by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in October 2013.
The union labor agreement came alongside several other conditions, the most well publicized of which was a deal struck with developers to make 210 of the apartments affordable housing, Van Bramer announced at the time.
“G & M Realty [owned by the Wolkoffs] has agreed to build and staff the buildings with 100 percent union workers,” Van Bramer said in a statement prior to the City Council’s vote to approve the zoning permit. He also told the Council during hearings that the Wolkoffs would use 100 percent union labor.
Now, union leaders claim that Jerry Wolkoff has reneged and has hired non-union contractors.
Jerry Wolkoff said that he didn’t renege but did say he is hiring non-union workers.
“I have some union people on my job and some non union people on my job,” Jerry Wolkoff said Friday, arguing that there was no agreement. He also said that it doesn’t make sense for him to pay a contractor millions more just because it is union.
“I have to make it [the project] affordable so the firemen, school teachers and municipal workers can move in,” he said.
He also said the unions should not get involved in discussions dealing with variances.
“In this day and age they shouldn’t have the power to say whether a developer is given [the variance],” Jerry Wolkoff said, and nor should “the municipality and bureaucrats say don’t give it to him because it is not union.”
In the past month, two large inflatable rats have become fixtures outside the 22-44 Jackson Ave. building site, which were placed there by representatives of the Council of Carpenters.
Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said that there was an agreement after Van Bramer organized a meeting between the two of them prior to the October 2013 approval.
LaBarbera said that while nothing was signed, Jerry Wolkoff gave him his word that it would be all union, just like he had to Van Bramer.
“His word means nothing,” LaBarbera said.
While Van Bramer and LaBarbera’s interpretation of October 2013 events are clear, the developers’ appears less so.
During Council testimony a week prior to the vote on the permit, David Wolkoff spoke at a Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises hearing and said that the company had an intention to use union labor but did not characterize it as a commitment or promise.
“We intend to engage contractors which employ local individuals represented by labor unions that are affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York,” he said at the time. (David Wolkoff Hearing Transcript – Zoning 10-2-13)
LaBarbera claims that the Wolkoffs have breached an agreement and wants Van Bramer to do anything within the law to make it right.
He said he has legal counsel looking into whether to file a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Michael Donnelly, a council representative with the Council of Carpenters, said: “Jimmy Van Bramer should take away his variance; he lied.”
Van Bramer was not available for an interview. However, in a statement, he said:
“I’ve been made aware of issues at this site which concern me. I’ve been asked to help to try to bring all sides together in an attempt to address these issues. This is something I’m actively working on.”
I wonder what happened to that poor woman who fell from the fire escape at 5Pointz.
I also wonder about all those ‘artist lofts’ that 5Pointz had for decades didn’t meet safety/fire standards.
Then I see this posting and wonder how those buildings are going to be constructed? Think non-union labor will make them safer? Or will this developer throw them under the bus like they have others for *decades*?
When these buildings get built you couldn’t pay me to live in them! Oh and they’re built on underground creeks…I’m sure that’ll work out well.
How can people post screw the unions on these projects ? Unions have terrible PR and it really amazes me. Unions pay a living , make sure job safety is a priority , and ensure the project is done correctly. It would be ignorant for anyone to think that high safety standards would be kept on a non union project. Im sure many people are not fans of union construction workers , but most likely for the wrong reasons. Do some workers have problems of course every job has this problem , but so many of the union workers are smart well educated family men and women who can take care of there families thanks to the union living wage. All these union workers have gone through a multi year apprenticeship and schooling which makes them highly qualified for there job. Having a developer go non union means he gets max profit , and will price everyone out of the neighborhood. Before you write any more about screw the unions you should really think about your comments and how they effect families and neighborhoods
Last I checked, laws and regulations govern safety standards, not unions. Unions, however, foster overvaluing of labor and an entitlement mentality. “Solutions oriented” isn’t the the union vocabulary unless it is about getting more in their contract through what is essentially legal extortion. In other countries, like Germany, unions represent their membership but also understand the overall business needs of the employer. That works; lining up at the trough like unions do here doesn’t. Until our unions figure out they are biting the hand that feeds them, good riddance.
You are correct unions do not govern safety , but union jobs are held to the highest safety standards. As for the value of labor I think it is shameful for you to think a person should be paid little to build in NYC. As for our contracts you should look into it more . Most trades have now given back 20% of there pay to the greedy developers. When was the last time your boss came to you and said if you want to keep working I want 20% of your pay back in my pocket ? Unions work hard at making deals with all developers so that pay is fair not over priced lining up at hr trough for free money. Truth be told union labor is working hard at less money and completing projects in record time. Like i stated unions have a bad presence in peoples minds , and that should be changed. Developers across the city are using non union labor and putting people in danger. Safety standards are not as strict on non union jobs due to the fact many companies just fold up the company name when fines are handed down and start a new shop. Union contractors cant due that and pay any fines handed out . I also believe people have an outrageous idea on what union workers are paid. Most of us only make 100k if its a really good year with no time out or missed day , and some overtime. In nyc that isnt alot. But your ok with the developer charging 3k for a studio and telling you its for a teacher and fire fighter
“Only” 100k? My heart bleeds for you…really.
Every time I see that inflatable rat, I feel and overwhelming urge to buy something from the business it is in front of. The whole story here reeks of union/politician back scratching – screw the unions on this.
I agree with anonymous visitor. There needs to be some consequences for bad promises. I don’t completely agree with Unions being bad. Unions have some weird work rules on occasion, but they do pay a living wage. Without Unions the workers would get peanuts.
Why is nobody talking about the fact that Jimmy Van Bramer takes money-and lots of it, from this exact developer! He’s focusing either on trying to be mayor or the speaker chair of the city council, both of which will be foolhardy endeavors that he will not win. Focus on US instead Mr V Bramer!
The man sinks lower and lower into the basest behavior human beings are capable of.
Cancel the variance! If he doesn’t do as he said he would, the contract with the city is null and void. We MUST have the right to withdraw the variance. If there is no consequence for lying that is what they will all do what the hell good is the process? He should go to jail or turn over all his profits for the next century to the people of LIC!
Da Comrade! All the property of the capitalist swine belong to the worker!
screw the unions. they are the worst
The developers are LIARS Mr. Van Bramer. What are you going to do now? Keep letting them get their way and this will happen more often than not.
The bowling alley comment (July 6, 2016 4:37pm). was not written by me The Real MRLIC> It is the same idiot who hijacked my MRLIC handle. I will always tell you when it is not me , everytime i find one of this Joker’s comments saying he is me,
Get a life.
We really don’t need you to inform us. We can always tell.
He promised me they were building a bowling alley but that was a lie too!
Van Bramer you idiot! This is what you get when you prioritize your future political aspirations ahead of the job you were elected to do NOW. It’s pretty obvious that both the union and the developer have contributed to your “Van Bramer for Mayor” fund. Which is why you can’t pick a side publicly on this issue. Double edged sword buddy. I bet you thought that you could make allies with the developer and the union on this one deal by helping the developer get his variance and by promising the union jobs. You got played here you spineless, so-called-advocate of District 26.
“I have to make it [the project] affordable so the firemen, school teachers and municipal workers can move in,” – Jerry Wolkoff
Jerry is a hilarious comedian because none of those people can afford to live in these buildings. Its to max the profit to his pocket.
Unions are terrible anyway, they keep the worst worker up and the best worker down to be mediocre at best. Other countries that were once “third world” have better subways, buildings infrastructure etc.. than NYC.
YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK TO WHATEVER ROCK YOU CRAWLED OUT FROM UNDER. BTW DO YOU WORK AT DUNKIN DONUTS?