Thursday, August 13, 2009

In the neighborhood . . . Gluck & Chetrit fire unions

and plan on a 22-story (or more!) nursing home in what is now the parking lot behind Park West Village on 100th Street. See last article below.

West Side Spirit, August 6, 2009

Columbus Sq. Labor Fracas

Cost-saving switch to ‘open shop’ draws fire from unions, Board 7

By Matt Joseloff

August 5, 2009

Rats and pigs are the newest tenants of the Columbus Square rental complex, along Columbus Avenue in the upper West 90s. The giant inflatable rodent, which at press time had been replaced with a cigar-smoking pig, are both the handiwork of local labor unions protesting the switch to non-union workers at the construction site. Co-developers the Chetrit Group and Stellar Management made the change at the beginning of July.

Because contractors use local labor when dealing with a union workforce, many of the hundreds of replaced workers were residents of West

Union representatives surround a giant inflatable rat. photo by Andrew Schwartz

Union representatives surround a giant inflatable rat. photo by Andrew Schwartz

Harlem and Upper Manhattan, said Andres Puerta, organizer for the New York District Council of Carpenters. Puerta added that the new workforce receives a quarter of the prevailing union wage—between $20 and $40 an hour—and no health care, pension and vacation time. He also complained that while developers said the move to non-union labor was necessary to reduce costs, none of the savings is being passed on to residents.

“This is a total money grab in the midst of a community that needs good wages and good benefits,” Puerta said.

The developers, who characterized the new workforce as “open shop,” rather than non-union, said the change was ultimately a cost decision.

“We decided to go open shop and choose the most qualified and fully licensed subcontractors at a cost effective price point. We met with several of the major trade unions in advance of our decision to go open shop to see if we could reach a project labor agreement which would make these projects economically viable. We were unable to reach a compromise that worked with the economics of the project in today’s market,” said Peter Rosenberg, development director at Stellar Management, in an emailed statement.

Asked how the cost savings would be passed down, Rosenberg said that the additional housing supply at Columbus Square would help relieve demand side pressure on housing, positively impacting area rents. However, the developers did not clarify how non-union labor would allow more housing to be built than a union workforce.

A spokesperson for the project, Talia Mann, said that the companies as a matter of policy do not disclose compensation paid to employees and subcontractors.

The developers and unions are not engaged in negotiations, and union members are currently picketing the site.

“Since we commenced construction of Columbus Square in 2006, we have employed hundreds of union workers and logged nearly a million hours of union labor in the various the building trades. We have and continue to employ only the most qualified and fully licensed subcontractors,” Rosenberg said in an email.

Helen Rosenthal, chair of Community Board 7, said she was concerned about safety because union laborers are often better trained than non-union workers. At press time, she was planning on proposing a resolution to the board’s steering committee on Aug. 5, calling on the developers to hire back the union workers at prevailing wages and benefits.

“It’s for the safely of the workers and the residents and anyone walking around that area,” Rosenthal said.

The full board will vote on the resolution at its Sept. 8 meeting.

The Columbus Square development includes five luxury rental towers, running along Columbus Avenue from West 97th to 100th streets. According to spokesperson Mann, Columbus Village, as many residents know the development, was a name conceived by retail brokers to market the storefronts that are part of the project.

With additional reporting by Charlotte Eichna.



LOCAL No. 46

New York and Vicinity
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10021
Telephone: REgent 7 - 0500-0501-0502


We want to advise the public that certain facets of the work being performed at this site are not being performed by skilled building tradesmen. This work is being performed by persons who are receiving far less than the prevailing area wage rate and who also are not receiving the fringe benefits generally received by individuals performing this kind of work in the Greater New York City area.

This is a matter of great concern to our union. Employees on this job are performing work and are not receiving the wages and fringe benefits paid to skilled craftsmen in the Greater New York City area for the performance of such work. The contractors on this job are attempting to reduce our area standards by underpaying employees for construction work.

We urge you to withhold your support and patronage of this establishment. We urge the general public to support us in our effort to maintain our wages and fringe benefits. We urge you to communicate with the owners of this establishment and express to them your opposition to their attempt to reduce our area standards.

We thank you for your support.

West Side Spirit

Jewish Home Land Swap

Nursing home move to W. 100th St., with Chetrit getting W. 106th parcel

By Dan Rivoli

August 13, 2009

Representatives from Jewish Home Lifecare, an organization that provides health care for seniors, met with community groups on Aug. 12 to unveil a proposal to redevelop its West 106th Street nursing home in Park West Village, on West 100th Street.

To bankroll the new nursing home, a project that has long been in the works and was originally planned for the south side of West 106th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, Jewish Home was going to sell part of its property to a developer. But with the economy faltering and developers reluctant to buy, the only offer came from Joe Chetrit, who has taken community heat for his Columbus Square project, consisting of five luxury rentals and retail space at Park West Village.

Building 1 is a rendering of the 22-story nursing home Jewish Home plans to build on West 100th Street.

Building 1 is a rendering of the 22-story nursing home Jewish Home plans to build on West 100th Street.

In the deal, Chetrit will own Jewish Home’s current property, at 120 W. 106th St. Jewish Home will then build its proposed 22-story nursing home on top of land that was to be used for 180 parking spaces, on West 100th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues. Those spots will be moved to an indoor parking area without an increase in rates for owners. Newly built park space, gardens, outdoor seating and an indoor auditorium for the nursing home residents will also be open to Park West Village residents.

“Relocating to West 100th Street will have a net positive impact on Jewish Home’s Upper West Side clients, family members, employees and neighbors,” said Bruce Nathanson, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Jewish Home Lifecare.

By building a new facility elsewhere, Jewish Home can continue to operate at full capacity without staff layoffs and construction disruptions for its residents.

However, community groups fear that Chetrit will build a massive luxury tower on Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property because of the 2007 Upper West Side rezoning plan.

That year, Jewish Home collaborated with community groups in a deal with the City Council that carved the nonprofit’s parcel out of the 51-block Upper West Side rezoning plan, which drastically reduced neighborhood building heights. The concession was meant to allow the nursing home to rebuild a larger, state-of-the-art facility that could update the service provided to clients.

“We had a whole deal and process. We spent a long time putting it together,” said Blanca Vazquez, co-coordinator of the Manhattan Valley Preservation Coalition, which worked on the 2007 zoning compromise. “And now, everything is out the window and up in the air.”

Vazquez said the group was upset by the deal because the exemption was based on Jewish Home’s goodwill with the community and the promise of a community facility.

“This is not a simple swap or trade,” Vazquez said. “They made a commitment to community use.”

Although Jewish Home’s nursing home will now be located elsewhere, Chetrit will still be allowed to build tall, market-rate residential towers without zoning restrictions, per the 2007 agreement.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who opposed Jewish Home’s exclusion from the rezoning plan, said he was troubled by the new proposal.

“The City Council carved out an exception for that site on West 106th Street because it was to be used for health care facility,” O’Donnell said. “Now, that exception seems to be used for a for-profit housing developer. It’s changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

O’Donnell is calling on the Council to have Jewish Home’s West 106th Street property conform to surrounding zoning.

“If someone wants to build a for-profit development, they should build within the context [of the neighborhood],” O’Donnell said.

Update on latest meeting with Stellar Management

Members of the tenants' association's executive committee met with Stellar representative on August 12th about building issues. Here are a few of the items:


On August 11, 2009, at our request, Stellar put a new SECOND bin for recyclables in each compactor room. Unfortunately, people on

2 East, 3 East, 5 East and 5 West, 8 West, and 9 West

took the second bin between their installation and the next morning. Those tenants may not have known that the bin was there for all tenants and thought it was being thrown out. If you happen to have taken one, please put it back so we'll all have more capacity for recyclables.

Clean cans go in the smaller bin. Clean plastics, glass and aluminum go in the other can, and paper goes on the top shelf. Please do not leave anything with food on it in the compactor room, since that attracts roaches. (Crush pizza boxes and put them inside bags and put the bag down the chute.)


If the bathroom vent is spewing dirt in rather than sucking it out, please notify Carlos. There are dirt-trappers around each suction fan on the roof, and Stellar promises they will be cleaned.

(which hasn't been showing Channels 2, 4, 5, and 9) should be fixed within 2 weeks. Cable customers are unaffected.

Those who have difficulty walking will be getting new keys that cannot be copied for the side doors. That means the locks will be changed.

BACKYARD CLEANUP - The backyard is supposed to be cleaned up - and the bins on the east side will be put in the sheds. (The west side shed has machinery in it that Stellar says it will try to move.)

STAIRWELL DOORS TO BE CHECKED FOR FIRE SAFETY - Stellar will check to ensure that all stairwell doors open and close at the required legal pressure.

A few other items were discussed and we'll be presenting the whole thing at the General Tenants Meeting on September 16th.

See you then.

Gluck says take the money even if not necessary

NY Post


click to enlarge

Last updated: 11:39 am
August 13, 2009

First it was the banks and automakers that got a helping hand from Uncle Sam -- and soon some New York City apartment complexes could get one, too.

A bill winding its way through Congress proposes to prop up deteriorating apartment complexes by injecting $2 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program into an effort to stabilize multifamily properties in default or foreclosure.

The bill, which is called the TARP for Main Street Act and was sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-Brooklyn and Manhattan), would use TARP funds that have been returned by banks and plow it into programs that, according to the bill, would create "sustainable financing" for the complexes as well as provide funding for property rehabilitation.

The House is considering the measure, which focuses on apartment buildings with units that are either rent stabilized or receive government subsidies.

Many developers during the housing boom bought rent-regulated apartments by borrowing against the properties themselves and betting they could make hefty returns by converting them into market-rate buildings.

However, thanks to the recession and the collapse of the real estate market, many developers are now struggling to make mortgage payments, let alone finance repairs and upkeep of the properties they own.

"Just about everyone who purchased an asset in 2006 and 2007 is under water, especially the rent-stabilized complexes bought in upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn," said Dan Fasulo, managing director of Real Capital Analytics, a real estate research and consulting firm.

There already have been casualties. Larry Gluck of Stellar Management and partner Rockpoint Group last October defaulted on their loan for Riverton Apartments in Harlem.

More recently, developer Kent Swig lost control of Sheffield57 to hedge fund Fortress Investment Group after he defaulted on loans used to convert the former rental building into a condominium.

According to data released last month from Real Capital Analytics, 120 properties in Manhattan, including 84 apartment buildings, were considered "troubled."

Dina Levy of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board said 70,000 New York City apartments, or about 6 percent of the city's roughly 1.2 million rent-regulated units, are at risk of deterioration in part because of the market crunch.

Despite those numbers, Gluck, who in addition to Riverton also bought 16 Mitchell-Lama buildings , told The Post that the situation facing developers isn't as dire as some would believe.

Indeed, Gluck said many loans don't need a bailout because large local lenders are working with developers to prevent complexes from defaulting.

Nevertheless, Gluck, who stressed he maintains his properties, said the bill sounded like a good idea, and that real estate developers might as well collect from the government since everyone else was already getting handouts. [emphasis added]

"As long as there is a long list of people out there with their caps in hand, why should everyone else be getting a free run?" Gluck said. "If it staves off some bank foreclosures, it is good for real estate and good for tenants."