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.
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
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.
UNION RESPONSE :
LOCAL No. 46
METALLIC LATHERS UNION
REI FORCING IRON WORKERS
New York and Vicinity
1322 THIRD AVENUE
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10021
Telephone: REgent 7 - 0500-0501-0502
TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC:
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.
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.