Lisa Prevost in Bricks & Bucks
It’s a problem that vexes co-ops and condos every summer: how to find reliable – and affordable – replacements for union workers who leave on vacation. This summer, 17-year-old Colin Judge is part of the solution. Freshly graduated from Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, he’ll head to the University of Scranton in the fall with a decent sum to cover his living expenses – thanks to a new summer replacement worker program sponsored by the Five Borough Realty Managers’ Social Club.
Judge is earning $12.50 an hour sweeping, cleaning and repainting the underground car garage at the Skyview-on-the-Hudson cooperative, a 12-minute walk from his home in north Riverdale. He’s one of 11 Fordham Prep students the Five Borough club is working to employ this summer through property management companies seeking replacement workers to cover for vacationing doormen, porters, handymen and other building employees.
The club, which formed last year to promote job opportunities in real estate management, partnered with Fordham Prep this year to recruit students who’ve received tuition assistance and now need work to help pay their college expenses.
Judge signed up right away. The son of a construction worker and a waitress, with a sister who just graduated from college and a brother still attending, he appreciates the guaranteed 40-hour week, and a promised opportunity later this summer to earn overtime pay. After two weeks on the job, he’s already been told he can come back again next summer if he likes.
“When I get there at 8 in the morning, I meet up with the groundskeepers and they tell me what to do for the day,” Judge says. “They’re all super-friendly, really nice guys.”
So far, the club has placed students in buildings managed by Midboro, Atco, and David Associates, according to Christopher Page, an energy consultant for large commercial properties and the chairman of the Five Borough club. They have also had inquiries from Brown Harris Stevens, Charles H. Greenthal, and Related Companies.
In addition to helping co-ops and condos with their summertime staffing, the program aims to develop a pipeline of young talent for property management firms.
“Unless you have family that works in the real estate industry or you’re a vendor that services the industry, there’s not a lot of knowledge about the positions that are available,” says Page, who is a Fordham Prep alum. “And they can be pretty lucrative.”
Failing to plan ahead for how to cover shifts can be costly to buildings if it means existing union employees end up working overtime, says Cody Masino, a Five Borough member and vice president at David Associates, which manages 11 co-op and condo buildings. The 32BJ SEIU contract outlines how vacationing workers should be replaced and how much replacements must be paid.
The contract allows workers hired solely to relieve employees on vacation to be paid 60 percent of the prevailing wage. So the replacement for a doorman earning $25 an hour, for example, could be paid as little as $15 an hour, though Masino noted that some buildings pay more than 60 percent.
The club is working only with Fordham Prep for now, but that will change as they perfect their infrastructure. “We didn’t want to go too big right away,” Page says. “We wanted to get feedback from the kids and make sure they were being treated right. The plan would be to include other schools down the road.”
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