Frank Lovece in Building Operations on April 19, 2013
The Arias fired five workers in February including Jose Casillas (above, at rally; click to enlarge), who said the building's management explained the dismissals were due to the workers' contracts having expired. Casillas, however, told the union, "[I]t was because we wanted union representation due to no overtime, low wages and no pension. When they got wind that we signed union cards, they fired us."
"We had about a hundred people there, including some of the fired workers," 32BJ spokesperson Michael O. Allen told Habitat. "Workers were able to have a voice and be able to tell the world what happened to them at this apartment building. Public advocate Bill de Blasio came and spoke strongly in support of the workers. Controller John Liu showed up and spoke. Councilman [Stephen] Levin, whose district it is, said they were looking specifically at this building's tax status. Councilman [Brad] Lander spoke about the history of this building."
The union has filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board against Adellco, the building’s management company, and PBS Facility Services (no relation to the Public Broadcasting Service), the contracting firm that fired these workers. The building is owned by the Dallas, Texas-based Invesco Real Estate.
"We want the city to put some heat in this program created ostensibly to provide affordable housing and pay prevailing wages, which are about $22 an hour in wages and about $8 an hour in benefits including health care," Allen said.
Among the co-ops and condos the union accuses of reneging on 421a obligations are the Georgica condominium at 305 East 85th Street in the Yorkville section of Manhattan and The L Haus condominium at 11-02 49th Avenue in Queens — which boasts on its website of its "15 year 412-A [sic] tax abatement."
The Georgica's managing agent, Peter Britz of Halstead Management, did not return a Habitat request for comment. The L Haus management company, Modern Spaces NYC, did not respond to requests on either its general phone number or e-mail address. Georgica developer Robert Kaliner denied to The Wall Street Journal that the building had not met the wage requirements.
Photo courtesy SEIU Local 32BJ
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