Wednesday, 24 August 2016

5Pointz owner backtracks on promise to use union labor on rental towers

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the former 5Pointz site to blasts Jerry Wolkoff and his development firm for broken promises

Yesterday, protesters converged on the former site of 5Pointz in Long Island City—which is now on its way to becoming two rental towers—to denounce developer Jerry Wolkoff and his firm G&M Realty for what they alleged were broken promises to the community. The rally, led by City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, was over the lack of union workers at the construction site, reports Hyperallergic.

In a letter allegedly sent from G&M Realty to Van Bramer in 2013, the company pledged to employ union workers, stating "it is our intention to engage contractors which employ individuals represented by labor unions that are affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New well as members of the 32BJ operating the building." It goes on to promise the creation of 800 "good paying construction jobs" and about 200 full-time jobs on site. The Times Ledger reported that Wolkoff even went so far as to promise 100 percent union labor. Yet, the only union workers said to be involved in the project are those that are delivering cement to the construction site.

And Jimmy Van Bramer is pissed. "Jerry Wolkoff lied to me. Jerry Wolkoff lied to every single New Yorker. Jerry Wolkoff, I will never believe another word you ever say … nor will I ever approve any project you ever want to build in my district or in this city," Van Bramer declared to the crowd as they interjected with "fuck Jerry" and "piece of shit" chants.

Wolkoff’s promise to use union labor helped him receive a height variance from the City Council that allows his forthcoming rental towers to exceed the area’s local zoning limit. Each tower will rise to 40-stories tall. Wolkoff did throw the community a bone by increasing the number of affordable rentals within the project from 75 to 210. Once complete, the towers will have a total of about 1,000 apartments.

Council of Carpenters rep Rubén Colón cited the safety concerns that have been created as a result of Wolkoff’s backtracking. "Fifteen construction workers from non-union construction sites were killed [in NYC] last year, as opposed to two on union sites. Most of them were Latinos. A life is a life, but as a Latino, I take personal issue with that," he told Hyperallergic.

Despite the outrage, there aren’t any immediate plans to hold Wolkoff accountable, though many protesters are calling for the City Council to revoke the variance and shut down the site. A request for comment to Councilman Van Bramer’s office regarding potential action towards Wolkoff and G&M Realty was not immediately returned.

In November 2013, Wolkoff controversially white-washed the graffiti-clad warehouse known as 5Pointz to ostensibly prevent it from being able to obtain landmark status. Wolkoff justified the act by saying "It’s my piece of property and I can do what I want with it." The following year, the building was demolished and construction on the towers commenced shortly thereafter. As it stands, the towers are expected to be completed in 2017.


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