Several hundred union workers joined Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) President Gary LaBarbera and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in Long Island City on Tuesday to rally against developer G&M Realty, which they say broke a promise to use all union labor for an upcoming project.
G&M Realty will turn the former 5Pointz graffiti mecca at 45-46 Davis St. into two residential buildings. According to Van Bramer, owner Jerry Wolkoff pledged to use all union labor when building the towers.
During the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process, this pledge, along with a promise to include more artist studio space and more affordable housing, convinced the city to allow Wolkoff to build an additional 400 units. The buildings will be 41 and 47 stories each.
“Jerry Wolkoff lied to me, Jerry Wolkoff lied to Gary, Jerry Wolkoff lied to every single New Yorker, every single New Yorker,” Van Bramer said. “So let me just say this: Jerry Wolkoff, I will never believe another word you ever say —never, ever again — nor will I ever approve any project you ever want to build in my district or in this city.”
The project has been controversial from the start, with Community Board 2 voting down the permit after residents and artists protested. More than a dozen artists filed a lawsuit arguing that the destruction of the building would violate the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which gives visual artists limited moral rights and copyright law.
Wolkoff will also keep the 5Pointz name for the towers, which angered many artists associated with the building. They started a petition to stop G&M Realty from using the name but developers were able to register the name as a servicemark with the state.
In a letter signed by Wolkoff, he wrote, “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 York for construction … as well as members of 32BJ operating the building.”
He also wrote that the construction will create 800 “good paying construction jobs” and 200 full-time jobs on site.
In a phone interview, Wolkoff said that he didn’t lie and that he still intends to use some union labor, including 32BJ if the contract is “reasonable.”
“My intentions were to do it but one of the contractors wanted close to $20 million more on one contract and I said, ‘It’s insane, nobody would do it,'” Wolkoff said. “I don’t mind paying them more but I’m not going to pay 30 percent, 25 percent more.”
LaBarbera argued that by not using all union labor, Wolkoff is prioritizing profits over people.
“Jerry Wolkoff flat out lied and broke his promise to use union labor and as a result is putting profits over people. He simply cannot be trusted,” LaBarbera said. “The Building Trades are the best trained, safest and highest-quality workforce anywhere. We will continue to aggressively fight for a union workforce on this project and others across the city.”