The Real Deal New York

JDS’ Michael Stern goes on the defense

Developer responds to criticism for building Billionaires’ Row tower without union workers

May 12, 2015 03:15PM

From left: Michael Stern and a rendering of 111 West 57th Street

From left: Michael Stern and a rendering of 111 West 57th Street

JDS Development founder Michael Stern is surprised by the vocal opposition he has encountered while building a super tall residential tower at 111 West 57th Street without union labor.

“We didn’t quite understand how symbolic it was when we started,” Stern told Capital New York. JDS has built projects without unionized workers before, he continued, but never near Manhattan’s ritzy Billionaires’ Row.

“The amount of media attention you get on that corridor is incredible compared to anywhere else,” the developer also told the website. “But we’re building some very large buildings in other parts of the city that are pretty tall, they’re high rises, they’re bigger in terms of square footage, they’re maybe bigger in terms of dollars and cost. And they don’t get a fraction of the attention this building does.”

Stern is co-developing the tower together with Kevin Maloney’s Property Markets Group. The skyscraper — which will rise approximately 1,400 feet — will have 55 full-floor units, which are expected to sell for more than $6,000 per square foot.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, with the help from elected officials such as Public Advocate Letitia James, has urged the developers to use unionized construction workers.

The trades council has blasted JDS, claiming the developer hires “irresponsible subcontractors” and that workers get “no safety training.” Stern, on the other hand, denied that his construction sites are unsafe and told Capital union jobs can be just as dangerous.

This year has seen a string of accidents, most recently at a hotel construction site at 301 West 45th Street, where a 25-year-old worker died after falling 24 stories down an elevator shaft. Last month, a 22-year-old construction worker died after an accident at the former home of French bistro Pastis in the Meatpacking District. [Capital NY] — Claire Moses