City Point developers, construction union end talks

March 29, 2013 04:00PM

UPDATED, 4:54 p.m., Mar. 29: The Building and Construction Trades Council, a union that represents construction workers, has ended its negotiations for a labor agreement with the developers of City Point, the 1.8 million-square-foot residential and commercial development in Downtown Brooklyn, according to a press release from the developers. The talks focused on using unionized labor at the project.

Acadia Realty Trust, which is developing the project with Washington Square Partners, previously provoked a sharp critique from organized labor for its decision to use non-union workers. The unions accused Acadia of exploiting the community and wasting taxpayer dollars. Workers are paid $15 per hour, which reportedly puts the wage below the poverty line.

Paul Travis, a managing partner at Washington Square, voiced his disappointment in the failed talks in a letter sent to the trade council’s president today.

He claimed that the Council’s plan would have made the development unaffordable, in part because mandatory payments for stand-by unionized labor positions would require some workers to remain at the site constantly, even if they were not needed.

“We were always willing to conform to your basic wage levels, but sought to modernize work rules to create an efficient and financially feasible project,” he wrote. “Requirements like these are simply not viable; it’s not feasible to allow people to be paid but not work.”

The developers are open to continue negotiations if the Council reconsiders, the letter said.

However, in a statement emailed to The Real Deal, Council President Gary LaBarbera said that his group did not break off the talks. At a meeting yesterday with the developers, he said that his group is willing to continue the discussions in good faith.

An agreement City Point struck with the city requires the developers to use local, minority and women workers but does not mandate union labor, the developers said. Over 80 percent of project employees fit these classifications, Travis said.

“What we refused to accept is a racist, discriminatory and disgusting offer from the development team that would have effectively agreed to have employees except those of minority and women-owned business enterprises enjoy the good wages and benefits that come with union representation,” LaBarbera said in his statement.

He added his group did offer to include minority and women-owned business enterprises in contracting opportunities with project employees with their sames wages and benefits, as well as cost-saving measures. —Zachary Kussin